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The great Gulf offshore drilling jobs hoax

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When the Interior Department announced a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the wake of the BP disaster, the energy industry and conservatives rushed to declare that the Obama administration was bent on destroying the Gulf Coast economy.

For example, in a July report for the American Energy Alliance -- which the media innocently described as a "non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.," but in reality is an oil company-funded front group -- Prof. Joe Mason of Louisiana State University warned that 8,000 jobs and $500 million in wages would be lost, with total economic damages amounting to some $2.1 billion.

The warnings of impending doom had their desired affect: Louisiana lawmakers and the public rose to denounce the moratorium. Judge Martin Feldman from the Eastern District of New Orleans -- a Reagan appointee with his own heavy investments in energy -- based his June opinion [pdf] batting down the moratorium on fears that "an estimated 150,000
jobs are directly related to offshore operations" and even a short-term ban would cause "irreparable harm" to the economy.

In the highly-charged partisan debate, everyone was forced to get on board. In his amicus brief [pdf] opposing the moratorium, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal even got the Louisiana Workforce
Commission -- the agency in charge of administering unemployment claims -- to go on record saying that:

Because of the moratorium, many thousands of Louisiana workers have lost their employment and many more are at risk of losing it in the near future. All of the programs administered by LWC have been and will be heavily impacted by its effects.

But there was one problem: The claims weren't true. The economic disaster never materialized. The evidence is clear:

* Despite early reports that 33 rigs would likely pull up stakes from the Gulf after the moratorium, a New Orleans Times Picayune report on Aug. 11 found that "only two of 33 deepwater rigs in the Gulf have left for foreign
oilfields."

* The Times Picayune also found that "the predictions of tens of thousands of lost jobs across the region have yet to materialize." In fact:

[W]eekly unemployment claims data in the mining industry sector, which comprises primarily oil- and gas-related jobs, have shown no noticeable spike since the moratorium was declared May 28. Overall employment data
in coastal parishes also show little change since the drilling ban.

* Furthermore, the paper found "there have been no reported layoffs" on the oil rigs affected by the moratorium.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission's politicized claims have proved to be especially egregious. In reality, their weekly press releases since the moratorium have gone into effect have shown a steady decrease in unemployment claims across the state. The latest report, from Sept. 10, showed a decline in initial claims from 4,120 to 4,083. Claims similarly declined in June, July and August.

Indeed, in the Commission's eagerness to show the wisdom of the governor's economic agenda, it couldn't help but contradict its claims of moratorium-induced calamity with this sunny dispatch on Aug. 20, titled "Louisiana Labor Force Hits Record High for July:"

The state's July unemployment rate was tied for 14th lowest in the nation and was the fourth lowest in the Southern region. The Southern

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re: The great Gulf offshore drilling jobs hoax

In todays world LYING is the new FACTFINDING. Both political parties have decided it is perfectly fine to lie boldly to the American people and by our refusal to hold those that lie to us daily accountable for the lies they tell us we have okayed the lies. If we do not want to be lied to any longer it is time we hold those that lie accountable, let them know we know they are liars. Confrontation is the ONLY way to treat liars.

re: The great Gulf offshore drilling jobs hoax

Excellent editorial. But permit me to comment on Jeff's assertion that "it is time we hold those that lie accountable, let them know we know they are liars." Now, at face value, that sounds quite reasonable, but it seems that at the same time we kick one liar out of office we only end up replacing him with another. It's a repetitive process, which, if we don't object to putting all the flag-waving on pause for a moment, indicates that our system of government is deeply flawed. Indeed, in retrospect, our democracy seems little better than the monarchial type of rule we once disdained; for example, money drives all of our elections and Americans are literally owned by those who have the cash to get what they want. Think about it: We've got rich people spending millions of dollars of their OWN money to get a seat in Washington that pays $165K. Shouldn't that tell us something? Aren't there clues to a larger truth hidden there? We probably couldn't do any worse if we instituted some sort of draft system -- the same kind the Defense Department uses during wartime -- in which the names of all voters are thrown into the hopper. Those names which are extracted -- the laborers, shopkeepers, teachers, etc. -- would serve two years in Congress and then be sent back home and be replaced by new draftees. We could build a barracks in Washington to house them all, just like we do for our soldiers. At the end of two years they'd be deliriously happy to get out of the capitol and never want to return. I'll let you imagine all the other rewards that we citizens might enjoy. At the very least, we'd get rid of all the lawyers.

re: The great Gulf offshore drilling jobs hoax

Even if it were true that the moratorium had contributed to job losses, the moratorium is the direct result of criminal negligence by B.P., therefore B.P. is responsible for the moratorium and should be legally liable to compensate any workers for lost wages for the duration of the moratorium. That, and they owe me some shrimp.

I also agree with Howard Lauthier that we should consider drafting members of Congress from the rolls of registered voters. However, anyone chosen should be required to pass a background check and get a security clearance, and every member of Congress must be held to very strict ethical standards and be constantly monitored to ensure that they have no major conflicts of interest, and they should be required to affirm under oath that they have read and can understand any bill they vote on before being allowed to vote.

re: The great Gulf offshore drilling jobs hoax

HAven't we become a sorry nation. OR were these types of issues the same in TEddy Roosevelt and his cousin FDR's times . What is the most discouraging is that we have evolved so little. It is said that it takes 100,000 years for any evolutionary process to become established. What happened to the humans? We have a lot of waiting to do... will we devolve or improve? It's still up to each individual.obne drop at a time....hourly, daily, weeekly, monthly, yealy. A lifetime of tiny, consistent changes will send a message to the money-worshippers.

re: The great Gulf offshore drilling jobs hoax

The industry did exaggerate layoffs. In an article today (Oct 6) about a new boat, Edison Chouest admits they haven’t had much layoffs, and are in fact are hiring a two shipyards. I knew Chouest was big, but I didn't know how politically connected they are.

I work in the offshore industry. I find little to disagree with your blog. Your reporting is clear and seems very accurate. As of today four rigs have left the Gulf. They were making it sound like most of the 31 would leave.