Jindal Opposes Offshore Drilling Moratorium

Gov. Bobby Jindal's contradictions may confuse you at first. While shaking his fist at BP and the federal government's inability to stop the river o

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Gov. Bobby Jindal's contradictions may confuse you at first. While shaking his fist at BP and the federal government's inability to stop the river of oil poisoning the Louisiana coastline and wetlands, he's also unbending in his support for offshore drilling to continue.

"The last thing we need is to enact public policies that will certainly destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the creation of thousands more," he added.

"I fully understand the need for strict oversight of deepwater drilling," Jindal wrote. "However, I would ask that the federal government move quickly to ensure that all deepwater drilling is in proper compliance with federal regulation and is conducted safely so that energy production and more importantly, thousands of jobs, are not in limbo."

The problem I have with Jindal's appeal? Current federal regulations around deepwater drilling are inadequate. Deepwater drilling is a frontier. There are many unknowns, including how to handle blowouts at a depth of 5,000 feet under the sea, how to handle the oil once it begins spilling, and how to properly preserve ecosystems which have existed for centuries.

Of course, David Vitter couldn't resist peeking over his diapers to pile on:

Louisiana has been witnessing a severe lack of urgency and understanding from the Obama Administration and BP. Our state and our way of life continue to be under attack from the devastating oil spill, and now to make matters worse, President Obama's has imposed a moratorium and shut down drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Unless we lift Obama's moratorium, it could kill thousands of Louisiana jobs.

Rigs won't wait idly for six months, they'll move overseas to places like West Africa or Brazil and take jobs with them. I have called on President Obama to replace his recently announced shutdown of deepwater rigs for immediate rig safety inspections.

Their concern isn't without merit, though, and it's the reason you won't hear the President simply rule out offshore drilling, whether in deep or shallow waters. Louisiana receives a substantial chunk of its revenue from royalties for offshore drilling activity, and expects to receive much more. He's also right about the jobs. Shutting down the rigs in the Gulf means job losses for thousands in that area with no real prospect for re-employment as long as the rigs are shut down.

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There's a deeper reality. These companies won't just hang around until the moratorium is lifted. They move on, and already are.

Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BHP Billiton have all announced shutdowns in the Gulf. When the Deepwater Horizon incident occurred, Melbourne, Australia-based BHP was running five drilling rigs in the Gulf at a cost of about $1 million a day. Now, those five are sitting idle.

This is the hard choice. It's not one I would like to have to make, but I think shutdown is absolutely the correct one. In my fantasy life, that shutdown would be permanent, but without some way to replace those jobs and that revenue, count on offshore drilling re-starting in the Gulf at some point.

While it seems like a moratorium is a no-brainer given the disaster in the Gulf, it's really more complex and difficult to solve without rocking state economies.

In 2008, Congress lifted the moratorium on offshore leases which had been restricted for 30 years, and George W. Bush allowed the lift to stand. These are the leases for which President Obama signaled his approval on March 31st. He approved them because state budgets are depending upon the increased royalties granted in exchange for allowing exploration off their coasts.

Even Santa Barbara, the scene of a horrible offshore spill, approved deepwater exploration last year (though I've heard they've recanted now), giving Governor Arnie the green light to include royalty revenue in the California budget.

The grim reality: If we can't start getting some serious capital investment in green technology for transportation, heating, light and other energy needs, we're going to put our coastlines at risk to save the economy and to save jobs.

Here's my prediction: By summer's end, gas prices will be back up to $4.00 per gallon and rising. This will put a hole in commuters' budgets and inhibit job growth too. It will be painful. There isn't any way for this not to be painful, but it's also a time to really start living green, energy-saving lifestyles. If not now, then when?

Another prediction: media pundits, wingers, and Maureen Dowd will blame the President for the audacity to stop offshore drilling. Maureen will blame Daddy for her pain while simultaneously hoping for him to fix it. Criticism and complaints are the new black, after all.

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