Obama’s Interior Chokehold on America
How could a bureaucratic bottleneck in the Gulf of Mexico cost the U.S. economy nearly $20 billion and wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs as far away as Ohio, Pennsylvania and California? Unfortunately, with this White House administration, anything is possible.
President Obama recently announced yet another jobs initiative – knowing all the while that one very simple action on his part would indeed create new jobs, infuse federal and state budgets with billions of dollars, and make us less reliant on imports. But that didn’t happen.
On Oct. 12, 2010, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, “We’re open for business,” signaling that drilling for new oil in the Gulf of Mexico would resume. But, Mr. Salazar has an odd interpretation of the words “open for business.”
Eleven months after the Secretary’s announcement, drilling in the Gulf remains near a standstill. The government has used every stall tactic imaginable to delay permits and other administrative approvals that would help our economy and put hundreds of thousands back to work.
The Gulf Economic Survival Team (GEST) commissioned IHS Global Insight and IHS CERA Inc. to quantify the economic impacts of the government’s slow pace of permitting since lifting the moratorium*. *Their study revealed that the number of exploration plans and permit applications are on par with levels in 2009 through early 2010, clearly signaling the industry’s intent to return to full operations. Industry also has invested billions of dollars in well containment technology to stop a Macondo-size spill if it ever became necessary. So safety can no longer be blamed for permitting delays.
That leaves the Department of the Interior. The IHS study points to a backlog of project approvals. Despite their earnest efforts to process the growing stack of applications, regulators on the front line don’t appear to understand the new regulations that Washington D.C. has foisted upon them. The blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of this Administration’s politically appointed bureaucrats, who know nothing of the complexities involved in safe and environmentally sound deepwater drilling. Naturally, they don’t let expertise or experience get in the way, they just pile on more regulations.
This politically minded bureaucracy comes at tremendous cost.
The number of people who depend on a thriving oil and gas industry is staggering. Another research study, by Quest Offshore Resources, found that energy production in the Gulf of Mexico employed 240,000 Americans in 2010. And not all of them worked directly for the oil and natural gas industry, as oil rigs need everything from steel pipes to IT support.
What’s more, the effects of the government’s continued foot-dragging isn’t limited to the Gulf. The study’s authors found that for every industry job tied to operations in the Gulf, three non-industry jobs are reliant in sectors such as manufacturing, construction and real estate. And for every three Gulf Coast workers, there’s one American employed elsewhere – in New York, Michigan, California, Oklahoma, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and nearly every other state.
The Quest study also came to a distressing conclusion: Had the Administration truly lifted the moratorium last October, the industry would have created nearly 190,000 more jobs in the U.S. over a three-year period. That would have meant 8,500 additional jobs in California, where unemployment currently flirts with 12 percent; 10,000 more jobs in Pennsylvania and Ohio, manufacturing-dependent states; and in the President’s home state of Illinois, a total of 3,000 jobs.
Keeping Americans out of work. Denying struggling state and local governments billions of dollars in additional revenue. Making us more dependent on energy imports. Is this the change Mr. Obama says we can believe in?
Or can we only believe in shovel-ready jobs if they’re created by the alternative energy industry? Would we even be having this yearlong debate if solar energy producers contributed more than $12 billion a year in tax and royalty revenues to state and federal treasuries? What if hydro energy producers accounted for $44 billion of GDP? The only thing separating 190,000 Americans from a paycheck and states from more than $7 billion in local taxes is obvious: Political will.
President Obama talks about job growth, stimulating the economy and investing in innovation that will lead the way forward, but turns a blind eye to an obvious, if not practical, solution. Mr President: Lift your de facto moratorium on energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico; business will safely do the rest.
Jim Adams is president and CEO of Offshore Marine Service Association, which represents the owners and operators of U.S. flag offshore service vessels and the shipyards and other businesses that support that industry.