The PJ Tatler

Uncertainty, Lost Jobs in a Gulf Eager to Get Back to Drilling

While some stops on House Republicans’ energy blitz focused on energy booms and thriving communities, a trip to the Gulf of Mexico will serve as a somber reminder to members about oil companies being driven away to other countries — and taking the jobs with them.

Tomorrow, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise (R) will take some colleagues, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), 60 miles beyond the southern coastline to visit a deepwater production platform and a deepwater drilling rig to see an industry struggling to get back to work after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 — companies that are following safety standards but still can’t get a clear path to resuming production.

Scalise told PJM from this leg of the 2012 American Energy and Jobs Tour that “the irony is that there are a lot of companies paying for leases but haven’t been able to fully exercise them.”

He cites 19,000 lost jobs in the Gulf “because of the president’s policies,” and said the administration “deliberately” does not give companies clear guidance to resume operations.

The congressman compared the conundrum to a basketball game in which the referee is holding the ball while the clock’s running and the teams are trying to play.

“Surely you won’t find oil if the federal government won’t let you,” he said.

Greater New Orleans Inc., a regional economic development alliance, published a study earlier this year of the “hidden victims” of a slowdown in Gulf oil permitting thanks to the Obama administration’s moratorium. Surveying 102 small- and mid-sized companies in the oil and gas exploration support sector, the report found that 41 percent were not making a profit, half had laid off employees, 46 percent moved some or all of their operations away from the Gulf, and 82 percent business owners had lost personal savings as a result of the slowdown.

Scalise said it’s not a matter of safety — as even scientists in the president’s own commission warned that the best, safest workers and rigs would leave the area — but how President Obama “bowed to environmentalists.”

“People see the lost jobs,” he said. “They see neighbors of theirs, they watch their jobs go to Brazil.” Ten rigs have even relocated from the Gulf, even to Egypt and Ghana, he added. “That’s an embarrassing indictment of the president’s failed energy policies.”

As Obama tries to head off the Republicans’ energy offensive by talking about wind power in Iowa, Scalise said that the commander in chief’s record is haunted by missteps from Solyndra waste and the EPA’s war on fracking to the Keystone pipeline rejection.

“I think the president is realizing now that three years of failed energy policies have caught up with him,” Scalise said.