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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stop the oil, not job creation. A moratorium on deepwater drilling is not the solution the nation needs.

Here in the Gulf, where Washington policy decisions have a real impact on the people and businesses most affected by BP’s Deep Horizon spill, we were thrilled by a federal judge’s recent decision to overrule President Barack Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling.

We hope this gives the Obama administration time to reevaluate its drastic decision to cut off the nation’s access to important sources of oil and natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico. Deepwater drilling supplies roughly 70 percent of the oil and 30 percent of the natural gas produced in the Gulf.

Make no mistake: The BP spill is absolutely appalling. It is the kind of disaster that could have and should have been avoided. Not all the facts are in, but it certainly appears that the recklessness of a few is responsible for the suffering of so many.

However, while shutting down the entire deepwater industry with a sweeping moratorium may be good populist politics, the economic ramifications could prove devastating for both the people most affected by the spill and the entire economy.

The administration must focus instead on making sure that the offshore industry has tighter regulation and a renewed attention to safety. Spending time and resources appealing the court’s ruling — and simply shutting down deepwater drilling — is not the leadership the country needs now.

A prolonged moratorium would only make an awful situation worse.

Before the administration takes action on the moratorium, here are questions that decision-makers should ask: What would an extended moratorium on deepwater drilling really mean for the country? Are the perceived benefits worth the real costs?

The spill is already taking an enormous toll on the people in the communities around the Gulf that depend on the jobs and wages that deepwater drilling provides. If the moratorium overcomes the current legal challenge and is reinstated, this toll would only increase.

Oil companies cannot let their rigs go idle in these difficult economic times. If they are denied access to Gulf resources even for a short period, they will take their operations to promising new locations off Brazil, West Africa or China and sign new leases.

Once the rigs leave the Gulf it becomes very tough to get them back. Tens of thousands of Gulf residents are directly — and indirectly — employed by the offshore industry. When the rigs leave, so will their jobs. The scenario has been rightfully compared to the auto industry leaving Detroit. (Continues here at POLITICO)

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