One of the most frustrating things about the whole offshore oil drilling debate which has surged to the frontburner thanks to BP is this notion that we need to keep drilling offshore because of jobs.
It’s been simmering on the back-burner during the oil spill crisis, occasionally hitting the headlines: a worry about lost oil jobs from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, or a similar concern from Louisiana Democratic Congressman (and Senate candidate) Charlie Melancon. This week it came to full boil as those sidelined by the moratorium on offshore oil drilling gave voice to some grave concerns about their livelihoods.
And I’m sympathetic, I really am. It’s a terrible thing that happened. Our economy is still in the shitter and then along comes a disaster caused by a company’s concern for profits over safety and now everyone is having to pay the price. It’s awful that these folks are having to deal with this at a time in our country’s history when finding another job is going to be pretty darn impossible. So I’m sorry. You have a right to be scared, and I’m scared for you. You have a right to be angry, and I’m angry along with you.
But here’s the deal: the oil spill has killed off a big bunch of the commercial fishing industry in the Gulf. I hate to be the one to break it to you folks but the shrimp and oysters aren’t coming back, not for years. Maybe not ever. Sport fishing is gone. Tourism will come back, but not this summer, not as long as oil and chemical dispersants and gas fumes pollute the beaches.
So to the oil rig workers and those businesses who depend on that industry: you aren’t alone. This disaster has affected your neighbors, your family, your brothers and sisters who work in other industries that also depend on the Gulf of Mexico. And those people need the Gulf of Mexico to be healthy for their jobs to survive.
So when folks like myself call for a permanent ban on offshore oil drilling, it’s not without the full knowledge of what we are proposing. We understand there are families who need these oil jobs. But at what point does one industry trump another? At what point does it make sense to say, oil drilling may be risky and unsafe but we are willing to put other industries at risk anyway? We are willing to put fishing and shrimpers and tourism in a precarious place for this one unsafe, polluting, dirty industry?
This makes no sense to me whatsoever. Especially when I know that the people who work on oil rigs could easily be put to work building an offshore wind farm or an offshore solar farm. Why not? Has a solar spill ever killed off the oyster beds? Has a wind spill ever destroyed the summer tourist season?
I’m sorry oil people are hurting right now. You want your lives back. Well guess what: so does everyone else. So do shrimpers and the folks who operate tourist restaurants and hotels in the Gulf. So does the guy who rents beach umbrellas and the lady who sells seashells at the gift shop down by the seashore. You’re not the only ones who make a living down there.
Here’s the good news: you folks really could, theoretically, be put to work building offshore wind farms and the like. You have options in the green energy economy. If the state and federal governments could show some freaking leadership and clear the way for clean energy to begin replacing oil platforms now, not at some future “after we transition” date, you guys will be okay.
You know who won’t be okay? The people who harvest shrimp and oysters. The motel owners on the beach. Those people are screwed. They have no fallback.
Just something to think about.