Wednesday, July 21, 2010, will go down as the high-water mark of in-state efforts to end the Gulf of Mexico deep water drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent blowout.
About 11,000 people turned out at the Lafayette Cajundome for the "Rally for Economic Survival." Getting that many people to turnout for anything other than a sporting event in Louisiana takes some doing. But, the 'doing' that got them there reveals that opponents of the moratorium are engaged in blatant and obvious fear mongering, and have frittered away what little credibility they had on the issue with the lies and distortions included in statements made leading up to and during the event.
Make no mistake about it, what happened in Lafayette on Wednesday was an anti-Obama political rally organized by the oil and gas industry and fronted by Governor Bobby Jindal and his hand-picked interim Lieutenant Governor, Scott Angelle. Angelle was among friends, having run the Department of Natural Resources until Jindal elevated him this spring. Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Sammy Kershaw provided entertainment (not sure if he just sang or if he read from his federal tax liens, too).
There was steady buildup leading up to the event. In Lafayette, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce led the drive to build attendance. Ultimately, all of Lafayette's mainstream media fell in line, becoming virtual (if not outright) partners in the promotion of the event. The Daily Advertiser ran a front page editorial calling for an end of the moratorium on the day of the event. ABC affiliate KATC's station manager delivered an on-air editorial calling for an end to the moratorium. Radio stations did live remotes from the event.
Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
This buildup was based, in fact, on a carefully orchestrated distortion of what the moratorium is, then building a statistical house of cards atop those distortions. The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), and its president Don Briggs, were prime movers in the effort to ramp up the climate of economic crisis that helped produce the turnout in Lafayette. Briggs is a long-time player in the Lafayette business community, serving on the board of the Lafayette Chamber. LOGA and Briggs have long-standing ties with the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) and the LSU Center for Energy Studies, both of which produced economic reports painting horrific stories of the potential impact of a six-month moratorium.
The advisory council for the LSU Center for Energy Studies gives the distinct impression that this is an advocacy group hiding inside academia. This must be where the industry gathers when Lafayette's Petroleum Club is booked. It is not surprising that the rally included a presentation from the Center and the picture painted was bleak.
Do you think they would have been allowed to make a presentation that said anything different? No. Only the finest store-bought statistics were allowed at this privately-funded propaganda event.
The premise of all the pre-event propaganda and the presentations made during the rally is that the Obama administration has shutdown all drilling in the Gulf of Mexico not just deep water drilling and that the moratorium will become permanent. This might be good short-term politics, but it is not supported by the facts.
And while companies like Diamond Drilling have made a big show about moving two rigs out of the Gulf of Mexico to other drilling locales, the fact is that decisions on when and where to drill in permitted waters are made by the big oil companies not by the drilling companies, not by the service companies, and not by lobbying groups.
What are the big oil companies thinking? They plan to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico once the moratorium is over and new rules are promulgated. That announcement was made on the same day as the rally, but strangely did not get much press coverage in south Louisiana.
Governor Bobby Jindal has been milking the BP Gulf Gusher for all the political gain he can get from it, having spent almost three months on the coast chasing down cameras and microphones for opportunities to criticize the federal response to the industry-caused disaster. With a presentation made at the rally, Jindal has apparently put the Louisiana Workforce Commission to work in advancing his political agenda.
The thrust of all of this is that economic ruin will result from the moratorium. To paint this picture, the impact of the oil and gas industry must be inflated and the discrete segments within the industry must be ignored.
Enter the Louisiana Workforce Commission. In a presentation on the rally website (see graphic), the commission includes people who work at "Gasoline Stations" to ramp up the employment numbers of the industry in the state. According to the June employment report issued by the LWC, this adds 18,600 workers to the "industry" payrolls. That means convenience store cashiers and clerks are considered part of the energy industry.
It is also worth noting that, according to the LCW's official job statistics for June (page 8 in the PDF), those 18,600 gasoline station workers out number all of the people engaged in oil and gas drilling and extraction in Louisiana. That is no quirk due to the moratorium. This has been the case in every report this year.
Are gasoline station workers affected by the moratorium? No. But, it heightens the purported importance of the industry of the state's economy and, thus, fits nicely within propaganda objectives of the conference organizers.
Off The Deep End
People say things in unscripted moments that they later sometimes regret. So, in an attempt to provide opponents of the moratorium the kind of fairness they will not provide supporters of the moratorium, this segment will focus on the prepared written statements by Rally organizers which The Daily Advertiser published on the morning of the event.
Reading these, it becomes clear that truth was among the first casualties in the ramp up for the rally. These otherwise staid community and business leaders have been scared witless by what they have been told about the economic impact of the deep water drilling moratorium. They are spouting gibberish based on lies they've been sold.
The statement by Don Briggs is a clear example of how the facts are conflated and mixed to create a potential outcome that has no basis in reality.
The statement and analysis continue after the jump.
Click here to read the rest of "Fear-Fanned Loathing in Lafayette"