A federal judge in New Orleans plans to rule by Wednesday on whether to overturn President Obama's six-month moratorium on deepwater oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil-services companies, backed by Louisiana officials, say the administration overstepped its authority by temporarily banning both existing and new drilling after the massive BP oil spill. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, says the moratorium is needlessly devastating the state's economy, but Justice Department lawyers say the BP disaster exposed safety gaps that must be closed before deepwater exploration can resume. Is the moratorium necessary, or is it time to lift it? [UPDATE: Subsequent to the posting of this story, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman lifted the six-month ban.]
Obama is killing the Gulf Coast economy for nothing: "President Barack Obama doesn't seem to get it," say the editors of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Shuttering 30 deepwater rigs, which directly or indirectly support as many as 24,000 jobs, could do more harm to the local economy than the spill itself. And a moratorium this "broad" isn't even necessary for safety — why not rigorously inspect existing rigs and let them resume operation? That would be just as effective at preventing another spill.
"Obama administration has drilling moratorium myopia"
Bobby Jindal's the one not seeing straight: "Even advocates of expanded deepwater drilling should be able to recognize why Jindal's position is stupid beyond belief," says Jed Lewison at Daily Kos. Resuming drilling before we figure out what went wrong — and when "even the oil industry acknowledges [that] we don't currently possess the ability to contain spills like the BP blowout" — could easily lead to another disaster. And that won't just devastate the economy and the environment. "It could very well mean the end of all offshore drilling altogether."
"Drill, Bobby, drill"
If the drilling rigs leave, the region will suffer for years: The owners of these rigs, which rent for up to $500,000 a day, can't afford to leave them idle, says Scripps News in an editorial. So many of them are probably looking for drilling jobs elsewhere, and if they go "it might be years before they return to the Gulf." That would be a tragic waste, especially since "the BP blowout was a rare and unfortunate exception to the over 42,000 wells that have been drilled in the Gulf."
"Obama should lift Gulf drilling moratorium"
The oil jobs aren't going anywhere: Moratorium or no moratorium, "the oil and gas industry is going to be back," says Steven Mufson in The Washington Post. "Willie Sutton robbed banks because that's where the money is. And oil companies venture into deep waters for exploration because that's where the oil is."
"Trend toward deep-water drilling likely to continue"
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