Several weeks ago I asked the question, why are some gulf coast jobs worth more than others. There was great concern in the gulf area that the deep water drilling moratorium would cause the loss of oil exploration jobs in the region. One of the most vocal critics was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who predicted the loss of 20,000 oil drilling jobs for his state.
Well guess what? So far those job losses haven’t materialized and even the federal government projections of “23,000 lost jobs and $10.2 billion in economic damage — is proving to be too pessimistic”.
Unemployment claims related to the oil industry along the Gulf Coast have been in the hundreds, not the thousands, and while oil production from the gulf is down because of the drilling halt, supplies from the region are expected to rebound in future years. Only 2 of the 33 deepwater rigs operating in the gulf before the BP rig exploded have left for other fields.
“There are several reasons the suspension has not cut as deeply as anticipated.”
Oil companies used the enforced suspension to service and upgrade their drilling equipment, keeping shipyards and service companies busy. Drilling firms have kept most of their workers, knowing that if they let them go it will be hard to field experienced teams when the moratorium is lifted. Oil companies have shifted operations to onshore wells, saving industry jobs.
Oil workers idled by the government-imposed drilling suspension are not eligible for BP money intended for people directly affected by the spill, like gulf shrimpers and charter-boat captains. But BP has set aside $100 million to compensate rig hands and support workers who lose their jobs because of the moratorium. The Rig Workers Assistance Fund has not started to make payments.
Oil companies continue to lobby for a lifting of the ban and warn that if it goes on much longer they will move their operations elsewhere. Yet they are hedging their bets by keeping crews and equipment on standby, expecting the pause to end well before the end of the year.
So for right now, oil production jobs are status quo in the gulf region and once the moratorium is lifted it will once again full steam ahead for gulf oil exploration. I just hope that the final result of the moratorium will be new rules that will protect the lives of oil rig workers, the gulf environment, and the livelihoods of all of the residents of the gulf states.