People have been asking me all week why I haven’t written about the oil spill, and my answer was that I just didn’t know what to say. I don’t have enough command of the issue to joke about it, and while I would love to just take up the popular liberal stance on the issue and write a diatribe about how disgusting offshore drilling is (See?! See what happens when you don’t listen to us?), I would just be regurgitating other people’s opinions.
Honestly, I don’t think anyone really enjoys the idea of sticking a big machine in the water to pump oil out of the ground, especially after what happened in Alaska. Obviously, if we didn’t have to do it, that would be preferable. And I’m not saying we necessarily do have to do it– but I wanted to learn about the economic aspects of offshore drilling before committing my didactic opinion to the web.
At the beginning of this week, I found myself volunteering to write about the spill for HuffPost, only from the perspective of the fishermen and shrimpers who have essentially lost their jobs. I conducted a bunch of interviews with men in coastal Louisiana whose livelihoods depend on the ability to fish in the Gulf. I thought maybe it would give me a more balanced and nuanced understanding of the issue, since I’m constantly surrounded by like-minded liberals in D.C. Here’s the article I ended up writing on the subject:
For those of you who won’t click on it, I wrote about a fisherman and a shrimper, Scott Leger and Rowdy Schouest, who have basically been financially screwed by the oil spill. They talk about how huge numbers of fish and shrimp are going to die, and the 15,000 boats will all be congregating in one little lake to fish for the remaining bunch that survived. Both of them have families they’re trying to support, and both of them are really afraid of the consequences this spill will have for the seafood industry and the Gulf Coast environment in general. But here are the final two paragraphs of the article, which may surprise you:
Despite the huge hit the seafood industry has taken as a result of the oil spill, Schouest says a decision to stop Gulf Coast drilling would be even more detrimental to those who depend on it for a second income.
“We all rely on that oil revenue,” he said. “When there’s a bad season, we go work for the oil field. They were the only ones in this economy that were continuing to build. If it wouldn’t have been for the oil field after Katrina, we wouldn’t have had jobs through that rough winter. If you stop drilling, the oil spill wins.”
“If you stop drilling, the oil spill wins.” This is obviously a very problematic comment, but the point is, there are some major economic consequences of discontinuing offshore drilling for a whole lot of people, and there’s also the whole “foreign dependence” issue, which I don’t know enough about to elaborate on.
My personal preference would obviously be to stop drilling if we could entirely switch over to clean energy. But I don’t think the issue is so cut-and-dry. I think it’s always easy for financially stable people to rail on about how to save the environment, but I want to hear a few suggestions about how to save the environment without canceling out the incomes of millions of struggling people. Any takers?