Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oil and South Louisiana, An Intriguing Juxtaposition

It will be quite interesting on how legally, economically and politically this oil spill will play out, since most of South Louisiana's job and revenue base is derived from the oil industry. Meanwhile oil continues to pour into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, killing millions of sea creatures every day.

The shrimping and oyster bed harvesting businesses, another important lively hood here in the South, probably won't survive this disaster. I wonder what the mood will be at the 75th Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in Morgan City in September? Will the oil still be flowing into the Gulf? Where will they get the shrimp for the festival or will it be held at all? These two industries have co-existed side-by-side here for decades. What now?

President Obama said the spill only illustrates how the United States needs to find a cleaner alternative to oil for our energy needs. Certainly this is true. However, South Louisiana like many Gulf states are home to the largest population of poor in America, as highlighted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This oil spill could very well be the final blow, if there is not some type of job creation mechanism for the people put out of work in this disaster.

Life is certainly going to change for many here. Oil production has stopped. Hundreds rush to the only jobs available, cleaning up the oil spill.

BP is running full-page ads in local newspapers, explaining how to file a claim. Millions to be sure will be applying for retribution. Will it be enough? No amount of money can fix the damage that has been done to this area of the country.

But Louisiana sold out long ago to the oil field. Lafayette, LA where I currently reside, probably wouldn't exist except for the oil related jobs here. If people don't work directly for the oil industry, they work for the ancillary businesses that support it. I came here myself because of of the oil industry. I was married to a helicopter who got a job with one of the largest helicopter companies in the world, Petroleum Helicopters Inc. Its pilots fly oil crew workers to oil rigs in the Gulf. With the moratorium on oil production in the Gulf, PHI and other helicopter companies in the Gulf stand to lose millions of dollars.

Politicians here in Louisiana face a dilemma, how hard do they come down on the oil companies involved when they are some of the largest employers in the state? Many a closed door session will be held to be sure.

As they argue how much will be enough, oil still spills into the Gulf. Internet sites are ticking up the barrels in seconds, a live cam video feed gives us the visuals, all while marine life is dying and Gulf Coast life along with it.

The oil industry, once the savior of the South, is now its killer. But will the South bite the hand that feeds it? More questions than answers to be sure.

Send your prayers, light and positive thoughts here. Namaste

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