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What’s the Real Cost of the Gulf Drilling Moratorium?

Louisiana Lieutenant Gov. Scott Angelle railed against the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling at a rally today in Lafayette, La, calling the president’s policies “misdirected.”

“Enough is enough and it’s time to stop punishing Louisiana workers to meet some unrealistic political agenda,” Angelle, a Democrat, said, adding later, “America is not yet ready to get all of its fuel from the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees.”

Angelle’s comments were part of a large rally today in the state meant to voice opposition to the drilling moratorium, which impacts deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico. While some have criticized the rally because it was organized by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (Mother Jones called the event “astroturfing“), these criticisms belie the larger question of just what impact the drilling ban is having on Gulf coast residents.

A number of Gulf Coast lawmakers have come out against the ban, and last week a federal appeals court upheld a decision by a lower court that the Obama administration did not offer adequate justification for its moratorium.

There’s no doubt that the moratorium will have an impact on the Gulf economy and that jobs will be lost, but estimates vary on just how many. The Institute for Energy Research and its advocacy arm the American Energy Alliance, groups that have ties to the oil industry and have strongly opposed the moratorium, commissioned a report that found:

The presidential moratorium will cost approximately $2.1 billion in economic loss to the Gulf states ($2.7 billion nationally), with some $487 millions to be expected in lost wages to employees ($707 million nationally) and in the neighborhood of eight-thousand lost jobs (12 thousand nationally), many in human capital intensive professional career fields.

It’s likely that many will quibble with these numbers, and there’s no doubt that this isn’t the last word on the impact of the moratorium on the Gulf Coast economy.

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