Sunday, April 17, 2011
Perhaps none of you will be surprised to read that a year after the Deepwater Horizon spill, the economies of the states along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico are faring better than just about anybody with an ax to grind "feared":
A year later, many people have suffered economic pain, and unemployment is up along the Louisiana coast. But the number of jobs there has increased, federal data show. In fact, almost a year after the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, there is little sign of the economic devastation feared by everyone from the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association to the White House.
Business is looking up across much of the coast. Tourists are returning to the beaches of Florida and Alabama, where real-estate rental companies report bookings returning to pre-spill levels. (Last summer, lodging revenue dropped more than 30%).
Some of Louisiana's coastal counties, called parishes, are collecting more sales-tax revenue, when they had expected double-digit declines.
The problem, of course, is that "everyone from the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association to the White House" had an incentive to predict economic disaster. The White House knew that the economy was going to suck anyway, so blaming as much of the anticipated suckage as possible on BP made all the sense in the world. And, of course, the Obama administration was pushing job-killing anti-drilling regulation, and wanted to inoculate itself against the charge that it was its own reaction to the spill that destroyed the jobs. The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, wanted to avoid that regulation, so it had every reason to warn about the looming economic catastrophe. The mainstream media went along for the usual reason that reporters and editors are not in the business of saying that things are not nearly as bad as they seem. Disasters sell papers and boost ratings, sober reflection and deep cleansing breaths do not.
Props, though, to the WSJ for calling everybody out, even if with the benefit of hindsight.
All the oil spilled in Deepwater would fit inside the new Yankee Stadium, were it turned into a big pool. That's a lot. But it's not even a drop in the bucket of the Gulf of Mexico, which on average is a mile deep. Much of this oil has since been eaten by microbes.
Ironically, Deepwater was less of a natural disaster because it was so far offshore.
This was foreseeable as we had the precedent of the Ixtoc spill by Pemex, still the biggest spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Japan is dealing with a true epic natural disaster, greatly complicated by the nuclear meltdown.