OUR OPINION:The dark side of economic dependency on oil

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

When one  lives in a low-lying hurricane prone area of the nation, as we do in Louisiana, one learns to deal with natural disasters.

Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Andrew, Betsy, Audrey. Need we say more?

Our fate is to also have to deal with man-made disasters.

Louisiana’s economy is almost as dependent upon the oil industry as West Virginia is upon the coal industry.

Like it or not, economically, we’re dependent on one horse, oil, for survival.  And we have little influence over the industry that supports us.

 When oil is down (remember 1983), we find ourselves beating a dead horse. When oil rocks, Louisiana people have jobs and the state takes in a little money.

Living off oil can be a bumpy, unpredictable ride, but Louisianans have yet to make serious attempt to diversify their economy and break away.

Our dependency on oil has other drawbacks. The network of channels dredged throughout south Louisiana by oil companies for their operations have contributed mightily to the coastal erosion which has made the state so vulnerable to storms.

Has the oil industry ever compensated  Louisianans for their dredging operations which have altered the nature of the state’s coastline? Do nutria fly? Has Exxon-Mobil ever paid the billions of dollars in fines it owes from the Exxon-Valdez spill 21 years ago?

Now, out in the Gulf of Mexico, 16 miles off our ruggedly beautiful coast line, an oil slick 600 square miles in size is headed toward the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The massive spill is the result of oil rig explosion off the coast which injured rig workers and has left 16 of them missing and presumed dead.

One of the missing, Blair Manuel, was a resident of Gonzales.

This morning the operator of the sunken rig, BP Petroleum, who had been saying about 1,000 gallons of oil was leaking underwater daily from the rig, admitted that spillage could now be as high as 5,000 per day.

Our state has been battered by nature relentlessly in recent years, now we, and neighboring coastal areas, face an unprecedented ecological disaster.

It appears we will be bearing heavy scars from this huge accident for a long time. Maybe it will give us reason to re-examine our economic ties with oil, and to also pursue profitable relationships with other cleaner industries more willing to work with us on terms that will benefit Louisiana.