Via Andy Revkin’s blog, a Drexel University professor speculates as to how the rolling disaster unfolding in the Gulf will play out:
This could have an enormous political impact. That type of spill size will eventually reach recreational areas, and places where the press can easily document the adverse impacts of the spill. Unlike global climate change, oil spills make for good graphic, and visual coverage, the causal sequence is self evident, and denial is impossible. Think of week after week of oil spill coverage on the nightly news. That is what happened with the Exxon Valdez, which occurred in a remote area. This will make opening up offshore drilling very difficult. Plus it is occurring in an area that is supportive of offshore drilling. When the adverse impacts start hitting the recreation industries of the Gulf coast, the politics could get very interesting.
I don’t see how it’s avoidable that this spill is going to have major, major impact, and not just on the coastal environment. According to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries department, the Louisiana seafood industry is worth $265 billion annually “at the dockside,” and beyond that has a $2.3 trillion economic impact. The state’s budget was already in dire shape, with dramatic cuts to higher education and state services on their way for next year … and now the state is faced with the possible destruction of its fishing industry. The economic pain could be extreme — likewise for the coastal tourism industries in Mississippi, Alabama, still struggling to recover from Katrina, and perhaps even the Florida Panhandle. The entire nation benefits from the oil harvested from Gulf waters, but now the cost of it is going to be borne in a particularly horrible way by Louisiana and neighboring states.
The president has already announced a moratorium on deepwater drilling until we get this disaster sorted. I don’t think anybody can say for sure where all this is going to take the country in terms of energy and economic policy, especially given that the pictures of crude oil hitting beaches and marshes haven’t yet begun to reach the public’s eye. But I do hope that we all give a great deal of scrutiny to how exactly the oil companies, including British Petroleum, talked the government out of making them put additional safety equipment onto those rigs, which government bureaucrats knuckled under to them, and why.
That this event is going to be a game changer is hard to gainsay. But how it will be is an open question. Have any predictions? Let us hear them.