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When the Interior Department announced a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the wake of the BP disaster, the energy industry and conservatives rushed to declare that the Obama administration was bent on destroying the Gulf Coast economy.


For example, in a July report for the American Energy Alliance -- which the media innocently described as a "non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.," but in reality is an oil company-funded front group -- Prof. Joe Mason of Louisiana State University warned that 8,000 jobs and $500 million in wages would be lost, with total economic damages amounting to some $2.1 billion.

The warnings of impending doom had their desired affect: Louisiana lawmakers and the public rose to denounce the moratorium. Judge Martin Feldman from the Eastern District of New Orleans -- a Reagan appointee with his own heavy investments in energy -- based his June opinion [pdf] batting down the moratorium on fears that "an estimated 150,000 jobs are directly related to offshore operations" and even a short-term ban would cause "irreparable harm" to the economy.

In the highly-charged partisan debate, everyone was forced to get on board. In his amicus brief [pdf] opposing the moratorium, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal even got the Louisiana Workforce Commission -- the agency in charge of administering unemployment claims -- to go on record saying that:
Because of the moratorium, many thousands of Louisiana workers have lost their employment and many more are at risk of losing it in the near future. All of the programs administered by LWC have been and will be heavily impacted by its effects.
But there was one problem: The claims weren't true. The economic disaster never materialized. The evidence is clear:

* Despite early reports that 33 rigs would likely pull up stakes from the Gulf after the moratorium, a New Orleans Times Picayune report on Aug. 11 found that "only two of 33 deepwater rigs in the Gulf have left for foreign oilfields."

* The Times Picayune also found that "the predictions of tens of thousands of lost jobs across the region have yet to materialize." In fact:
[W]eekly unemployment claims data in the mining industry sector, which comprises primarily oil- and gas-related jobs, have shown no noticeable spike since the moratorium was declared May 28. Overall employment data in coastal parishes also show little change since the drilling ban.
* Furthermore, the paper found "there have been no reported layoffs" on the oil rigs affected by the moratorium.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission's politicized claims have proved to be especially egregious. In reality, their weekly press releases since the moratorium have gone into effect have shown a steady decrease in unemployment claims across the state. The latest report, from Sept. 10, showed a decline in initial claims from 4,120 to 4,083. Claims similarly declined in June, July and August.

Indeed, in the Commission's eagerness to show the wisdom of the governor's economic agenda, it couldn't help but contradict its claims of moratorium-induced calamity with this sunny dispatch on Aug. 20, titled "Louisiana Labor Force Hits Record High for July:"

The state's July unemployment rate was tied for 14th lowest in the nation and was the fourth lowest in the Southern region. The Southern