Getting between the oil industry's posterior and Louisiana politicians' lips is a tight spot only Rhett Butler could love -- "I've always had a weakness for lost causes once they're really lost."
Odd that it was a Yankee academic and not Capt. Butler embarking on such a quixotic scheme Monday before a joint meeting of state House and Senate natural-resources committees. Either he was making the kind of profit the fictional Butler did from running guns to the Confederates, or the man just had no idea what he was walking into.
The Oregon economics professor's first mistake, sad to say, was in going to Louisiana in the first place. Nothing good could come of it.
His second mistake was in telling Louisianians -- politicians, no less -- what he took to be the truth, instead of what they wanted to hear.
THE THIRD mistake, as reported by The Advocate in Baton Rouge, was a doozy. He told the legislators that an LSU professor was dead wrong (and guilty of sloppy research) in his report arguing that the state was losing beaucoup revenue and jobs by not throttling lawsuits over environmental damage from old oilfields.
W. Ed Whitelaw, a professor of economics at the University of Oregon, said the widely quoted analysis omitted relevant facts, including any mention of two hurricanes.OOOOOOOOOH. Bad move.
David Dismukes, an LSU professor who works for the LSU Center for Energy Studies, released an analysis in February that found that during the past eight years, Louisiana missed out on more than 30,000 oil and gas jobs and support positions because of what are called “legacy lawsuits.”
The lawsuits are over the extent of cleanup of environmental damage caused by oil producers’ drilling practices years ago.
A joint hearing of the Louisiana House and state Senate committees on Natural Resources met Monday to “informally discuss the issues” involving legislation that would change the procedures leading to lawsuits over the environmental damage.
“Legacy lawsuits are strongly and negatively correlated with Louisiana drilling activity,” Dismukes’ report says. “Increases in legacy lawsuits are correlated with reductions in conventional Louisiana oil and gas drilling.”
Whitelaw, founder of ECONorthwest, a Portland, Ore., company that provides financial analysis for businesses and governments, said Dismukes’ widely quoted analysis has several major flaws.
“Understand that these errors, and there are three or four big ones, any one of which is enough to render his analysis nonsense,” Whitelaw said. “These are rookie errors.”
In the Gret Stet, legislators reserve the right to starve Louisiana universities to death, but they'll be damned if some damn Yankee is gonna come down and tell 'em they're getting what they pay for. Or not getting what they refuse to pay for.
At any rate, ancestral hatred, a raging inferiority complex, a genuine lack of intelligence and good old bayou buffoonery combined for a quite predictable display of pique and posturing. Like I said, I hope Whitelaw's making obscene money for his expert testimony.
In the joint committee hearing, state Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, came to Dismukes’ defense, asking former U.S. Rep. Chris John, who now heads the Baton Rouge-based industry group Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, how he felt about Whitelaw’s testimony.WHAT (expletive deleted) morons. What clowns.
“It always chaps my hide when folks come in here from out of state and degrade our universities and our faculty,” Chabert said.
John agreed, saying the oil and gas industry works closely with LSU, his alma mater.
“It is something that we should consider when a person from the Oregon Ducks would actually sit at this table; we’ve had our issues with the Oregon Ducks,” Johns said.
It says nothing good about Louisiana that it's occurred to no one that so many of the state's political maladies could be solved by no longer reminding its politicians to breathe.
It also says nothing good about the place that it's occurred to so few there that the rest of America isn't laughing with Louisiana, but instead at Louisiana.