Effects of the oil spill on the economy

By Katherine Klingseis, katherine.klingseis@iowastatedaily.com

Even though the oil leak is temporarily plugged, Americans are still experiencing the affects of the BP oil spill.

The spill undoubtedly hit the Gulf region the hardest. As oil continued to move further and further from the leaking point, several industries struggled to make a profit.

The fishing industry, for example, has been drastically affected by the oil spill. After the spill, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shut down fishing in the oil-infected area.

Luckily for fishermen, the NOAA reopened one-third of the oil-affected waters July 24. The fish in the reopened area were inspected and did not show any oil contamination.

“If people can no longer fish where they used to fish, then they will just fish more intensively in areas that are deemed safe,” said Peter Orazem, professor of economics at Iowa State.

Florida relies more on tourism than fishing. With oil splattering the beaches, tourists are no longer going to Florida, and are subsequently not spending their money there.

“In my sense, if the beaches are clear, then [tourism] will come back pretty quickly,” Orazem said. “A lot of that depends on how rapidly the oil gets dispersed in the environment. Right now, a lot of the oil actually evaporates.”

The oil, in fact, has only impacted 10 percent of Florida’s 1,260 miles of beaches. Even though a small portion of the beaches have been affected, oil disbursement is still necessary in the region.

“A bunch of [the oil] needs to be eaten by tiny microorganisms that actually consume oil,” Orazem said. “I think that will take some time, but it could be that a year from now you won’t notice that there was a problem.”

Due to BP‘s irresponsible actions, the Obama administration has put a ban on offshore drilling. For six months, the moratorium prohibits oil rigs that have certain drilling technologies.

“At $500,000 a day, [oil rigs] are not going to sit there,” said Bob Steffes, PCC research engineer at Iowa State. “Several rigs have already picked up and gone to foreign countries. How many more are going to follow?”

Behind the offshore drilling industry lies thousands of people who rely on it to pay their bills and feed their families. With closed oil rigs, all of these people find themselves without jobs.

“If 6 out of 30 rigs shut down, and each have 125 people on board and thousands in industries behind that, they all are going to sit there now, twiddling their thumbs, and wait six months for the new rules that come out next,” Steffes said. “Nobody knows, those new rules could say that they have to wait another six months.”

While the offshore drilling industry has been negatively affected by the BP oil spill, the alternative energy industry may very well have been helped.

“There might be some statements that [America] will step up our research in alternative fuels in consequence of [the oil spill], and Iowa State is in that business,” Orazem said.

President Obama even said America needs alternative energy. Orazem, however, is hesitant on how much the oil spill will affect alternative energy.

“It just seems unlikely that we are going to see a huge change in the amount of alternative energy in the fraction of the total consumption of energy in the United States,” Orazem said. “But, [the oil spill] will be another reason to want to move more aggressively in that direction.”

(Posted originally on Iowastatedaily.com on July 27, 2010)

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