|Fig. 1: This map shows the fishery closure boundary in the Gulf of Mexico by June 21, 2010. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
In 1947, the first true out of sight oil platform was completed in the Gulf of Mexico.  Since then there are more than 3,000 offshore oil platforms operating in the Gulf of Mexico. These offshore platforms are a primary source of national physical and economic oil capital. Unfortunately, this massive industry does cause some detrimental environmental and economic effects that rarely get any public attention.  In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill brought nation-wide attention to offshore drilling as it released 210 million gallons of Louisiana crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Events like this and the massive industry as a whole have a direct effect to the Louisiana economy.
The Gulf of Mexico is the central pipeline for energy security in the United States as it produces 17% of the total U.S. crude oil. In 2013, it produced over 100,000 jobs in Louisiana.  These jobs don't just include the intense mechanical engineer or the pipefitter at the supply shop, but also employees at the neighborhood restaurants near the Louisiana coast.  This industry has also managed to contribute $13.0 billion to the Louisiana GDP, 7% of the states total GDP. The bottom-line is this off-shore oil drilling provides an economic boost to Louisiana. This is significant because this is the only industry that has this type of economic effect to the state. Even though this fact can not be overlooked, it is important to understand the negative effects that this massive energy brings.
When gallons of oil were released in the Gulf a rich ecosystem was immediately threatened.  On November 1, 2010, just 6 months after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill wildlife responders collected many birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals affected by the oil spill. Responders also found that many corals located in the Gulf containing an abundant of other marine life were impacted. Hence, this oil spill created a dent in the population of many organisms in and near the Gulf of Mexico.
Furthermore, the spill oiled more than 130 miles of coastal habitats including salt marsh, wetlands, mudflat, mangroves, and sand beaches.  This destroyed the habitats of the wildlife mentioned and more. Even more, it destroyed some of Louisiana's first line of defense from hurricanes. These coastal habitats serve as both a buffer and sponge as hurricanes hit South Louisiana as they reduce storm surge, and also soak in flood water. The spill completed destroyed a large part of this natural defense system. 
Massive oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon spill have detrimental effects to Louisianas economy. As shown in Fig. 1, months after the oil spill still render a large fishery closure for a big part of the Gulf of Mexico. The spill caused a direct dent in Louisianas vital fishery industry as many fishing grounds were closed down.  In 2010, shrimp landings decreased by 32% in Louisiana due to the lingering crude oil. Also Louisianas oyster production was sliced in half by the spill. Another industry that one would not easily guess to have an intense decline was tourism. The spill reportedly caused a lost of $32 million in visitor spending. This comes from hotels and tourist attractions. Brand damaged due to the spill still lingers on. Economically, Louisiana took a hit to one of its main two industries. 
Offshore oil drilling is a vital part of Louisiana. It provides a lot of revenue and employs many locals near the Gulf of Mexico. However, this vital piece has a harsh reality. It contains many risks that can be disastrous. Spills can instantly ruin a marine ecosystem and take out the first hurricane line of defense. It is important to understand the beneficial and risks factors that a massive industry has to states nearby.
© Malik Antoine. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 P. W. Sammarco
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