South Louisiana’s National Impact

The ports of New Orleans, South Louisiana and Baton Rouge provide important access to world markets and sources of exported and imported raw materials. These three ports are significant to the economy of the nation. They cover 172 miles on both banks of the Mississippi River. The ports of South Louisiana, New Orleans and Baton Rouge rank third, fourth and fifteenth, respectively in total trade by port to all world ports.

According to the North American Export Grain Association, these three ports serve as a gateway for nearly 55 to 70 percent of all U.S. exported corn, soy and wheat. Barges carry these grains from the Mississippi River to the ports for storage and export. Imports to these ports include steel, coffee, fruits, vegetables, iron, metal ores, non-metallic minerals, inorganic chemicals, forest products, vegetable fats and oils, natural rubber, fertilizers and organic chemicals.

In addition, Louisiana produced – not imported - 53,034,353 barrels of crude oil in 2007. Eighteen percent of U.S. oil production originates in, is transported through or is processed in Louisiana coastal wetlands with a value of $6.3 billion a year. Almost 24 percent of U.S. natural gas production originates in or is processed in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands with a value of $10.3 billion a year.

Louisiana’s OCS (outer continental shelf) territory is the most extensively developed and matured OCS territory in the United States. It has produced 88.8 percent of the crude oil and condensate and 83.2 percent of the natural gas extracted from all federal OCS territories from the beginning of oil and gas exploration and development in the U.S.

In addition to oil and gas, Louisiana’s coastal wetlands contribute 28 percent to the total volume of U.S. fisheries.

The United States depends on the oil and gas shipped through and produced in Louisiana’s coastal zone. An economic impact study entitled “Economic Impacts of Port Fourchon on the National and Regional Economies” was recently released. Completed by Dr. Loren Scott with Loren C. Scott and Associates, the study provides evidence of the critical importance of Port Fourchon to our regional and national economies. Dr. Scott said, “We engaged in this report to find out the dollars and cents and what exactly Port Fourchon means to this country.”

According to the study, if Port Fourchon had a 3-week loss of service for any reason, it would equate to a national economic impact of $9.9 billion in sales loss, $2.9 billion in household earnings loss and over 77,000 jobs loss nationally. These figures are based on $66 barrel of oil. To paraphrase Don Pierson, Assistant Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, “This report is a valuable tool to build the economy, assets and investments in this state. We can use this to show the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce and other organizations that Louisiana ports are a major asset.”

Our recent financial debacle stemmed from greed, misappropriation of funds and the ego of many in power. The government immediately assisted a self-inflicted fiasco. Nearly five years ago, a force majeure impacted a major U.S. economic resource - South Louisiana. To date, there are many areas still uninhabitable.

Is protecting Louisiana's economic and ecological resources a trivial pursuit? Is South Louisiana a foregone conclusion? Why did BP chose to ignore what a whistleblower was about to reveal? Why did our government delay taking aggressive measures to protect one of its fragile, but abundant resources? It appears that neither the oil industry nor our government learned valuable lessons from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.

Once again, South Louisiana falls victim to the “if we ignore it, maybe things will clear up on their own” mentality. However, unlike Hurricane Katrina, the effects of BP oil spill will impact more than just those residing along the Gulf Coast. In addition, it is impossible to measure the devastation, as environmental consequences will continue to unfold for many years to come.

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Bonnie Morét is an award-winning photographer recognized by The Georgia Council of the Arts as "an exceptional representation of contemporary Georgia art work." Her photography is featured on Georgia Public Broadcast's Georgia Traveler. Her exhibitions include Fifth Annual Exposure Awards at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France, Art Takes Miami at Scope Art during Art Basel Miami, Metro Montage XIII at the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art, World of Water at the Georgia Aquarium, Open Walls at Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon, Wholly Georgia: A Look at the Effects of Southern Religious Culture, sponsored by the Art History League and Georgia State University, at Mint Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, 6x6 at the Rochester Contemporary Arts Center in Rochester, New York, @Phonography: Dialogue in the Wireless Age, at 3 Ring Circus in New Orleans, Louisiana, and About Lands and Lives of the Civil War at the 6th Cavalry Museum in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. Her photography appears in Modern Luxury/The Atlantan, Jezebel Magazine, and hangs in the executive offices at the Georgia State Capitol as part of the Art of Georgia exhibit. Corporate clients include Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta History Center, Chanel Cosmetics, Christian Dior Cosmetics, Sharp Mountain Vineyards, PM Realty Group, Granite Properties, Road Atlanta, Patrón Tequila, Georgia's Own Credit Union, StubHub, CBM Records and The Washington Auto Show.