Obama under pressure on oil drilling ban 

Warning of job losses and economic peril, critics of President Obama's six month moratorium on offshore oil drilling are intensifying pressure on him to rescind it.

The administration is at work on new regulations for offshore drilling, following Obama's decision to halt oil exploration off Alaska and cancel 33 deepwater projects in the Gulf of Mexico.

But as the Deepwater Horizon leak continued for its 51st day in the Gulf, many were urging him to rethink the ban.

"I am concerned that the decision to impose the moratorium is based more on emotion than fact," Republican Rep. John Culberson of Texas wrote in a letter to the president.

"This shortsighted moratorium is harmful to America and our fragile economy, and it will mire domestic energy production in a confusing and ineffective bureaucracy," Culberson said.

While the ban was applauded by many environmental groups, the industry estimates the decision could cost at least 46,000 jobs -- mostly around the hard-hit Gulf Coast region.

A company that hauls workers and supplies to offshore rigs sued the federal government over the ban in a New Orleans U.S. District Court this week.

And the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that shipbuilders and others in the city's once-busy port could cut thousands of jobs as a result of the drilling ban.

"The moratorium will cost us more jobs and economic devastation, on top of the repercussions of the spill itself, as energy companies move their businesses away from the coast," said Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana. "This administration's policies aren't helping Louisianians -- they are shutting down huge parts of our economy."

In a letter to Obama, Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal said, "The last thing we need is to enact public policies that will certainly destroy thousands of existing jobs while preventing the creation of thousands more."

It's a potent argument for the Obama administration, which previously vowed to make a priority of Gulf Coast recovery post-Hurricane Katrina, and also faces significant pressure to preserve and create jobs in a tough economy.

Another key concern is how the ban could drive up oil prices -- an eventuality on which the industry and some economists have sounded warnings.

"We live by the oil and we die by the oil," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told CNN.

"If you look at it from the rest of the nation's view, maybe it's a fight between big oil and the ecosystem, but for people that live down here, both of those things have lived together," Landrieu said.

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration understands the consternation of local residents -- and said expanded offshore drilling is merely on "pause."

"None of those permits have been pulled; they've just been paused," Gibbs said.

While he said "I don't think there's any doubt" the moratorium will result in a loss of jobs, Gibbs said Obama believes it's crucial ensure the safety of deepwater drilling in the future.

"The president is well aware of the pain and suffering that this accident is causing," Gibbs said.


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