Hollywood Once Hailed Offshore Drilling
By: Humberto Fontova
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 23, 2008
Louisiana takes many hits as "the northernmost banana republic."
Yuppies and Greenies constitute a rare, exotic and even comical species down
here – to the immense benefit of America's energy needs.
"Progressive" and "enlightened" would not be terms Obama's
Bay Area supporters would use to describe the Bayou state's decision-makers –
especially those who made major decisions half a century ago.
Yet these rustics and yahoos spurred more revolutionary "change" in
the production of (genuine) energy than any Obama supporter could imagine with
all his or her hallucinations about solar panels and windmills.
In energy production, Louisiana has been well ahead of the learning curve for decades, and offers ready
proof regarding its much-hyped "perils." The first offshore oil
production platforms went up off the Louisiana coast in 1947.
By 1953 Hollywood (no less!) was already hailing the pioneering wildcatters who
moved major mountains – technological, logistical, psychological, cultural – to
tap and reap this source that today provides a quarter of America's domestic
petroleum, without causing a single major oil spill in the process. This record
stands despite dozens of hurricanes – including the two most destructive in
North American history, Camille and Katrina – repeatedly battering the drilling
and production structures, along with the 20,000 miles of pipeline that
transport the oil shoreward. This is the most extensive offshore pipeline
network in the world.
In the 1953 movie “Thunder Bay,” Jimmy Stewart plays the complicated
protagonist, Steve Martin, the hard-bitten, ex-navy oil engineer who built the
first offshore oil platform off Louisiana in 1947. "The brawling, mauling
story of the biggest bonanza of them all!" says the Universal ad for the
studio's first wide-screen movie.
Much of the brawling by Stewart and his henchmen was against the local Cajuns
who fished and shrimped for a living. Their livelihood, it seemed obvious at
the time, would soon vanish amidst a hellbroth of irreversible pollution. The
movie covers a time period of barely one year yet ends on a happy note of
conciliation as the fishermen reaped a bonanza almost as big as Jimmy's itself.
The oil structures had kicked in as artificial reefs and made possible a bigger
haul of seafood than anything in these fishermen's lifetimes.
Half a century later, with 3203 of the 3,729 offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico studding her coastal
waters, Louisiana provides almost a third of North
America's commercial fisheries. A study by LSU's sea
grant college shows that 85 percent of Louisiana's offshore fishing
trips involve fishing around these structures. The same study found 50 times
more marine life around an oil production platform than in the surrounding mud
bottoms. That this proliferation of seafood might come because – rather than in
spite – of the oil production rattled many environmental cages and provoked a
legion of scoffers.
Amongst the scoffers were some The Travel Channel producers, fashionably
greenish in their views. But they read these claims in a book titled The
Helldiver's Rodeo. The book described an undersea panorama that (if true)
could make an interesting show for the network, they concluded, while still
They scoffed as we rode in from the airport. They scoffed over raw oysters,
grilled redfish and seafood gumbo that night. More scoffing through the
Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's. They scoffed even while suiting up in dive gear
and checking the cameras as we tied up to an oil platform 20 miles in the Gulf.
But they came out of the water bug-eyed and indeed produced and broadcast a
program showcasing a panorama that turned on its head every environmental
superstition against offshore oil drilling. Schools of fish filled the water
column from top to bottom – from 6-inch blennies to 12-foot sharks. Fish by the
thousands. Fish by the ton.
The cameras were going crazy. Do I focus on the shoals of barracuda? Or that
cloud of jacks? On the immense schools of snapper below, or on the fleet of
tarpon above? How 'bout this – WHOOOAA – hammerhead!
We had some close-ups, too, of coral and sponges, the very things disappearing
off Florida's (that bans offshore oil drilling) pampered reefs. Off Louisiana, they sprout in
colorful profusion from the huge steel beams – acres of them. You'd never guess
this was part of that unsightly structure above.
The panorama of marine life around an offshore oil platform staggers anyone who
puts on goggles and takes a peek, even (especially!) the most worldly scuba
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