Barbour: moratorium worse than spill

BARBOUR: MORATORIUM WORSE THAN SPILL…. As part of the federal response to the BP oil spill disaster, the administration imposed a six-month moratorium on drilling new deepwater wells. The point, of course, was to prevent another crisis — Deepwater Horizon had undermined confidence in the industry and its practices. Before companies start new drilling, it’s reasonable to make sure the industry’s doing it right.

Conservatives, and some regional Democrats, are less than pleased about the six-month pause. Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) went so far as to argue that the moratorium is actually worse than the oil spill and its effects on the region. Seriously.

Host David Gregory specifically asked, “[W]hat’s worse, the moratorium or the effects of this spill on the region?” Barbour replied, “Well, the moratorium. The skill — the spill’s a terrible thing, but the moratorium is a, is a terrible thing that’s not only bad for the region, it’s bad for America.”

Look, I realize that the moratorium is causing economic hardship on industry workers, and I hope some of the resources President Obama secured from BP will help. Indeed, what Barbour neglected to mention is that Obama got BP to commit to a $100 million fund to compensate unemployed oil rig workers affected by the closure of other deepwater rigs.

But putting aside these pesky details, if Haley Barbour seriously believes a moratorium on new drilling is worse than the spill itself, he’s high on crude fumes. That’s just crazy. This spill threatens the future of the region in ways few disasters even could. It’s in no way comparable to a six-month break in new drilling.

The thinking behind Barbour’s argument is fundamentally silly. As digby noted, “I’m surprised these conservatives haven’t used this argument when the food and drug companies when their products are killing people: sure, the e coli may be deadly but we can’t stop selling that tainted meat because it costs jobs and drives up prices.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.