3 Reasons Why Louisiana Is at a Crossroads

Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Louisiana is reaching a number of vital crossroads as a state. Major changes to its economic health, environmental situation, and political atmosphere are in the making, but at the moment, all onlookers can do is stand back and wait out the slow progression of events and see where things settle.

Right now, much of its future is up in the air, a microcosm of much of the U.S. The midterm elections will decide the power structure in Congress this fall, and Louisiana will play an important role in deciding the partisan balance as 0ne of the few state tossups left in the Senate race.

The economic future of the state lies in the hands of its energy industry, which in turn lies in the hands of the national government. Finally, the environmental future of Louisiana could be taking a turn for the worse — even looking beyond controversy surrounding its energy industry. So let’s delve into our favorite southern state and where it could go in the near future.

The Political Fork in the Road

Louisiana isn’t exactly a swing state — more a lightly leaning red state with an especially tense role in elections this year — but a major role is certainly what its playing. It’s one of the five key races listed by The Washington Post’s “Election Lab,” alongside Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, and Arkansas — by and large the general belief of most experts keeping an eye on the elections.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is the incumbent this season, and she has major work cut out for her given her double disadvantage as an incumbents and a Democrat, not to mention the recent controversy over her residency, resulting in a pretty effective attack ad, and her addition to Roll Call’s list of “The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators.” Her biggest competitor for the job is Representative Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and so far things look to be leaning in his favor.

The two share some political goals — especially in terms of the energy future of Louisiana with the Keystone Pipeline. But they diverge sharply when it comes to the Affordable Care Act and a number of other policy preferences. More important still is their position on the still uncertain scale on Congress in November. A split Congress could mean another period of intense gridlock, but Democrats are looking less and less likely to maintain a majority in the Senate, especially if things go south for Senator Landrieu.

The Keystone Pipeline

The Keystone XL Pipeline has now been six years in the making — and at the moment, it shows no immediate signs of going anywhere, despite political frustration and efforts from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Environmental concerns have been one strong consideration and the economic boost it would provide to states involved in the construction and upkeep has been another.

At present, the Pipeline is seeing major hold-ups and awaiting approval from President Barack Obama — apparently in vain. Meanwhile, energy industry states are growing impatient, advertising the job creation and market advantages of the Keystone Pipeline. “We cannot lose this opportunity to create tens of thousands of jobs and $20 billion in economic activity,” said Landrieu back in June. When you consider that Louisiana has fewer opportunities in other areas — Forbes listed it as one of the worst states in the U.S. for the “New Economy” — the energy industry, and the opportunities supplied or lost there, will decide a great deal about Louisiana’s future.

Others argue that the real crossroads the state is facing is whether or not to take on a major environmental mess. “Locking ourselves into a massive infrastructure to move the dirtiest oil on the planet for the next fifty years would greatly worsen carbon pollution — at a time when we’re facing growing and grievous costs wrought by climate change,” said Anthony Swift, an attorney with the National Resource C0nservation Service, to Bloomberg.

Environmental Future of Louisiana

Arguments differ on precisely what impact the Keystone Pipeline would have on U.S. environmental health — but one thing is less controversial, and more just concerning: the vanishing coastline in Louisiana. Losing Ground, a combined effort from ProPublica and The Lens, released a report based on current rates and information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It stated that, “The state is losing a football field of land every 48 minutes — 16 square miles a year — due to climate change, drilling and dredging for oil and gas, and levees on the Mississippi River.” The effect of this, regardless of the cause — and whether or not it can be prevented at this point — is of humanitarian and economic concern. “Everything outside the protective levees — most of Southeast Louisiana — would be underwater,” the report stated, effecting “one of the nation’s economic linchpins.”

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