Energy transition a threat, global warming not so much, Power Poll members say

March 8, 2021 6:00am
Photo of Drew Broach
New Orleans, LA Correspondent

On the bright side, New Orleans has turned a corner in the pandemic

If Louisiana is counting on surviving the U.S. energy transition from oil and gas without major economic damage, it might be drilling a dry hole, according to The Times-Picayune Power Poll. Two thirds of Power Poll members responding to this month's survey put the state's chances at even to very poor.

"We have a partisan Legislature that is less concerned about providing for future growth than ... about appeasing a national right wing narrative," said Jeff Thomas, pubisher of Think504. "We have opportunities to lead in the transformation from fossil fuels dependency to cleaner, greener infrastructure. This would result in net jobs gains for the state.

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"Yet the partisanship prevents open thinking. So I think we are destined for economic devastation instead."

Also looking to lawmakers: Allison Plyer, chief demographer at The Data Center.

"The Louisiana Legislature has to identify investments and policies that will grow jobs in the clean energy economy," Plyer said. "Workers displaced from oil and gas jobs (a number that has been declining for decades) need opportunities to learn skills that will help them transition to these new jobs. Fighting for the past will only cause Louisiana to lose out on the opportunities at our doorstep."

One third of respondents, however, gave the state a very good or good chance of surviving.

"Most of us just can't imagine how the coastal Louisiana economy will look 50 years from now, but I'll bet on successful adaptations," said Bob Thomas, environmental communications professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

Another threat, global warming and rising seas, was not seen as potent. More than half the survey respondents said New Orleans as we know it can survive 75 years or longer even absent a halt in both trends.

"If you mean a culturally valuable population center located adjacent to a globally significant port complex, then yes. You can wall the city up," said Justin Nystrom, a history professor at Loyola. "If I were looking for the sky to fall on a city, it would be Miami, which you cannot wall off or ever hope to pump enough away because of the porous substrata and huge footprint."

Conducted online Monday through Thursday, The Times-Picayune Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of the top Jefferson and Orleans parish influencers in business, politics, arts, media, non-profits and community affairs, it does afford a fascinating and non-partisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of those who steer the region. Of 355 Power Poll members surveyed this week, 98 voted for participation rate of 28%.

On the immediate horizon, just about everyone sees significant progress in emerging from the coronavirus pandemic.

But survey respondents were all over the place on the burning question of the off-season:

Greg Buisson, owner of Buisson Creative, might not have inside information. But on this question, he showed where his heart is.

"I am going to believe in Drew Brees wearing a Saints uniform until I hear from him that he's hanging up his jersey," Buisson said. "He deserves our loyalty!"

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