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Gov. John Bel Edwards, right, shakes hands with businessman Eddie Rispone, center, as U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, left, prepares to speak next, during an appearance by the three Louisiana gubernatorial candidates at an Oil and Natural Gas Industry Day event in A.Z. Young Park, Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

Louisiana’s seafood industry provides nearly a third of seafood eaten in the United States, and its agricultural sector’s total economic impact in 2017 was almost $11.8 billion. It’s also hard to imagine a kitchen or restaurant without a bottle of Tabasco sauce made from the peppered fields of Avery Island.

Oil and natural gas and their delivery are the underlying ties that bind these opportunities. They’re must-haves for nearly every industry that makes the products we use or consume daily.

And thanks to low natural gas prices, more than $142 billion in energy manufacturing projects have been announced statewide in recent years. Each will profit intertwining industries like hotels, restaurants, foot traffic at storefronts and ports, which support 77,000 jobs and $4 billion-plus in wages.

The industry also generates revenue that funds public services like schools, emergency personnel and road repairs. Even tourism and recreation benefit because lower energy costs make traveling to attractions more affordable. Such must-see sights include repurposed oil and gas platforms off the state’s coast that serve as habitats for marine life, drawing fishermen and divers.

Still, delays and stall tactics from misguided opposition groups continue to hinder the sector’s ability to increase infrastructure, production and jobs. Louisiana could lose many of these advantages if lawmakers aren’t careful. Energy expenses for cash-strapped families and businesses could also increase.

That’s why elected officials and candidates must take steps to secure a competitive advantage and a welcoming regulatory climate. Some did recently at Oil and Natural Gas Industry Day at the Louisiana State Capitol, but to maintain the economy's linchpin and ensure jobs and opportunities aren’t exported to other states or nations, it must be a priority for all.

Kaitlin Schmidtke

Louisiana state director, Consumer Energy Alliance