The coronavirus pandemic, now more than a year old, helped our communities appreciate the contributions of ordinary workers used to being taken for granted.
Doctors and nurses, the folks at the grocery and the pharmacy, the people who keep the lights on — all were suddenly exalted in the way we have always elevated soldiers and police officers for the dangerous and important work they do.
But the people who work in the energy industry have always been heroes, and this week’s tragic accident in the Gulf of Mexico underscored that for all of us.
The fuels that power our cars and heat our homes don’t magically come out of the ground on their own. It takes grit and sacrifice and skill to drill a hole in the seafloor and bring oil and gas safely ashore.
The capsizing of the Seacor Power and the accompanying loss of life reminds us we live, and they work, in a dangerous world.
The lift boat, which services oil platforms, left Port Fourchon on Tuesday afternoon. It was assaulted by hurricane-force winds and 7- to 9-foot seas generated by an unexpected April storm.
The U.S. Coast Guard responded with customary skill and bravery, but the conditions offshore were challenging and there was little room for optimism.
Louisiana workers have been harvesting energy from the Gulf of Mexico for a century now, and it’s something we’re good at. The work is difficult and dangerous, and it can be lucrative in good times but punishing when demand for oil and gas goes south.
These days, the world seems to be down on fossil fuels, and the people who harvest oil and gas are treated as disposable parts, offered “retraining” for the “green energy jobs” of tomorrow. But Louisiana and other Gulf states have powered the most prosperous and successful economy in the history of the planet.
And whatever miracles new technologies deliver, we’ll be needing fossil fuels for years to come, which means the world will count on Louisiana workers to stare down the perils of the sea in this decade and the next and the next.
When workers in the energy industry return to shore from their outings on the Gulf, there are no crowds to stand and cheer, as we did for health care workers during the worst of the pandemic. Nobody salutes and hands out medals, like we do for our military.
But the folks who left Port Fourchon on the Seacor Power are heroes to us, and all of us need to honor the memories of those lost, and support the families hoping for better news from the searches now underway.