For centuries the beach has provided writers with metaphors for change: the shifting sands, ebb and flow, changing tides. At the mouth of the Pascagoula one might recall the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who believed nothing endures but change and wrote you can never step into the same river twice.

My latest trip to the Gulf Coast reminded me of recent and dramatic changes. In the 1990s casinos revolutionized the economy and the altered face Highway 90 bringing towering resorts, incredible investments, and the social challenges of gaming. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina wiped the Coast bare erasing not only familiar landmarks but entire neighborhoods and towns. Driving along the Coast this July I saw lines of workers walking the beaches, air conditioned tents and busses to provide them with relief from the Mississippi sun, bags of oil-soiled materials being discarded, and fishing boats employed by BP to scout for oil rather than seafood.

Those on the Gulf Coast persevere and with the news that BP has capped the Deepwater Horizon well, hopes are the beach patrols and the new Mississippi skimmers - "Haley's Navy" - will soon begin returning the Coast to normal.

Normal, unless the Obama Administration succeeds in wrecking the economy with a drilling moratorium. The catastrophic and negligent failures at Deepwater Horizon crippled the summer seafood industry and tourist season. Now, as to add insult to injury, radical ideologues wish to attack the energy sector that supplies jobs to thousands of Gulf Coast families and fuels the Mississippi and American economy.

A plane crashes and we shut down the airline industry. We find salmonella at a food market and shut down all the grocery stores. A corrupt policeman is arrested so we pull all patrols off the streets. Absurd ideas. So why would we shut down American oil and natural gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico because British Petroleum failed to follow industry standards and safety protocols? We should punish BP. We should scrutinize BP. But we should not drive other companies out of business or out of the Gulf when they are following the rules and doing things right.

A new paper entitled "The Economic Cost of a Moratorium on Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration to the Gulf Region" by LSU economist Dr. Joseph R. Mason estimates the first six months of a Gulf drilling moratorium will trigger, just in the Gulf region, a loss of more than 8000 jobs, $500 million in wages and $2.1 billion in economic activity.

The total damage to the U.S. economy would approach 12,000 jobs in six months (and could triple in a year), a loss of $2.8 billion to the federal economy with $220 million in lost tax revenue. The blow to Mississippi state and local tax revenues would be nearly $8.5 million, according to Dr. Mason's findings.

"The data are clear. The moratorium will cost the Gulf Coast region jobs, money, and economic development. In fact, the moratorium could be more costly, than the oil spill itself. The region is already struggling from devastating losses from Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Gustav, and the nation's depressed economy. By stifling one of the area's primary economic engines, the administration is crippling the local economy and risking long term consequences," Dr. Mason said.

His study was sponsored by The American Energy Alliance, an energy policy advocacy organization that also opposes "cap and trade" policies.

Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas have joined with Mississippi Governor Haley R. Barbour in opposing the moratorium. Barbour cites the more than 30,000 wells drilled in the Gulf Coast over the last 50 years without prior disaster on this scale. He says the Gulf accounts for 30 percent of U.S. oil production with 80 percent of that from deep-water production.

Voters agree with Jindal, Perry and Barbour. A Rasmussen Reports survey conducted on July 12 of likely voters in Mississippi finds 76 percent support offshore oil drilling; only 8 percent oppose it. Sixty-seven percent of Mississippi voters support deepwater drilling while 13 percent oppose it.

Texas voters approve off shore drilling at 70 percent while Louisiana voters favor it at 79 percent. Nationally, 60 percent of voters support offshore oil drilling and 22 percent are opposed.

A majority of Mississippi voters (56 percent) rate President Barack Obama's handling of the oil spill as poor. Twenty-seven percent approve of Obama's work; 21 percent feel the same about BP and Transocean.

The Coast is not unique in it changes. Across Mississippi we see communities adjusting to new economies, reacting to policy decisions, recovering from tornadoes or floods. But I hope in ten years we don't look back and remember the catastrophic changes from a drilling moratorium. Still, it seems every time I visit the Coast, I never walk on the same beach twice.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at