President Obama was dealt another court setback yesterday eventing when an appeals panel refused to reinstate the drilling moratorium, pending the outcome of a trial on its legality.

But the news isn’t all good. Many of the companies involved in the case will find it difficult to start work again, given the possibility that all of their efforts could come to naught once the case is over.

While it’s possible that 33 exploratory wells suspended by the moratorium could resume drilling, companies might not bother with the expense while the ultimate future of the projects hangs in the balance. Catherine Wannamaker, a lawyer for several environmental groups that support the moratorium, said she was disappointed by the ruling but expressed confidence that the Obama administration ultimately will win its appeal. Wannamaker said it’s unclear whether any offshore companies would resume drilling because Thursday’s ruling doesn’t resolve the case. “Clearly, it’s legally allowed,” she said. “The question is, practically speaking, will anybody do it given the uncertainty? It’s hard to know what will happen.”

Think of this situation as a microcosm of the economy under the Obama administration. Uncertainty reigns over a looming Obamacare, possible tax hikes under discussion, and future regulations and attempts to please trial lawyers. In some areas of contract law — including offshore oil leases — this administration has given businesses (and investors, such as the senior creditors of Chrysler) reasons to doubt whether the rule of law will be honored in future transactions.

Who, aside from the few large corporations that will benefit from Obama subsidies, would be foolish enough to hire new employees or expand their business in this environment?

In any event, expect a new drilling moratorium to be announced later today.