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Despite BP oil spill, Louisiana still loves Big Oil

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Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is steadfastly against a moratorium on Gulf Coast deepwater drilling – as are other members of Louisiana's congressional delegation. Republican Sen. David Vitter has seen fit to chastise Congress for holding hearings on the growing crisis before the deep-sea leak has been plugged.

BP has come in for some harsh words, and in some cases even legal action. But one parish that is suing BP takes pains to explain its purpose: The suit is aimed at BP, not the oil industry, a lawyer says.

That local leaders facing such a disaster feel compelled not to antagonize Big Oil is telling.

It is quintessentially Louisiana.

Louisiana is entwined with offshore oil more closely than any other state. The world's first offshore oil well was drilled in the Gulf, south of Morgan City, in 1947, and the ties binding Louisiana and offshore oil have strengthened since then.

For a relatively poor Deep South state, plentiful stores of oil and natural gas have become a crucial source of wealth.

"An upwardly mobile career path often leads people in Louisiana to the oil and gas industry," says Kirby Goidel, director of Louisiana State University's Public Policy Research Lab in Baton Rouge. "The state lags behind in higher education, and you can go make a good living on the rigs without going to college."

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