For now, the oil companies are winning the public relations battle, in part by spending $5 million on a marketing campaign called America's Wetland. "Tell Washington to shore up America's energy coast. It fuels the nation," one TV ad implores, calling on Congress to spend the money it will take to restore the delta. Nowhere is oil's responsibility mentioned.
Many Louisiana politicians, including former governor Kathleen Blanco, have backed the campaign.
Taking the other side is a disparate group — among them, Treen; Tab Benoit, a Cajun rock musician who talks about oil's legacy during national tours; and Walter Williams, a writer and animator known for his clay-figure character Mr. Bill, who blogs about it.
"Cigarettes were an easy whipping boy," said Williams. "Oil permeates."
In fact, the industry is resurgent in the delta where, as oil prices soar, wildcatters are turning on long-dormant wells.