Environment isn't getting much of a break in a city where the good times still roll

The oil industry dominates New Orleans, where a few concessions to the environment include small solar panels atop parking meters, above, and a growing network of electric streetcars, including this one on Canal Street, below.


NEW ORLEANS -- On a six-day visit to the Big Easy, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me.

Downtown streets were filled with an unusually large number of big SUVs and pickup trucks, and only a small number of gas-electric hybrids.

I rode plenty of electric streetcars, but saw not a single all-electric car from Tesla, Nissan, BMW or other manufacturer.

And solar panels seemed more common on parking meters than on buildings and homes.

In the city's Garden District, I saw a rare Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid in a neighborhood filled with SUVs.

Oil, music and fish

A visitor soon learns how important the petroleum industry is to New Orleans and Louisiana, despite the Deepwater Horizon spill six years ago that nearly destroyed the fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil companies are the major sponsors of two major music and food festivals in April -- the French Quarter Festival and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which began Friday.

Louisiana is the primary source of the nation's crude oil, and the second-largest refiner of petroleum for gasoline and plastic, according to the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp.

Meanwhile, the Louisiana fishing industry has bounced back, "accounting for 26 percent of all seafood landed in the country, and 40 percent of all seafood consumed by Americans each year," the city's marketing group says. 

Tesla New Orleans

Tesla Motors has promised a service center in New Orleans beginning in 2014, but Model S owners are still waiting.

A friend who lives in the city says he has seen a few Teslas.

The company Web site lists a New Orleans service center as "coming soon."

Tesla has installed free Superchargers and destination chargers across Louisiana for Tesla owners.

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