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On Smoking guns and life beyond Prudhoe Bay

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 11, 2006


While considering my observations regarding the oil spill in Alaska and the corroded pipeline originating at Prudhoe Bay, my jaded perspective allowed for no surprise, and even less concern for those wringing their hands over the "price of gas." Hardly novel, this shut down seems too well timed, considering the massive oil spill was discovered in March 2006,but not reported until the first week of August, to be anything other than a corporate manipulation.

Personally, I would like to see oil prices over a hundred dollars a barrel, $200 a barrel would make me ecstatic. Once the price of gas becomes cost prohibitive then, and only then, will people begin to look for alternatives. And when I say alternatives, I don't mean equally harmful energy sources.

Six corrosion holes in the pipeline on the eastern side of the field is no accident. 270,00 gallons of oil slowly leaking onto the Alaskan tundra due to a lack of infrastructure maintenance is no accident. That agreements were broken and public trust betrayed was no accident. It is also no accident that the oil industry will rake in billions as prices go up at the pump due to British Petroleum's inattentiveness.

According to Bill Hedges, BP PLC's corrosion expert, the Prudhoe Bay oilfield, which accounts for 8 per cent of US domestic output is "a giant water field," explaining that adding "What comes up now during drilling is three-quarters water." Carbon dioxide in the water is corroding the pipelines.

Once again Carbon dioxide is the culprit in the climate change saga. Not only does carbon dioxide pollution result from the burning of petroleum products it has now been shown to eat away at pipes carry raw crude. A Greenhouse gas, human generated CO2 is contributing to melting of the permafrost in which the oil pipeline is built. A vicious cycle, made more extreme as it closes in on itself, the CO2 from melting permafrost only compound the problems associated with Global Warming.

Sure, British Petroleum is guilty of criminal negligence, but only in terms of Environmental stewardship. Yes, an investigation will be conducted, hands will be slapped, fines paid, and business will continue as usual. The real crime is the irreversible damage being down to the global ecosystems in the name of economy.

By shutting down the pipeline at the height of the summer season, British Petroleum is giving the oil industry an early Christmas present. By relegating the corrosion and the resulting oil spill as the cost of doing business, BP will never truly be held accountable for their crimes against Alaskan ecosystems. Hardly an exception to the rule, BP can expect the same treatment afforded Exxon after criminal negligence polluted Prince William Sound in 1989 when the Valdez ran aground.

As long as oil interests dictate American Foreign policy and domestic priorities there is little any of us can do except sit back and enjoy the decline of Western civilization.

David Brower, the American environmentalist and Arch-Druid, was working on his agenda for the 21st century when he passed in 2000 at the age of 88. His new project was to establish a global CPR service: C for conservation, P for preservation, and R for restoration. As an activist, CPR has become a personal mantra for me.

As an environmentalist I encourage everyone to begin to wean themselves of all forms of oil-based transportation. Hybrid cars are merely technological band-aids for the fatal wounds inflicted through the use of fossil fuels.

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