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Our Vanishing Wilderness

Prudhoe Bay — Or Bust!

Original broadcast date: October 25th, 1970

The proposed Alaskan oil pipeline and its probable effects on the teeming life of the frozen tundra are the subjects of this segment.

Environmental Impact of the Pipeline:
This episode didn’t deal with existing impacts but speculative ones–but the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System (TAPS) was one of the first major infrastructure projects that was only approved with extensive environmental impact statements.

This 2007 paper examines the results of the early environmental impact statements and how they compare to the historical data of the pipeline’s effects on different animal populations. Its conclusion? That the environmental impact of the pipeline was, if not minimal, at least far diminished compared to any other form of oil transport that could have been implemented in the region.

Accidents and Cover-ups

What they didn’t predict in 1970: the oil-transport system’s weak link, the transition between the port and the tankers. The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 accounts for 75% of all the oil spilled in the pipeline’s lifespan. Subsequently, new regulations were required, like double hulls for any tanker visiting Prince William Sound. 20 years after that accident, it’s estimated that the environment has not recovered, and it may take another 10 years.

There was another major spill in 1994 (and subsequent cover-up) that was attributed to illegal activity on the part of two of the pipeline’s associated companies.

When the Pipeline’s right-of-way grant was renewed in 2004, another impact statement was created in 2002.

This paper examines the results of the early environmental impact statements and how they compare to the historical data of the pipeline’s effects on different animal populations.

For more on the history of the TAPS:
American Experience has an excellent documentary, though its focus is strongly on the impact of TAPS on the people of Alaska, though they address the environmental concerns as well.

  • comments (3)
  • palm kernel oil

    The Indian government encourages everyone to use them by giving them at a subsidized rate but the doctors have not come out openly to say whether its healthy or not.But privately they advice not to use for cooking

    So I would like to know whether palm oil is injurious to health if its used for cooking
    Thanks so much for your concern Maria

    Can you say whether oils like Rice Bran oil or Sun-flower is safe to use?

  • crude palm oil

    How has the Palm Oil Industry affected Deforestation in Borneo?

    - Has The Palm Oil Indusry made it even worse? How and why?

  • Palm Oil

    The Save-on-Foods closest to my house carries Dulhan brand coconut oil 500 mL and it is quite hard and almost waxy/flaky. I believe it may be hydrogenated. What I would like to know is where I can purchase a larger quantity of this (maybe a few liters), preferably in a store, but if not, online. In other words, I don’t want the health industry’s extra virgin coconut oil; I want the coconut oil shortening. Also, where (again, preferably in a store) can I find palm and palm kernel oil? Thanks a bunch.