Friday, July 16, 2004

Alaska Pipeline

Last night on the History Channel, they told the story of the Alaska Pipeline. On the one hand, it was and still is an engineering marvel. On the other hand, it occurred to me that the enterprise was a monumental example of the SHOW ME THE MONEY philosophy of greed which has permeated the economy of the world probably forever. I hardly think it is a new phenomenon.

The men who literally powered that pipeline through all obstacles were a fascinating story. They went through and over mountains, they went under and over swamps and rivers, wide and narrow, they powered across the tundra and right through the Alaskan peninsula from North to South. From Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, they built it at a cost of 8 million dollars. Price was really no object, as the oil companies knew this project stood to make untold millions.

Of course, old age has now set in, the pipeline is 30 years old and maintenance is at a premium. At some point it will all have to be environmentally taken apart at another huge bunch of millions. I can only speculate what the environmental cost has been. Alaska, like many states in the lower 48, such as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, could be rapaciously shorn of her natural resources by outsider companies, who then disappear when the mines and the oil run out, and leave the land to recover as best it can.

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