Crude Alaska story   Leave a comment

Image result for image of northslope oilA leaking, Alaska oil well that sprayed some crude and then spewed gas for days on the North Slope of the Brooks Range has been shut down, and the world can rest easy.Aside from generating some more bad press for London-based British Petroleum, this accident will likely slide into history as just one of the thousands of minor spills and leaks in the U.S. this year.Given that the amount of oil was small – the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation describes it as  “an initial spray of crude oil that impacted the well pad” – it will disappear into time once the catastrophe of this happening in the pristine wilds of that great American national park called Alaska passes.Welcome to America’s odd relationship with oil, and the even stranger world of 21st Century news where certain narratives are expected to be followed, agendas color so much, and the easy often trumps the important.First and foremost, an oil spill is easy. It is the car crash of environmental news. Of nightly television news, it was once said “if it bleeds, it leads.” Of internet news today, it might be said that “if its spill, it kills.”Or at least that is the case if the spill happens to be in pristine Alaska. Elsewhere? Who cares.

But in Alaska, hostile yet vulnerable Alaska, the place in which every true environmentalist knows oil should never have been tapped to begin with….Ugly messesThe oil spill at BPXA Drill Site 2, Well 3, shouldn’t have happened. No oil spill should. Not this one. Not any one of the 20 or so that can be expected somewhere else in the American oil patch today.  Not the one involving some kid changing oil in his car in the driveway of a home in middle America, or the fisherman doing the same in an Alaska port and spilling some overboard.Few if any of the latter spills, however, make the news, or if they do it is only in passing. No journalists consider those stories worthy of the spotlight.Even a gas blowout with a spray of oil that, as the Alaska Environmental Conservation reports,”did not leave the pad” would fail to make much news in the California, Louisiana, North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma or other oil patches.When Propublica took a look at North Dakota’s Bakken oil field in 2012, it found “more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids in 2011….Many more illicit releases went unreported, state regulators acknowledge, when companies dumped truckloads of toxic fluid along the road or drained waste pits illegally.“State officials say most of the releases are small. But in several cases, spills turned out to be far larger than initially thought, totaling millions of gallons. Releases of brine, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands and sterilized farmland. The effects on land can last for years, or even decades.”Almost none of these spills had been reported by the media. The extent of leaks and spills, in fact, went unknown to the public until Propublica started poking around.Alaska’s Arctic, thankfully, does not have this problem. That is the upside of keeping even small spills in the spotlight in Alaska. The downside is that suggestion of another disaster in that hostile polar region where humans really don’t belong reinforces the misperception that operating in Alaska is somehow more difficult and more dangerous than operating elsewhere in the world.The reality is Alaska has a pretty good record for producing oil while minimizing oil spillage. It is a record good enough that the state didn’t even warrant a dot on the National Resources Defense Council’s “Spill Tracker” in 2015.Nonetheless, the BPXA blowout made news around the world. Spills in Alaska are simply treated differently than those of the rest of the world.“BP Struggles to Control Damaged Well in Alaskan Arctic,” the New York Times headlined, predictably pointing out the frigid temperatures and noting that the well was leaking “methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas linked to climate change.

”Danger versus danger

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