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Exxon Valdez, Arctic Refuge & the 2019 Budget: The Irony of the Petro-Welfare State

  • Bread Line Company 507 Gaffney Rd Fairbanks, AK 99701 (map)

It is no exaggeration to say that the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is the single most consequential pipeline system in American history. Indeed, it’s one of the largest industrial projects in the world. Despite its fame and importance, the history and scale of the pipeline system is widely misunderstood. The pipeline was not just a passive element in the petroleum supply chain; it was the critical socio-technological infrastructure that precipitated the industrialization of the American Arctic, the desolation of Prince William Sound, and the creation of the Alaskan Petro-Welfare state.

On March 24th, 1989, the Exxon Valdez smashed into Bligh Reef and precipitated one of the worst oil spills in world history. It was a direct consequence of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. 30 years later we will gather and hear from Phiip Wight, an Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation Year Fellow and History Ph.D. Candidate at Brandeis University. Philip will share findings from his dissertation, which focus on the history of the Pipeline System from 1941-2007. Following the presentation we will hear from a panel of Alaskans experts who will all help advance our thinking about how the dependence on the pipeline continues to affect traditional cultures, northern climate and our ability to move away from an oil-economy.