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The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman and currently does not have an operating website.

A unique look back at the gas issue

Posted Tuesday, June 17, 2008, at 10:24 PM

Paul and Claud Corbin of Advance show the shingle-making tool which they used as kids to build a cabin in the Greenbrier area west of Advance. Paul, who is 93, uses a computer to write for the North Stoddard Countian and several other publications. His brother Claud is 91.
Note from Madeline: I have a treat for all you blogger buddies! I asked my 93-year-old friend Paul Corbin to let me post his most recent column for the NSC, the topic being his unique memories of gasoline consumption through the ages. Not many people Paul's age can remember the past with such crystal clarity. Having been a businessman all his life, he remembers prices vividly. So, sit back and enjoy a unique look at a personal history of gasoline.

"Panic at the Pump" by Paul Corbin

I started to write this article about the price of gas about two weeks ago and thought I had it all worked out, but when I woke up the next morning and listened to the news, I discovered that most of the figures I had used were already obsolete, so I dropped the article in the waste basket, and decided to forget about it. However, a few days later, when I was in the bank, the topic of conversation was the high price of gas. When I mentioned that I could remember when I could buy six gallons of gas for $1.00, the lady on the other side of the counter gave me a doubtful look and said, "You got to be kidding!" so I decided to go ahead and tell my story.

Today as we drive along, we are inclined watch that little red needle on the dash, and it seems that it just falls down toward empty much faster than it did a couple years ago. We know where the best prices are to buy our gas, but we wonder if we have enough to get there, so we pull in to the next gas station, and get a renewed state of sticker shock. Yep, it's up another nickel since the last fill-up, and as we dig through our billfold, we realize that it's going to take more than two twenties to do the job. If you're like the rest of us, you're complaining about these high prices and might even catch yourself longing for the good old days when you could fill up your tank with just one of those twenties and have enough left over to buy the week's supply of groceries.

Down on the farm in 1926 my father traded a few cows for a 1924 model "T" Ford. He could buy gas for eleven cents per gallon. Back then we measured the gas we bought by working a hand lever back and forth to pump the gas up into a glass cylinder that had markings to show the number of gallons. My dad was inclined to complain about that eleven-cent price. He said, "If they would make it just a dime, I could pump up five gallon, and that fifty cents worth would last me a couple weeks."

Well, that eleven-cent price didn't last very long. By 1928, gas had gone up to fifteen cents per gallon and the price of corn had gone down to ten cents per bushel. This time, my dad said, "If they had made this darn Ford so it would burn corn, I could keep driving it, but with gas at fifteen cents a gallon, I guess I'll just have to park this old tin lizzy and walk." And that is just what he did. He parked that beautiful vehicle under the shade of a sycamore tree and it was never started again.

It may seem ridiculous now that my dad would consider fifteen cents high for a gallon of gas, but when we consider the fact that his bushel of corn would not cover the cost of one gallon of gas, this price was higher than it is today, when a bushel of corn will pay for one and one half gallons of gas.

I bought my first car in 1937, and at that time I could buy my gas with pocket change. It was a common practice to pull into a station and buy 50-75 cents worth of gas at eighteen cents per gallon, but the station owners got tired of handling nothing but quarters and half dollars, so they hit on the bright idea of putting up a sign, "Six Gallon of Gas - $1.00." This idea went over big; it saved the customer eight cents, and then the stations were taking in folding money.

With the price of gas now over $4.00 per gallon we have "Panic At the Pump." It is an everyday subject, something like discussing the weather. Everybody is talking about the high price of gas, but nobody is doing anything about it. By this time next year, it will probably put a smile on our face if we can find gas for less than $5.00.

As of May 18, 2008, the average price of gas in France was $8.54 per gallon. In all of Europe the price was running at about $8.70, and in Turkey it was going at $11.00 per gallon, making it cost about $200.00 to fill the tank of the average size car.

Our price today for a gallon of gas is a classic example of price illusion, as back in the late 30's and early 40's, gas was selling for about 25 cents per gallon, and 50 cents per hour was considered a good paying job. On this scale, the average worker could buy two gallons of gas with one hour's wages. Today, there are many workers who can still buy two gallons of gas with one hour's wages, and a very high percentage of the labor force can buy three or more gallons of gas with one hour's wages.

Today, the price of the gas is getting all the headlines, but we can and will continue to pay the $4.00, $5.00, $6.00 or more for the gas to fill our fancy cars. But that is not the end of the expense, as this high price of energy leads to higher cost of production, and distribution of all commodities we must have to keep our economy growing.

I can well imagine that the oil-producing nations of the world are wringing their hands,(in glee) as they witness our panic at the pump. They have us on our knees, and may soon have us out walking on our feet in our desperate effort to provide the energy necessary to keep our nations economy strong

Just a few weeks back, Mr. Bush made a trip to Saudi Arabia, no doubt hoping to persuade their oil cartel to pump more crude, but he was politely told to "Get Lost." So it would seem that, if we want more energy, we are going to have to dig for it. But where will we dig?

At this time, it is being estimated that 25% of the earth's oil and natural gas reserves may be in the Arctic, and as the midnight sun rises over the North Pole, this area, which is 20 times larger than Kuwait, is still a "No Man's Land." I am wondering if the United States is going to sit idly by, while some other country lays claim to the oil-rights of this vast area.

Sure, it would be expensive to bring our oil from this area, which has the harshest environment on the Planet Earth, but it may not sound so expensive if and when we start paying $10.00 per gallon for our gas.

Showing comments in chronological order
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I love listening to stories from older folks. My dad is 64, and he can remember gas prices being like that too.

Paul's right. With all of us having doctors and jobs and family out of town, we will more than likely continue to pay. I'm going to start walking more places (time permitting), and maybe ride my bike. I say maybe because I have 2 small kids in tow...so that may not be the safest choice right now. If only I could find one of those few, wonderful jobs that pay decent enough to either afford child care, or work from home. We would be a lot better off that way.

I haven't decided when enough will be too much...have you?

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 12:15 AM

Mrsdolphin, if your dad is a SPRY 64, he is NOT "older folks," and he CANNOT remember gas prices like 15 cents a gallon! I'm 67, and gas was never that low in my lifetime!

You young whippersnappers! Haven't you heard that 60 is the "new 40"??

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 7:38 AM

GL, I am perpetually 39 and I don't remember it at 15 cents a gallon either, but I remember it at 25 cents a gallon.

I just had another of those "Oh my gosh" moments when I discovered that my computer keyboard no longer has a cent symbol on the top row of keys. Now when did that happen? When I took typing class in high school it was still there. Must be a sign of the times - if I haven't missed it in all those years it may be that others don't use it any more either - thus necessitating removing it from the keyboard for a more popular symbol. I no longer even remember where it was. Oh my, I may have to start saying I'm perpetually 49.

-- Posted by Ducky on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 12:53 PM

I remember when I first married in the middle 50's gas was $.27 per gallon. In 1936 daddy traded our milk cow 'Jersey' for a car and we have been driving instead of milking ever since. In 1960 I believe I bought a new Ford Station wagon and I believe the price was around $3000.00 and I thought this was terrible. Nowadays you spend that much on Stoddard County sales tax for a new car.................

-- Posted by changedname on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 12:58 PM

GL, You are Right! You peeked my interest so I found a chart on the US DOE website of "Historical Gas Prices, 1919--2004." According to the chart the lowest price of gas since you were born, but probably before you were tooling around, was 20 cents per gallon. The price ranged from 20 to 21 cents from 1942 to 1946. Americans said adios to sub-dollar gas in 1990, although it got as low as $1.03 in 1998. The lowest price of gas was 18 cents in 1932-33. Adjusted for inflation gas is much more expensive now than anytime since at least WWI. The webpage is at, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandf...

-- Posted by FJGuy on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 1:27 PM

No, GL...I wasn't referring to my dad being "older folk." I was referring to my deceased grandma and the stories she told. She was born in 1921, and drove a truck with my grandpa before my dad was born in 1944. They talked about how much they had to pay for gas then, and how much fuel went in a truck back then.

My dad mainly talks about what he paid in his muscle cars as a late teenager.

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 2:19 PM

As usual, Paul Corbin writes so clear and interesting that you hang onto every word! He hit the nail on the head!

Drill Here! Off Shore Drilling!

Drill Now! Immediate Legislation!

Pay Less! It sounds so simple but it's true!

-- Posted by swift on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 3:19 PM

So true, swift! Can you believe that anyone 93 could have such a phenominal memory, combined with an eloquent command of the English language??

His stories about his education make fascinating reading, too. He walked 5 miles, one way, to go to high school at Zalma, in an age when many people didn't consider it worth the effort.

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 7:36 PM

Thanks for the cool facts, FJ.

Dolphin, thanks for the heads up on your posting about your "older" dad; I didn't realize you were talking about grandparents!

Sorry I called you a whippersnapper!! Hehe!

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 9:03 PM

I'm not sure I mind being a whippersnapper, lol. As long as the word young is before it!

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Wed, Jun 18, 2008, at 10:44 PM

Okay, it's a deal!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Jun 19, 2008, at 6:06 AM

Oh - I forgot to comment on the offshore & Arctic drilling issue. I don't support that. No matter how much we rip apart our environment to satisfy our oil desires, we're never going to have cheap oil again. I'm particularly unwilling to turn the big oil guys loose in Alaska. As for the North Pole region, I'm not sure who owns that, but even the Bush administration has had to admit that global warming is a fact, and our polar ice cap is melting at an alarming rate. I've seen the predicted scenarios about rising ocean levels.

The disasterous environmental policies of the Communist gov't in the old Soviet Union provide a good example of what can happen if there are no controls on environmental mismanagement.

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Jun 19, 2008, at 7:24 AM

Yes GL, his memory and wisdom are phenominal. I'm sending this to some of my relatives who will certainly be as impressed as we are with Paul Corbin's wit!

-- Posted by swift on Thu, Jun 19, 2008, at 2:42 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Glad you enjoyed his story, swift. When he told me what he was writing, I was excited about it and disappointed when he later said he'd scrapped the story because it was "obsolete." He has such a unique perspective, since he's been around so much longer than most of us -- and his memory is so good.

Can you imagine his dad parking that new Model T because gas was 15 cents a gallon?? Of course, we never know what's going to happen with our current gas situation. We may eventually find ourselves in the same situation!

How high can it go????????

I did the responsible thing.

I bought a 1978 Volkswagen Beetle convertible that gets 27 mpg (on eBay). I know, I know, it's a sacrifice at my "whippersnapper" age of 56, but I do what's necessary.

I get out there every morning, polish "M'Baby" up a bit, put the top down, and breeze off to town singing along with KDEX (only station I can get), and have a BLAST!!!

And I fill it up every 3 weeks whether it needs it or not.

When we're in Cape on weekends we have two Vino scooters we scoot all over town on. So much fun!!! The college kids laugh at two "old people" on our "bikes," but we just have a ball.

And we fill them up every YEAR whether they need it or not.

-- Posted by lovebooks on Fri, Jun 20, 2008, at 8:31 AM

Lovebooks, sounds like you enjoy your scooters. I've been thinking of doing the same thing. I saw a guy pull up in the grocery store parking lot the other day and embarrassed my brother by striking up a conversation about the scooter and gas mileage. Strange, because this is the brother who never met a stranger and will talk to anyone. Go figure. Anyway, I'm delighted with the prospect of getting 40-50 miles per gallon to drive back and forth to work on nice days.

No way is 56 too old to be considered "old people". Even though I am perpetually 39, I refuse to recognize anyone under 90 as "old people." That is, unless I get behind one in traffic -- that's a different story.

-- Posted by Ducky on Fri, Jun 20, 2008, at 1:05 PM

I now agree with you GL on the drilling in ANWR. But I still think we should drill offshore and investigate why the oil companies are not drilling 100% potential on the land where they are drilling. I sent this story to several of my friends and relatives. Everybody enjoyed it. A Prohibition Party friend of mine sent me some added info which some may find interesting.


-- Posted by swift on Fri, Jun 20, 2008, at 3:12 PM

That site didn't work for me, swift.

Ah, lovebooks, you're in your second childhood, aren't ya? That sounds like so much fun!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Jun 20, 2008, at 9:56 PM

I know that global warming is happening and it has been for thousands of years, but I don't know that we can stop it even if we never used another drop of fossil fuel. Some day there will be another ice age I assume since that seems to be the pattern.

I don't believe all the rhetoric about drilling for oil hurting the environment. An oil rig actually leaves a very small footprint. Not much larger than most of our houses.

The overwhelming vast majority of pollution doesn't come from the oil rigs, rfineries or ships. It comes from me and you when we fill up our tank and spill or spill our oil or when we sneak around and try to dispose of oil when we change it ourselves.

I want to do it all. If France can have nuclear energy and drill off shore and if Norway can drill off shore and be an be an exporter of oil because they have nuclear energy, so can we.

-- Posted by I.B. Le Truth on Sat, Jun 21, 2008, at 7:59 AM

What about the Exon Valdez? That was an enormous oil spill! 260,000 barrels of crude oil.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Jun 22, 2008, at 9:51 PM

I just heard this morning that Saudi Arabia is going to up its oil production by about 250,000 barrels. That's as much as was spilled by the tanker off the coast of Alaska.

I wouldn't think that the increase would be enough to have any effect whatsoever on oil prices.

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Jun 23, 2008, at 7:44 AM

The pundits on the morning news agree with you goat lady. They're saying that Saudi Arabia's plan to increase production won't make much difference at all.

The problem is so complex that it's going to take a complex and multi-faceted response. We need to make changes where ever we can - increase production, decrease demand by increasing dependency on alternate sources of energy and conserving energy and probably a bunch of things we haven't thought of yet.

My primary concern with nuclear energy is that it is still a non-renewable resource. I think I remember reading that the US is not totally self-sufficient now in nuclear resources so we'd still be dependent on some other country. Also, what do we do with the spent fuel rods? There's no good place to put them and they stay radioactive for a gazillion years.

Yes, goat lady. The Exxon Valdez was a horrific environmental disaster. It may have been the biggest oil spill, but it certainly wasn't the first, last or only. I remember Jacques Cousteau talking about finding globules of crude from oil spills way out in the center of the ocean. I still miss him and that incredible French accent.

-- Posted by Ducky on Mon, Jun 23, 2008, at 1:14 PM


You forgot to mention that there is a downside to nuclear power -- it creates waste that is toxic to humans. The nuclear waste storage tanks at the Hanford, Washington Nuclear Reservation are leaking into the ground water that flows into the Columbia River. There are radioactive plants growing along the Columbia. Above and below ground Hanford is a radioactive cesspool. A few years ago I knew a woman whose job it was to drive around Hanford in a radioactive suit with a geiger counter and orange spray paint testing tumbleweeds for radioactivity. Whenever she found a radioactive tumbleweed (Hanford is in the desert) she would mark it with paint and a truck would come along to collect the tumbleweed and take it somewhere "safe." A city, Washougal, that has its city drinking water wells replenished by the Columbia has cancer rates much higher than nearby cities that don't use Columbia River water.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Mon, Jun 23, 2008, at 2:47 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I think it was Ducky who talked about nuclear energy, FJGuy. Your information is horrifically chilling!

Isn't the Columbia River (and the Falls) the one that Ken Kesey mentions in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"? The Big Chief was the last of a tribe of Indians who had scaffolding on the falls to catch fish. Some big agency (the gov't??) bought them out. My, my, didn't they make good use of that resource??

That site worked for me on the email I recieved but somehow it isn't on this. Oh well!

-- Posted by swift on Mon, Jun 23, 2008, at 4:39 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Good news, fellow bloggers! I think Paul Corbin has agreed to host his own blog!!! This is very good news for our readers!

MD, You are right. Celilo Falls was submerged by the lake created by The Dalles Dam, about 100 miles east of Portland. A photo of Celilo Falls shortly before it was submerged is at, http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/photos/c...

Celilo Falls was an amazing place. By water volume it was the 2nd largest falls in North America (after Niagra). It was also the oldest continuously inhabited community on the North American continent when it was destroyed by the dam's lake. It is believed that it was inhabited for more than 11,000 years. The Indians opposed construction of the dam claiming the destruction of Celilo Falls violated their treaties with the White Man. The Indians are still sore about having CF "stolen" from them. By the way, the bridge in the background of the photo is still there. You would love it MD, because the highway going south passes through the wonderful ghost town of Shaniko, which at one time was the world's wool capital. Many of the enormous sheep sheds are still standing more than fifty years after being abandoned -- preserved by the dry desert climate.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 1:13 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
This photo is just how I thought it would look, from reading the Chief's description in "Cuckoo's Nest"!

MD, My curiosity about Celilo Falls was aroused, so I checked. I was wrong. Celilo Falls was more powerful than Niagra Falls. Its average water flow was more than double Niagra Falls, and its peak water flow during the spring run-off was more than four times that of Niagra Falls. It is said that the roar from Celilo Falls was deafening for miles around. It was known as the greatest fishing site on Earth.

I didn't know that the mute Chief in "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" symbolized the shell-shock experienced by the Indians because of the loss of their ancestral home and fishing grounds at Celilo Falls. That was completely left out of the movie version. Thanks for letting me know that MD!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 1:54 AM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
This is really good information, FJ! You never know where a thread of knowledge will lead, do you?

The "Cuckoo's Nest" movie leaves out a lot, but the book makes it pretty clear. "Chief Broom's" reason for admitting himself into a mental institution was a direct result of his tribe's displacement. He wasn't a deaf mute, as everyone thought. He just quit talking, because no one listened, and he retreated from the world. After his hero, McMurphy, was destroyed by the Big Nurse, the Chief escaped the institution and returned to who-knows-what on the outside.

Terrific but depressing book! You must read it!

Can you feature the human audacity of damming up such a huge waterfall?? Talk about arrogance!

Wow. I just looked at that picture link provided by Fjguy. I say again, Wow. It's amazing what we learn on these blogs. I can hardly believe that they built a dam that created a lake that swallowed up that fantastic waterfall. How horrible. I don't blame the native Americans for being hacked off. They've been shafted time and time again.

I've been across the Glen Canyon Dam and knew the story about how that wonderful canyon has been covered up, but I never heard of Celilo Falls. Thanks for enlightening me. I'll do some more research.

-- Posted by Ducky on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 12:27 PM

This is super information, for sure! That part about the nuclear waste leaking into the Columbia River is horrifying!

I'll bet there's not a handful of people in the U.S. who even knew what was going on up there in Washington State.

Swift, have we creeped you out???

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 4:37 PM

Nope! I'm not creeped out! lol I've been on the news story by MD on the Demos Picnic.

That's great if Corbin would have his own blog.

gl check out my blog on ourcampaigns.com and tell me what you think from your perspective.

-- Posted by swift on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 4:44 PM

MD, I love your description that Chief Broom "just quit talking, because no one listened." Just think how much less talking there would be if everyone adopted that attitude!

Ducky, I suspect the reason more people aren't aware of Celilo Falls is because the White Man didn't physically massacre large numbers of native Americans like at Wounded Knee, etc -- they just raped their souls and destroyed their heritage. The dam was built for sound commercial reasons -- generate cheap power, facilitate low-cost barge transportation, and limit property damage from flooding. Destroying thousands of years of history is a small price to pay for those benefits to the White Man's civilization. Don't you think!

Also Ducky, I came across an article in New Scientist magazine describing Hanford as "the dirtiest place on Earth." A few years ago someone emphasized the extent of the problem by making a radioactive pie from berries picked along the Columbia River at Hanford. In response the DOE removed all the radioactive berry bushes! Problem solved! The feds have spent many billions trying to figure out how to clean up Hanford. At some point in time it might be realized that development of the Atomic bomb harmed more Americans than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 6:45 PM

Just makes you wanta cry, doesn't it? I've always hated how unscrupulous the Communist regime was to the environment and populace in the old Soviet Union, but our government may not have been much better...

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 9:36 PM

Swift, I checked out your blog on ourcampaigns.com. You've been a busy little conservative, haven't you?? Good to see that you're being given a run for your money by some of your readers! Hahaha!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Jun 24, 2008, at 9:49 PM

gl, yeah they're good at that!

I got some email from my Prohibitionist friend on oil supply and energy with some web sites. The only problem is trying to post them on this forum. So, Friday or saturday I should have more time on the computer and will try to paste them on and see if that works. There's some interesting stuff.

-- Posted by swift on Wed, Jun 25, 2008, at 2:38 PM

I guess every little bit of information helps, though I doubt that there's much we peons can do about it! At least we can be more informed when we complain!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, Jun 25, 2008, at 7:02 PM

Okay gl and others who maybe interested, here's a letter from a Prohibition Party friend of mine, Leroy Pletten who is our secretary and vice-presidential candidate.

Flag this messageSupreme Court Rewards Exxon for Valdez Oil SpillWednesday, June 25, 2008 8:07 PM

From: This sender is DomainKeys verified "lpletten" View contact details To: "lpletten@tir.com" Court Rewards Exxon for Valdez Oil Spill

by Greg Palast

Chicago Tribune (revised)

[Thursday, June 26, 2008] Twenty years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles of Alaskan beaches, the company has yet to pay the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by the jury. And now they won't have to. The Supreme Court today cut Exxon's liability by 90% to half a billion. It's so cheap, it's like a permit to spill.

Exxon knew this would happen. Right after the spill, I was brought to Alaska by the Natives whose Prince William Sound islands, livelihoods, and their food source was contaminated by Exxon crude. My assignment: to investigate oil company frauds that led to to the disaster. There were plenty.

But before we brought charges, the Natives hoped to settle with the oil company, to receive just enough compensation to buy some boats and rebuild their island villages to withstand what would be a decade of trying to survive in a polluted ecological death zone.

In San Diego, I met with Exxon's US production chief, Otto Harrison, who said, "Admit it; the oil spill's the best thing to happen" to the Natives.

His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave it and wait twenty years to get even the pennies. Exxon is immortal - but Natives die.

And they did. A third of the Native fishermen and seal hunters I worked with are dead. Now their families will collect one tenth of their award, two decades too late.

In today's ruling, Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote that Exxon's recklessness was ''profitless'' - so the company shouldn't have to pay punitive damages. Profitless, Mr. Souter? Exxon and it's oil shipping partners saved billions - BILLIONS - by operating for sixteen years without the oil spill safety equipment they promised, in writing, under oath and by contract.

The official story is, "Drunken Skipper Hits Reef." But don't believe it, Mr. Souter. Alaska's Native lands and coastline were destroyed by a systematic fraud motivated by profit-crazed penny-pinching.

Here's the unreported story, the one you won't get tonight on the Petroleum Broadcast System:

It begins in 1969 when big shots from Humble Oil and ARCO (now known as Exxon and British Petroleum) met with the Chugach Natives, owners of the most valuable parcel of land on the planet: Valdez Port, the only conceivable terminus for a pipeline that would handle a trillion dollars in crude oil.

These Alaskan natives ultimately agreed to sell the Exxon consortium this astronomically valuable patch of land -- for a single dollar.

The Natives refused cash. Rather, in 1969, they asked only that the oil companies promise to protect their Prince William Sound fishing and seal hunting grounds from oil.

In 1971, Exxon and partners agreed to place the Natives' specific list of safeguards into federal law. These commitment to safety reassured enough Congressmen for the oil group to win, by one vote, the right to ship oil from Valdez.

The oil companies repeated their promises under oath to the US Congress.

The spill disaster was the result of Exxon and partners breaking every one of those promises - cynically, systematically, disastrously, in the fifteen years leading up to the spill.

Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate would never have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his Raycas radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker's radar was left broken and disabled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was just too expensive to fix and operate.

For the Chugach, this discovery was poignantly ironic. On their list of safety demands in return for Valdez was "state-of-the-art" on-ship radar.

We discovered more, but because of the labyrinthine ways of litigation, little became public, especially about the reckless acts of the industry consortium, Alyeska, which controls the Alaska Pipeline.

Several smaller oil spills before the Exxon Valdez could have warned of a system breakdown. But a former Senior Lab Technician with Alyeska, Erlene Blake, told our investigators that management routinely ordered her to toss out test samples of water evidencing spilled oil. She was ordered to refill the test tubes with a bucket of clean sea water called, "The Miracle Barrel."

In a secret meeting in April 1988, Alyeska Vice-President T.L. Polasek confidentially warned the oil group executives that, because Alyeska had never purchased promised safety equipment, it was simply "not possible" to contain an oil spill past the Valdez Narrows -- exactly where the Exxon Valdez ran aground 10 months later.

The Natives demanded (and law requires) that the shippers maintain round- the-clock oil spill response teams. Alyeska hired the Natives, especiallly qualified by their generations-old knowledge of the Sound, for this emergency work. They trained to drop from helicopters into the water with special equipment to contain an oil slick at a moments notice. But in 1979, quietly, Alyeska fired them all. To deflect inquisitive state inspectors, the oil consortium created sham teams, listing names of oil terminal workers who had not the foggiest idea how to use spill equipment which, in any event, was missing, broken or existed only on paper.

In 1989, when the oil poured from the tanker, there was no Native response team, only chaos.

Today, twenty years after the oil washed over the Chugach beaches, you can kick over a rock and it will smell like an old gas station.

The cover story of the Drunken Captain serves the oil industry well. It falsely presents America's greatest environmental disaster as a tale of human frailty, a one-time accident. But broken radar, missing equipment, phantom spill teams, faked tests -- the profit-driven disregard of the law -- made the spill an inevitability, not an accident.

Yet Big Oil tells us, as they plead to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, as Senator John McCain calls for drilling off the shores of the Lower 48, it can't happen again.

They promise.


-- Posted by swift on Sat, Jun 28, 2008, at 10:54 AM

I guess that's the only way I can get an info link from an email source posted on this forum. This worked!

-- Posted by swift on Sat, Jun 28, 2008, at 10:55 AM

Limiting speculation would push prices to fundamental level, lawmakers told

The price of retail gasoline could fall by half, to around $2 a gallon, within 30 days of passage of a law to limit speculation in energy-futures markets, four energy analysts told Congress on Monday.


-- Posted by swift on Sat, Jun 28, 2008, at 10:58 AM

WOW!! Swift, this information is DYNAMITE!! I knew it, I just knew it! You cannot trust the oil companies ONE INCH!!

Thanks for the heads up on this. I just wish there was something we could do about it. Interesting observation about Sen. John McCain, too. Is he gonna be in Big Oil's pocket, too??

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Jun 28, 2008, at 1:10 PM

ACK! I've not only read the clearing house post, I clicked on the comments and read about a million of 'em! Now I am TOTALLY CONFUSED!

Do we have an oil shortage, or do we not?? Are the speculators responsible for the high oil prices, or are they not?? I have never before heard so many BRILLIANT people with so many TOTALLY DIFFERENT opinions!!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Jun 28, 2008, at 1:29 PM

Swift, I was living in Fairbanks when construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline was stopped dead in its tracks by lawsuits by environmentalists. At the time the common sentiment in Fairbanks was the environmentalists were evildoers trying wreck the local economy. Ultimately to get the OK to begin construction the oil companies had to make changes to the pipeline that both aided Alaskan wildlife and made a catastrophic oil spill less likely. I realize now that if the environmentalists had not stepped up to the plate then what happened in Prince William Sound likely would have happened more than once along the pipeline's route. Of course, the oil companies weren't hurt by the additional cost of construction, because as I wrote on another blog topic, the State of Alaska was so desperate for revenue from development of the North Slope fields that they gave the oil companies an incredible sweetheart deal. The oil companies are only paying 16.5% of the market price for Alaska oil. Paying a sub-market price means that right now the oil companies are pocketing more than $100 million per day in extra profits from Alaska oil -- compared to what they have to pay for oil from sources that charge the market price.

Madeline may have some observations about the pipeline construction, etc., since I believe she was living in Fairbanks at the time of the environmental lawsuits, etc.

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, Jun 28, 2008, at 1:43 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
My cousin had a construction company in Fairbanks and was a big Republican supporter. Everybody wined and dined the big oil men. Bechtel, in particular, was a big presence. And, yes, the environmentalists were considered the Spawn of Satan!

The major concession I recall that they made to the environment was the building of the pipeline up high enough that the caribou and other wildlife could get under it. I don't recall anything about safeguards for the oil tankers. We left the last time in 1978, I think, so we were gone when the Exon Valdez happened. I had an aunt & uncle who lived in Valdez for a period of time. Absolutely beautiful place! I can't imagine an oil spill of that magnitude in an area like that! It was pristine!

I feel sure that there's a special place in Hell for people who damage the Earth like they did!

MD, periodic elevation of the pipeline so wildlife could pass underneath was one concession, but another was to put the part that was at ground level on a thick bed of gravel so that the heat of the oil wouldn't melt the permafrost and cause a pipe rupture. Swift mentioned that they made concessions as well in how they were supposed to transport the oil out of Valdez. At the time the pipeline was built it was the largest private engineering project in history. The environmentalists concerned about preservation of the Arctic's ecosystem were so far ahead of their time that a staple of Right Wing Hate (Talk) Radio continues to be that they are the "Spawn of Satan!"

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, Jun 28, 2008, at 11:05 PM

I googled Bechtel & discovered that it's the largest engineering company in the U.S.; however, I didn't see anything in its resume about the Alaska pipeline. More googling found that Alyeska, a consortium of oil companies, built the pipeline - but I'm sure Bechtel was a consultant.

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Jun 29, 2008, at 8:02 AM

GL, I think McCain is just as much in Big Oil's pockets as GW. Problem? Both major parties have their pockets full of Big Oil money. Naw, you can't trust them!

-- Posted by swift on Mon, Jun 30, 2008, at 4:37 PM

I agree with swift on this, you can't trust any politician or any oil & gas industry person. You remember the old joke "do you know how to tell when a politician is lying? His/her lips are moving."

-- Posted by Ducky on Wed, Jul 2, 2008, at 1:05 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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