July 14, 2014
|Oil field in Alaska: Credit: Dr. Bruce G. Marcot, EPOW.|
The name of Alaska conjures up images of spectacular natural scenery, adorned with snow-capped mountains and green prairies where grizzly bears roam free, crystal clear streams filled with salmons, migrating herds of caribou, moose feeding on aquatic weeds and the haunting calls of the loons in the distance at dusk in the Summer.
Yes, Alaska is all of this and more. There are still vast tracts of pristine land where Nature can be found undisturbed by human hands.
But Alaska is also a place where big oil companies have staked out their claims and are exploring and extracting the black gold.
Prudhoe Bay is home of some oil field complexes that look more like human colonies on Mars from a science fiction movie (Fig. 1). No one is allowed in these areas unless you carry a special permit.
|Figure 1. Oil field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. credit: Dr. Bruce G. Marcot, EPOW.|
As expected, there have been hundreds of oil spills. Exxon Valdez which occurred in Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, has been one of the worst in the oil industry history.
Man´s addiction to oil is putting at risk the fragile tundra and Homo "sapiens" may eventually turn the Arctic Ocean into a cesspool of contamination.
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National Research Council (2003). Cumulative Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Activities on Alaska´s North Slope: Activities on Alaska´s North Slope. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA. 288 p.