"Crime Scene": Oil Industry Vultures Pick Over Alaska
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You’d have to be a complete pinhead to think Anderson and partners were going to ship their oil anywhere but to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Now turn the globe slightly upward and you see the cheapest way to move the oil to Japan would be to pipe it dead south to Valdez and carry it by tanker through the Pacific.
But 1970 also marked the first Earth Day. The day for Mother Nature was celebrated just three weeks before the largest mass demonstration in U.S. his- tory: the two-million-strong march against Nixon’s war in Vietnam.
Earth Day was a protest Nixon could join as a distraction from the national freak-out over the “draft,” the Vietnam death lottery. Like a game show, 365 days of the calendar were picked out of a bowl. If your birthday was between 1 and 100, off you went (unless your name was Bush). A thousand Americans were dying each week alongside twenty thousand native Vietnamese.
Nixon painted himself as green as a BP gas station, with as much sincerity. Little did the mad, Red-baiting president know that the environmental movement, despite its hippie tree-hugger front, was carefully crafted and launched by the best of America’s Leftist mass-mobilization organizers. It was centered around the brilliant biologists Paul Ehrlich and Barry Commoner, one of my mentors, who’d been trained by the Communist Party.
The guys in black jammies kicking the shit out of U.S. forces in Southeast Asia gave the tactically adept founders of the ecology movement the opportunity to widen the anti-war protests to include kicking the crap out of corporate polluters.
The militant biologist allied with a young lawyer Victor Yannacone who invented something he called “environmental law.” Copying the tactics of the Civil Rights struggle, Yannacone politically militarized the birdwatchers of the Audubon Society and created a legal attack team for Audubon called the Environmental Defense Fund. Its first suit against a polluter was filed on behalf of their “client,” plaintiff “Nature.” Miss Nature won. (It would take at least a decade before corporate powers would purchase EDF’s affection and destroy Yannacone. We’ll get to that.)
The millions marching for peace were now ready to march against polluters. That was trouble for R. O. Anderson, ARCO, and British Petroleum. The water route to Japan was inherently dangerous. There could be a million-gallon spill. The Alaska Pipeline and water route would be one tough sell through a Democratic Congress. Yannacone’s Environmental Defense Fund pushed for a less risky all-land route, a three-thousand-mile pipeline through Canada.
But R.O. wasn’t going to let some caribou kissers get in the way of his dream of selling to Japan. So R.O. went to Washington, whistled, and President Nixon came right over to Anderson’s quarters at the Watergate complex.
(While Nixon and R.O. met, I was serving my country in Washington, DC—in jail.)
R.O.’s Plan A would be to wrap the shorter Prudhoe-to-Valdez pipeline in red, white, and blue. America must become Energy Independent! U.S. oil for the U.S.A.!
Nixon and R.O. must have had a chuckle as their pipeline to Valdez would keep the oil out of America. Not to mention that ARCO and partners had a quiet scheme to sell the Alaska Pipeline and oil fields to the British. BP had signed a pact with Sohio, ARCO’s partner, to buy out Sohio’s Alaska assets. But BP knew it had to keep its Limey head hidden while the pipe to Valdez was wrapped in the American flag. BP’s scheme was quite brilliant, I admit: The Brits would take formal ownership only after 450,000 barrels of oil had moved through the pipe.