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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


May-June 2014

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A Fossil Fuel Economy in a Climate Change Vulnerable State Class Aptent Taciti Sociosqu ad Litora

Since the arrival of the Russians in the 1700s, Alaska's natural resources have been the focus of an export economy. Alaska's exports outweigh its imports nearly eightfold, by more than 30,000 short tons per year.1 The exports are raw resources: fish, metal ore, and overwhelmingly oil. By weight, 84% of what is exported is Prudhoe Bay crude oil.

While oil was explored and even produced in Alaska as early as the 1910s, the first major development occurred in Cook Inlet in the late 1950s, and the most significant discovery was on the North Slope at Prudhoe Bay in 1967. A pipeline to Valdez was constructed, and oil was flowing by 1977.2 The Prudhoe Bay oil fields, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and the ensuing revenue from the industry have been an integral part of Alaska ever since.

Erin McKittrick is co-founder and director of Ground Truth Trekking. She is the author of Small Feet, Big Land: Adventure, Home and Family on the Edge of Alaska and A Long Trek Home; 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft, and Ski. Read more:

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