Monday, January 18, 2010

Lingering Stains & Lessons Learned

Originally this panel (click image for larger pic) ran in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on April 5th, 1989: my first published editorial cartoon. It shared the same page as an opinion piece by Frank Murkowski, which forever became an indelible lesson to me in the equalizing power of political cartooning: some schmuck out in a tiny cabin in the middle of Alaska had equal footing with a state senator. The illustration specifically referenced an omnipresent advertising campaign that ran in every media (print/radio/TV) all the time, the familiar, trademark stock phrase "Made Possible by a Healthy Oil Industry" scrolling across idyllic playground scenes, romping wildlife and hunky, smiling sourdoughs.

Yesterday we learned a tanker hauling over 25 million barrels of oil lost power while leaving Prince William Sound. The Exxon Kodiak was towed back by escort tugs for temporary repairs, which is a phrase that really inspires about as much confidence as my experiences with my pickup. Besides the ironic incident with a tugboat hitting the infamous Bligh Reef on December 23rd, this obviously calls to mind the Exxon Valdez spill: last March the 20th anniversary was observed with particular poignancy here in Alaska.

The legacy of that disaster is still fouling lives today, and the efforts and vigilance of organizations like the Prince William Sound Regional Citizen's Advisory Council are crucial at keeping these corporations accountable and in compliance. When one considers the particular economic juggernaut that is ExxonMobil, it really puts their priorities into context: besides the head CEO receiving compensation totaling over 22 million dollars (including a 4 million dollar bonus) last year, they pretty much are the biggest at everything :
"ExxonMobil continued to lead the world in both profits ($39.5 billion in 2006) and market value ($460.43 billion)...
In 2007, ExxonMobil had a record net income of $40.61 billion on $404.552 of revenue... As of April 1, 2008, ExxonMobil occupied all 10 slots for Top Corporate Quarterly Earnings of all Time (11.68 billion in the second quarter of 2008 for example)..."
But the kicker for me is this little nugget:
"In 2009, Exxon still uses more single-hull tankers than the rest of the largest ten oil companies combined, including the Valdez's sister ship, the SeaRiver Long Beach"
Especially after just recently reading Jared Diamond's 2005 book "Collapse," I suppose we should be grateful they don't torture, rape and murder Alaskans like in some other places - but I don't care how many glossy full-color PR ads featuring cherubic Alaska Natives and pastoral nature scenes they (or for that matter, the current push for Pebble Mine) spew; like a lot of folks up here, don't fucking trust the bastards for a minute.

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