March 24, 2009 Laura Henderson (202) 621-2951

20 Years Later: Lessons from Exxon Valdez Teach Us That Better Technology, More Production Reduces Chances of Spills

WASHINGTON – Twenty years to the day after an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, Calif. struck Bligh Reef and simultaneously spawned the modern-day environmental movement, the Institute for Energy Research (IER) issued the following fact sheet to mark the anniversary of the spill, offer some context on its effects, and update the public on steps being taken to ensure it never happens again.

“As America remembers the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez tanker spill, it’s important that we learn from that mistake and make every effort to ensure it never occurs again,” said Dan Kish, IER’s senior vice president for policy.  “Although those who oppose more domestic energy production will use this occasion to celebrate the accident, we would do better to celebrate the real solutions that energy producers have deployed to ensure that similar accidents do not and cannot happen in the future.”

Added Kish: “While accidents can and will always happen, the record shows that humans can apply technology and brain power to resolve problems, and the story is a success.” 

As policy-makers review the lessons the Exxon Valdez tanker taught us, IER offers some facts for their use and consideration:

When the Exxon Valdez tanker accident happened 20 years ago, spill response technology was still in its infancy, with no double hulled tankers, and few vessels dedicated to oil spill response in the region.  That has all changed and today the Prince William Sound area is home to the most sophisticated oil spill prevention and response equipment in the world.  The oil and gas industry has learned much about using technology to reduce the possibility of accidents and to respond to them effectively should they occur.  They have also put what they learned into practice.

Americans have proven that we are capable of great innovation.  The world today is a more highly advanced place than it was 20 years ago and the same is true for offshore energy production.  Now is the time to applaud the innovations made and acknowledge that things have gotten better.  On the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez tanker accident, let us not celebrate the accident, but rather what we have learned and put into practice since then.

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) is a not-for-profit organization that conducts intensive research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets. IER maintains that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society.


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