Feature

Business columns: An oil disaster just waiting to happen

Twenty years after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska&rsquo;s Prince William Sound, Exxon is still using single-hulled tankers to transport oil, said Alaric Nightingale and Tony Hopfinger in<strong> </strong><em>Bloomb

Alaric Nightingale and Tony HopfingerBloomberg.com

Talk about lessons not learned, said Alaric Nightingale and Tony Hopfinger. Twenty years ago this week, the single-hulled tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil and killing at least 36,000 birds and other wildlife. Since then, 151 countries have pledged to phase out single-hulled tankers by 2015. Most major oil companies are ahead of that schedule—Sunoco, Conoco Phillips, and Chevron didn’t use any single-hulled tankers last year. But Exxon still does. Last year it hired more single-hulls than its nine largest rivals combined. This doesn’t make environmental or economic sense. Tankers with two hulls “are unequaled in avoiding spills.” But “when tankers with one shell are ruptured, the only place for the oil to go is into the sea.” Exxon defends its continued use of single hulls, saying the tankers save the company $18 million a year. For Exxon, which made a world-record $45 billion in profits last year, that amounts to less than a penny a share. You would think Exxon’s reputation, which is still suffering from the Prince William spill, would be worth more than that.

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