Lindsey Williams – The Energy Non-Crisis – Chapter 18
Chapter 18: The Oil Flows—Now the Tactics Change
My two and a half years as Chaplain on the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline was now coming to a close. I had the distinction of being the first Chaplain assigned to the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline, and I had been the only Chaplain assigned to the northern sector of that pipeline, which included Prudhoe Bay oil field. When I first went there I had gone as an innocent bystander, and originally the oil companies had not even wanted a Chaplain. Through much persuasion I had obtained permission to be allowed in the work camps to help men spiritually. As stated earlier, the oil companies never paid me a salary of any kind. After two and a half years of watching, observing, hearing, and seeing, I was leaving the pipeline as a man with some definite opinions because of all that had happened.
Now it was all over—two and a half years of many, many experiences. Gull Island was only a matter of a few months behind me, and the construction phase of the pipeline was completed. Oil had flowed on time, despite all I had seen in the attempts to stop it. Oil was now being shipped out of Valdez into the lower 48 states, to eventually wind up in the gas tanks of America. That four-foot pipe was carrying a little over one million barrels of oil every 24 hours, and that oil flow would increase with the completion of different phases of the Valdez terminal.
Drilling at Prudhoe Bay was to continue for quite a few years, and there was a considerable work force left there, but up and down that 800-mile stretch where the men had been in camps, there were now ghost towns. Many of the men went back home, and some stayed in the State of Alaska. Those crews who had numbered thousands were now reduced to a few men at each pump station, and those pumps up and down that 800-mile line were all computerized, operated out of a
great computer center in Valdez. The big valves were automatically controlled, and the pump stations were automatic—there was only a monitoring system in each pump station.
The oil was successfully flowing. There had been no leaks, except those caused by sabotage, and I have heard very little in the way of refuting many incidents that I had seen in the last 6 to 9 months on the construction of the pipeline. Today the caribou are migrating as usual. The geese are coming back each spring—I have watched them all consistently, for although I am no longer the Chaplain to the oil pipeline, I am still a missionary to Alaska. Alaska is my adopted home and I have watched the geese come in by the thousands. Birds of many kinds migrate to the North Slope of Alaska, and the Arctic Ocean is the same as always.
As I looked back over those years, I thought, “Well, surely things will change. Undoubtedly after some period of time there will be someone who will tell the American people the story. The truth will be revealed. It will be known just how much oil there is on the North Slope of Alaska. Surely the natives of Alaska, and even the government, are interested in the royalties that could come from that oil. However, instead of the energy crisis being reduced and the truth being revealed, that energy crisis has gotten worse.
Then I began to hear more about the supposed reasons why the North Slope Alaska oil could not come to the lower 48 states, and why we were not getting that gasoline in our tanks out in the Midwest. I heard rumors as to the excessive sulphur content in the Alaskan oil, and heard it more and more as I began to travel across America in those months that I was in the lower 48 on speaking engagements. Because of my associations with Alaska, people kept telling me about the high content of sulphur—that it was so bad it could not be used in the lower 48 states. Over and over again I heard that the lower 48 refineries could not produce the oil from Alaska, and we have seen in the last chapter that this propaganda is utter nonsense.
I had come to a new phase. As I said, my services were no longer a part of the pipeline as such, but now I found there was a new phase. Where previously the attempts had been made to prevent the oil from flowing, new tactics were now being used. It was too late to prevent the oil from flowing, for that was now history. Now the tactics were to mislead the public into believing that the oil itself was unsatisfactory, virtually unusable, and that the whole thing, that massive project of the Alaska oil pipeline, was what is proverbially called a “white elephant.” The campaign against those terrible oil people destroying the precious tundra could no longer be continued and screamed from every newspaper, radio, and television, because time had proven that the ecology was not affected.
Those massive programs causing overruns into the billions of dollars had not ultimately prevented the flow of oil, but now there was a different campaign. Yes, I believe this nonsense we are hearing is part of a campaign: “The sulphur content is all wrong; we cannot refine it down here.” This propaganda about the high sulphur was coming from the media right across the lower 48 states, and it was even coming from some oil companies, which was hard to believe.
Let me illustrate. I was conducting a missionary conference in Neodesha, Kansas. Neodesha has a very interesting place in the history of the United States, for it was there that the first oil gusher ever found in the U.S. took place. During the week of the conference I was staying in the home of the Texaco distributor for that area.
One day my host said to me, “Preacher, you know we have a real energy crisis in this area. The farmers are worried where they will get their fuel from, and they don’t know how they’re going to harvest their crops, and the business people don’t know where their gas is coming from. Right through this whole area there is a serious energy crisis. It comes right down to the businesses, the farms, and the highways, as well. The reason I’m mentioning this to you is that I’ve been told it’s because the Prudhoe Bay oil that comes down from Alaska can’t be cracked in the refineries in other states. Do you know anything about that?”
The word “crack” is a term that is used to refer to the oil being broken down into auto fuel, aviation fuel, diesel, etc.
I said to my host, “I don’t know any thing about that, but when I get back to Alaska, I shall make some inquiries. It happens that I know the man who designed the cracking plant at Prudhoe Bay,and we should get an answer. This man was there when the first wells were sunk, and he is an important man at Prudhoe Bay.”
About two months later I was back in Alaska, and again I saw Mr. X. I told him I had been in Neodesha, Kansas, and that while I was in the home of the Texaco distributor he had asked questions about the problems in breaking down the Prudhoe Bay oil in American refineries. I mentioned that my friend had said that the oil had such a high sulphur content that it simply was not suited to these refineries.
I myself knew that this matter of “high sulphur content” was a pet peeve of the ecologists, and I was interested to see the reactions of Mr. X.
He literally laughed. I’ll never forget the way his face lit up and he burst into laughter. “Is that really what the man told you?”
I said, “Yes, sir, it is.”
At that point Mr. X reminded me of his own position, and of the long association he had with the oil company. It was he who originally designed and then had arranged for the building of the cracking plant at Prudhoe Bay, this being the plant that produces the fuel oil, the automobile oil, the jet oil, and the various other types of oil produced by that plant. The oil so produced is used for various purposes at Prudhoe Bay, and for the entire area to the south, as far as the Yukon River. He had been there at Prudhoe Bay at the time when the first well produced oil, and he had analyzed the samples taken out and from all the other wells in the area. He reminded me that he was able to speak with authority and certainty on the matter of sulphur content in the Prudhoe Bay oil. Then he said to me, “The oil at the Prudhoe Bay field is pure enough that it can be cracked by any refinery in the United States, with only minor refinery alterations. Prudhoe Bay crude oil contains only 0.9% sulphur, which is quite low.”
I knew that was true of any refinery and that it was necessary to adapt the plant to refine any oil from another area or some other part of the world. Such adaptations were not uncommon, because oil comes from so many different areas. Mr. X went on, “The sulphur content from the Prudhoe Bay is not excessive. It certainly is not a major problem. Alaskan Prudhoe Bay oil can be used very readily to supply all the needs of all the people of the United States for many years to come.”
I thanked Mr. X, and soon went on my way. Once again I knew that this fitted into the overall picture (which, as you will recall, is nationalization of the oil industry). I had seen a number of newspaper reports, and heard spoken commentary on the media to the effect that Alaskan oil had too much sulphur to crack in U.S. refineries. Once again this was shown to be a prejudiced judgment, without basis. I might add that other oil company officials have since confirmed the authoritative statements made to me that day by Mr. X.
It is relevant to notice that there have been other press reports to the effect that the Alaskan oil field is drying up. One wonders whether such reports are deliberate scare-tactics, or intentional distortions of fact. It is certainly true that huge quantities of oil are available from Prudhoe Bay, and from other areas of the North Slope of Alaska.
Could it be that the government of the U.S. might not allow the refineries to make these modifications? Could this somehow be done again under the guise of protecting the ecology? Yes, that could be what the next step was. So now they were suggesting that they barter the oil, let some other country take the Alaska oil, and then more of other countries’ oil would come into America. It was very plain that this was yet another part of the scheme to make this nation dependent upon other nations for its supply of oil.
Then how about all the rest of that oil at Prudhoe Bay? How about the fact that Mr. X had said that there was as much crude oil on the North Slope of Alaska as in all of Saudi Arabia? What about Gull Island, of all things? Then I watched.
I sat back as a good American citizen, praying and hoping that someone would properly and profitably inform those in high positions. I remembered what I had been told by Senator Chance when he said, “I was in the Senate Chambers of the State of Colorado when the men from Washington came to talk to us as to why there was an energy crisis, and about the severity of the energy crisis.” After one week on the North Slope of Alaska, Senator Chance had said to me, “Almost everything said to me by those briefers from Washington, D.C. was a lie.”
Six months went by, and the oil was flowing. One year went by. I thought to myself, “No one is coming out with the truth yet.” A year and a half went by, and then I saw it again. I saw it again, the same identical thing, except that this time it was disguised under a different heading.
Now it was price increases. Yes, every few days the prices at gas pumps were going up and up. They said it would reach a dollar a gallon, and we Americans said there was no chance of it ever getting that high. Then it got to a $1.50 a gallon, and now they are saying $2.00 per gallon. WHY? There is no shortage. There is no genuine oil shortage.
There is plenty of oil here. It is all over the country.
Then I began to analyze the new strategy that seemed to be coming out of somewhere, and I found there were all kinds of other regulations being insisted upon. I learned there were regulations that said that we must put filtering devices on all gas stations across the nation, so that no fuel fumes escape into the atmosphere from the trucks that deliver the fuel. All the fumes left in a truck have to be recycled. So at exorbitant expense again, it is being insisted that there must be special gadgets put on those trucks, and on all the vents of the filling stations all across America. They told me then that the price of fuel must go up two cents per gallon in order to pay for that. It began to be clear to me that there was another campaign on, to make the fuel companies look like fools.
Then one day Mr. X and I crossed paths again. As we did, I asked him a question. “Mr. X, now that the oil has flowed and the oil companies have remained solvent, contrary to what the Federal government seemed to want, could it possibly be that the campaign now is to make the oil companies look like fools? Are they being made to show exorbitant price increases and likewise being made to appear to show exorbitant profits? Is that why there are these new regulations that make the price of fuel go up and up?” (He looked sort of stunned, as if I had been reading his mind.) He answered me, “Yes, Chaplain, there does appear to be a move on today to so disgrace the oil companies in the minds of the American people that some day the people themselves will ask the government to nationalize the oil companies.”
Price increases. Regulations. Then I said, “Why don’t you tell the truth about those price increases?”
Mr. X again remarked, just as he had to Senator Chance that day, “Chaplain, we can’t. We don’t dare tell the truth. As oil companies we can’t tell the entire story. After all, the Federal government has already imposed so many regulations and stipulations over us, and there are so many laws held over our heads (laws that have never yet been strictly enforced), that if we ever told the truth in its entirety, then by the enforcement of laws that have already been passed, we could be forced into bankruptcy within a year’s time.”
At that point I decided it was time for somebody to tell this story, the story of a scandal greater than Watergate. Then came the Republican men’s committee dinner in Denver, Colorado. Someone heard that I had information about the energy crisis, and I was asked to be the speaker. I gave the truth, and I think that was the first time I ever presented it in public to a general audience of that kind.
That day the men seemed to be fascinated, and soon there was another speaking engagement, and another, and another. It began to mushroom, and I decided it was time to put this story in print. It is necessary to do this so that everyone can know it, if they are willing to believe it. It was not just a matter of what I supposed it to be, for I have largely avoided opinions. These are the facts as I actually saw them.
Then one day, after several speaking engagements, I met a man who had a good position with one of the major oil companies of America. He came to me after I had told the facts of Prudhoe Bay, and he questioned me at length about other things beside what I had said at that meeting. However, as our conversation continued, I asked him a question, “Sir, were you in accord with everything I had to say today? And have you ever been to Prudhoe Bay?”
He answered, “I have been to Prudhoe Bay.” Then he went on to say, “No, I am not fully in accord with everything you have said today.”
“Why not?” I asked.
He said, “Because I do not believe that there is that much crude oil on the North Slope of Alaska.”
I asked him, “Sir what makes you think there is not that much oil there?”
He answered, “I am a geologist, and I was on the North Slope, and I went to Prudhoe Bay.”
I said to him, “Then, Sir, you must know about Gull Island?” He said that he had heard something about the Gull Island find. I said to him, “Then you must know that there is another pool of oil there as big as the Prudhoe Bay pool?”
His answer was, “Now, we were informed that the Gull Island find was very small and insignificant, and we were told that the proof of find there indicated it was not worth production.”
We continued talking, and several other topics were discussed. He then said to me, “Chaplain, I hope you will not make drastic statements about how much oil is at Prudhoe Bay.” Then I decided that I would pin him down. I asked, “You were at Prudhoe Bay.” “When were you there?” He answered, “Oh, only for the first few months of production back in 1974.” I persisted, “How long did you actually stay there?”
“Oh,” he answered, “I did not actually stay there. —I was just in and out of Prudhoe Bay periodically.”
I said to him, “Sir, the Gull Island find did not take place until 1976. How could you know the details?”
“Well,” he answered, “To be honest with you I really don’t. I only know what I heard.”
I left the meeting that day, knowing that the “powers that be” had successfully spread false reports across America, in an attempt to make the American people believe that there really is not the quantity of oil in Alaska that they originally thought was there.
But, you see, I know different, because I was there. I lived there for 2 1/2 years. I was there in summer and winter. I watched the well come in. I watched the burn. I watched the proofs of find. I saw the technical data. I looked at the statistics. I saw the sheets that represented the seismographic tests and talked with the officials. I lived in the dorms. I rubbed shoulders with the oil company officials of America. I was allowed to ride about freely across that North Slope area in my own vehicle, as well as with company officials. I was allowed to see what was there for myself. Today I can declare only what I saw, just as it was. That is not always what is published today, but it is as I saw it, as it literally exists.
Another oil company official spoke to me one day where I had been speaking in another men’s committee meeting. He came to me after the meeting and said, “Chaplain, I also am with one of the major oil companies.” As he shook my hand he said, with a big smile on his face, “I sure am glad to see someone willing to tell it like it is.”
I said to him, “Sir, why do you say that? You say that you are with one of the oil companies—why can’t you tell it as it is?”
He said, “Chaplain, we tried, but it doesn’t work. Every time, someone stops us. We cannot tell it as it is because they think we are biased. After all, we’re paid by the oil companies.” He then said, “As an oil company official, I just want to shake your hand today and say one thing: I concur with what you said. Congratulations! Go tell it to the American people, because we can’t.”
That is the intention of this book—for I believe that we are faced with a scandal greater than Watergate.