Exxon Valdez [North America]
On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez had an oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska. This environmental disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. waters, ended up affecting 1000 miles of shoreline. $2.2 billion dollars were spent on cleanup, $1 billion on fines, and $5 billion on punitive damages. Some efforts ended up being counterproductive; hot water and high-pressure sprays used to clean rocks ended up destroying habitats, so unwashed sites recovered more quickly than the destroyed ones. Exxon was not the only culpable party. State officials had not noted the level to which oil companies had been unprepared for dealing with a spill, and the U.S. Coast Guard “did not effectively monitor tanker traffic because of inadequate radar equipment and personnel.” This disaster could have been prevented with a double hull on the ship; this measure, found on 15% of oil tankers today, will be required on all new tankers by 2015. Although double hulls will reduce the chance of such a critical incident ever happening again, the best solution is to reduce dependence on oil and focus on pollution prevention technologies.