Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

82 Survey to gather more information about areas on the Denali Park Road that are vulnerable to permafrost degradation and hazards, for example, landslides and slope failures, associated with it (Rosenberg et al., 2016). The House of Representatives of Alaska passed a resolution in 2020 requesting the federal government to help with a long-term fix to the landslide problem. Governor Mike Dunleavy also asked the US Department of the Interior for shortterm and long-term assistance (Krakow, 2020). However, the biggest aid for this problem could come through President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (2021) that State Senator Lisa Murkowski helped implement. Under this bill, Alaska could receive roughly $3.5B to construct and/or rebuild roads and highways and $225M for repair work on bridges, highways, and roads. Trans-Alaska Pipeline System TAPS is an 800-mile-long, oil transportation system that moves crude oil from the North Slope to Port Valdez in the south, at which point it is shipped. Construction of the pipeline was completed in 1977, and today the pipeline carries about 480,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Due to the presence of permafrost, half of the pipeline is above ground and supported by braces to avoid disturbance to the permafrost. During the construction of the pipeline, about 124,000 thermosyphons were installed at points along the pipeline. A thermosyphon is a thermal management device or process that is passively driven through movement of air to keep the ground frozen. The structures that support the pipelines, called vertical support members (VSMs), resemble a capital H, with the pipeline resting on the cross frame and the thermosyphon in the vertical pieces that extend 15 to 70 feet into the ground. Thermosyphons can only cool the permafrost directly below the pipeline. It is essential that the supports holding up the pipeline are structurally sound and stable on the permafrost. During the initial construction, permafrost and temperature fluctuation due to seasonal variations were considered, but the planning and design did not anticipate the rate at which climate change could increase the pace of permafrost thaw. Thawing permafrost thus poses a potential threat to the pipeline, risking an oil spill, which would devastate the oil industry and the local ecosystem. In 2001, the state–federal Joint Pipeline Office indicated that at least 22,000 VSMs might be having problems caused by climate change along the pipeline route (Nelson, 2003; Joint Pipeline Office, 2001). A US global research program in 2008 concluded that TAPS is an “at-risk structure” from the effects of permafrost degradation. It also estimated that the degradation of permafrost would increase the cumulative expenditure of maintaining the pipeline by $3.6B to $6.1B by 2030 and another $5.6B to $7.6B by 2080. Concerns still exist over the use of thermosyphons, because they previously have been utilized only to maintain the temperature of frozen permafrost. Thermosyphons have not yet been employed when permafrost has started thawing and a slope has already begun to slide (Larsen et al., 2008; U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009). According to an analysis done inNovember 2020 by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, supports for an 810-foot-long section of the pipeline were jeopardized by “slope creep,” when the slope carrying the supports started to shift due to permafrost thaw, causing the pipe to twist and bend. TAPS is operated by APSC on behalf of its five owners. In 2020, APSC proposed a project to fix the problem by installing a cooling system to refreeze and stabilize the ground by installing 100 heat pipes 40 to 60 feet into the ground along with a 3-foot layer of insulating wood chips. The damaged and bent VSMs would be replaced along with thermosyphons installed at a depth ranging from 40 to 60 feet. APSC routinely maintains the thermosyphons and VSMs through a proactive, risk-based monitoring and maintenance program. The project is privately funded by APSC. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources approved the use of thermosyphons to keep the slope frozen in order to avoid any further destruction of the support structure. Oil companies are reluctant to address the existence of permafrost degradation due to climate change, presumably because the by-products of the oil industry contribute to climate change. This was evident when Michelle Egan, a spokesperson for APS, declined to talk about the condition of the weakened pipe section or the extent of permafrost thawing that caused