Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 3, 2013

Keystone Preview?: Crude Pictures from Mayflower

I had a couple thoughts about this photo of the Exxon pipeline spill in the wonderfully named Mayflower, Arkansas.

If it captures (some would say, “previews”) the threat posed by the much larger and controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, the photo feels too distant and ordered, the otherwise pristine driveways and the apparent containment of the oil to the cul-de-sac, or the fencing between the houses going too far in conveying the illusion of order. As the one photo of the rupture in the Wall Street Journal’s parsimonious Photos of the Day gallery on Tuesday, I think this chessboard view is abstract enough to be pretty.

If foreshadowing is the aim, however, take a look at these shots:

Mayflower Exxon spill
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This last photo is another Greenpeace shot, but one in which the scale is edifying. Reminiscent of Deepwater Horizon, those are oil booms along the interstate.

If it’s relatively easy to see the analogy to Keystone, what’s not apparent here, as detailed in this San Antonio business article, is the inapplicability of the 8-cent-per-barrel fee to the oil-spill liability trust fund because the IRS provision doesn’t apply to crude from tar sand.

(photo 2: KARK caption: Exxon pipeline ruptures, sending crude oil across neighborhood street and into nearby storm drains in Mayflower, Arkansas Friday afternoon.photo 3: 350.org via PlanetSave caption: Present Crisis In Mayflower, Arkansas, Exxon Pipeline Heavy Crude Oil Spill. photo 4: Karen E. Segrave/Greenpeace .)

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