When engineers first turned the spigot on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPs) in 1977, they thought it would run for about 30 years. But with its 31st anniversary approaching in June, the pipeline is supposedly primed for another 30 years.

As producers continue to find ways to squeeze more oil from the frozen North Slope, a multimillion-dollar upgrade of TAPS is under way.

It’s years behind the original schedule and at least $200 million over budget. Federal pipeline regulators have assessed more than $800,000 in fines which are being contested  related to project-related mishaps.

As the only way to move oil off the North Slope, TAPS is responsible for about a third of Alaska’s economy. For 2008, the state projects that nearly $4.9 billion, or 57 percent of its revenue, will come from oil production taxes.

Oil revenues find their way directly into Alaskans’ pockets each year through payments from a permanent royalty fund. Since payments started in 1982, each Alaskan has received a cumulative $27,585, including $1,654 in 2007.

But as you know oil and politics should not mix, and the chances of keeping the creaking old pipeline going for another thirty years, without leaking … well. ..