Robert Douglas Mead was obviously overwhelmed by Alaska, and his book is as much about the state itself as about the pipeline--and more of a pastiche (of opinion, evocation, data) than a substantial narrative. Extensive historical and geographical breakdowns show the growing interest in Alaskan oil, culminating in the 1969 announcement by Humble, Arco, and British Petroleum that a $900 million pipeline would be completed by 1972. ""At the center of the pipeline's history,"" says Mead, ""is the more than four years' delay from first proposal to the Congressional decision late in 1973 that made it possible for the work to begin."" The oil companies and environmentalists blamed each other for the delays, and Mead concludes that both probably were right. In analyzing the $8 billion project itself, he is critical of the surveillance officers because legal concerns were made to take precedence over engineering decisions, and (according to the companies) some of the design and construction requirements were not functional. His most questionable contention is that the 1973 OPEC oil embargo would not have happened had the pipeline been in operation, because it would then have had no effect on this country. A pipeline enthusiast, Mead tries to dispel the controversy that has surrounded it as a result of articles on such problems as alcoholism and Alaska's rampant inflation. Overall, a passable compilation of primary and secondary-source material on Alaska, and a detailed guide for anyone planning to build a pipeline.