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Where Was the Country’s Biggest Oil Spill? Hint: Not in the Gulf

Here’s an interesting fact: despite the massive size of the Gulf oil spill, it’s not actually the biggest oil spill ever to occur in the United States. That honor goes to an onshore oil spill in California that occurred 100 years ago.

NPR reports that the small town in which the spill occurred — Taft, Calif. — has built its economy around the gusher, selling “??oil-themed Christmas ornaments, coffee cups, key chains, bar stools, posters and puzzles.” It’s just about time for the the Oildorado Day festival, a once-every-five-years celebration of the town’s history.

But, before people start making comparisons to the Gulf oil spill, it’s important to note one important distinction between the two events. As Agnes Hardt of the West Kern Oil Museum put it, “Many people have been trying to compare this to the Gulf disaster. The only problem was no one here ever considered the Lakeview Gusher a disaster.”

That’s because, in 1910, striking oil meant big bucks for the town. To state the obvious, that’s not the case in the Gulf of Mexico, where the oil spill has devastated the region’s economy and potentially damaged the environment beyond repair. For Gulf residents, it’s going to take a lot more than selling key chains and coffee mugs to recover.

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