Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blessed with no oil.

As far as I know, the State of New Hampshire is blessed by having almost no oil, coal or natural gas. The parts of the US that have fossil energy resources don't benefit from them as much as one would think. We are starting to get some idea how much the oil industry has screwed over the Gulf of Mexico. It's the same pattern that's been repeated all over the world. The average Nigerian has suffered terribly from oil exploration. Norway seems to have kept the oil industry under control, but it took an extraordinarily tough stand right from the beginning. The developing world never stood a chance.

Having coal hasn't made West Virgina a paradise. The residents get the polluted streams, destroyed mountains, and black lung disease. The big money goes into a handful of pockets, often out of state pockets.

Extraction technologies all around the world have caused immense problems for the locals -everything from "blood diamonds" -to the horrible exploitation of people who mine rare earth elements crucial to the electronic industry. When I heard that Afghanistan had a trillion dollars worth of mineral wealth, my first thought was: Oh no, those poor people; don't they have enough problems?

NH was exploited for energy and raw materials in the past. Back during colonial days, the major fuel source was wood, and wood was the major building material. The forests were stripped bare. Today, most of the old clear cut forest areas have grown back. While the forests are back, they are different. Much good soil was lost during the times of the timber barons. The new forests lack the nutrients that were available to the old forests.

Forest resources are better managed than they used to be, but the exploitation pressure is back on. Wood burning electric power plants are being built around the state. It's has already come into question if there will be enough wood for all the different demands. Heck, I heat my house with wood, and while I haven't done the math, I doubt every home in NH could do the same. Resources would run out. Trees would be cut down faster than they could grow back. Wood is a renewable resource, but has its limits.

Another source of energy back in the day was hydro power. Mills were constructed along rivers to take advantage of falling water. In the old days, the water was used directly to power grist mills, saws and textile looms. Later, the falling water was harnessed to produce electric power.
Hydro power is pretty maxed out. While it may be physically possible to add more, it's been determined that letting rivers run wild has value too.

Competing companies are looking into putting in wind power. At least that has a fairly small footprint and is a renewable resource.

It appears that fossil energy and mineral wealth is a curse -to the natives.


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