Retired Professor of Geology at the University of Oregon, Dr. Walter Youngquist is the author of GeoDestinies: The inevitable control of Earth resources over nations and individuals. Dr. Youngquist has collaborated with Richard Duncan in developing scenarios of future oil production.
Should New Orleans Be Rebuilt? in The Social Contract [2005 Fall]
"Simple elementary geology: The facts of deltas--distributaries, compaction of sediments, levee maintenance problems in keeping a river where it does not naturally want to go, and how withdrawal of groundwater causes subsidence of ground levels in unconsolidated sediments--are all presented in Geology 101. I and many of my university colleagues teaching that elementary course cited these facts as reason why the location of New Orleans was no place build a city."Minerals Move People: As resources are discovered or depleted, populations migrate, in The Social Contract [2005 Spring]
" Along with the influence of mineral supply on the rise and progress of civilization, is a parallel story of how the search for, and discovery of minerals from salt to gold and silver has caused mass migrations of people. In many cases the minerals were the basic cause of the opening of new lands. It has been said that, "the flag follows the miner's pick." The quest for gold and silver lured Spaniards to the New World resulting in the conquests of Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and some of the adjacent lands.Alternative Energy Sources -- "Oil fuels the modern world. No other substance can equal the enormous impact which the use of oil has had on so many people, so rapidly, in so many ways, and in so many places around the world.... Alternative energy sources must be compared with oil in all these various attributes when their substitution for oil is considered...." [October 2000]
"These movements continue to the present. Migrations of people today to resource areas, or to nations that can obtain resources, are perhaps greater than anytime in the past. Seeking jobs and a higher standard of living largely based on mineral resources, people are today moving, both legally and illegally, by the millions."
Alternative Energy Sources - Myths and Realities, Electronic Green Journal, December 1998, Special Issue 9
Read "Spending Our Great Inheritance -- Then What?" -- a recent article in Geotimes (July 1998, pages 24-26). "The world is now consuming about 26 billion barrels of oil annually, writes a noted petroleum geologist, but in new field discoveries, we are finding less than 6 billion barrels a year. What does this mean for the future? Youngquist provides sobering statistics about declines in oil production worldwide and examines alternative fuel sources that should be encouraged."
Geodestinies: The inevitable control of Earth resources over nations and individuals
by Walter Lewellyn Youngquist
Published by Halcyon House, June 1997
$29.95 plus $4 shipping, from
National Book Company
PO Box 8795
Portland, OR 97207-8795
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An indication of the insights offered by the author can be seen in Chapter 27: Myths and Realities of Mineral Resources.
On page 24 of the book, you will discover that we are still in the stone age, in fact, moreso than ever in the past:
Each U.S. citizen uses annually:
Sand and Gravel
Iron and steel
Following are two reviews of the book:
by Eric Thurston, on our website -- "A Review of Walter Youngquist’s GeoDestinies."
A review from the book's listing at Amazon.com:
"A uniquely important interdisciplinary text," from an upcoming review in Evolution and Ecology
This book is intended as a completely interdisciplinary undergraduate text demonstrating the causal linkages through which the amount and value per unit of geological resources produced in a nation affects the value of the currency, and the economic health and political power.
While some of the content will be familiar to some readers of this journal, there is nothing in existence like it, and the best-informed living people would find at least a quarter of the book a complete surprise. The book links geological resources of nations, history, economics, political science, international relations, culture and religion like nothing else I have ever seen.
Despite Gibbon, Spengler and many others, none has yet put forth a completely satisfactory theory of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. This author shows how Roman power depended on gold and silver from various sources (e.g. Greece and Spain), and how when supplies ran out, the coinage was debased and Rome could no longer afford the costs of keeping the empire intact (e.g. mercenaries who fought for money, not patriotism).
Margaret Thatcher was the most popular leader in modern British history. Her power depended on surplus foreign exchange from exporting North Sea oil. The U.S. dollar and international prestige increase and decrease in value depending on the amount of oil imported, and the price per barrel.
One particularly gripping part of the book is a64-page treatment of proposed new alternate energy sources. All these imaginary panaceas turn to mists in a swamp at night when examined with the lenses of net energy and energy profit ratios. Nothing will replace what we are burning up quickly now. Every possible replacement has problems which have received little publicity.
All through history there have been two responses to mineral wealth. One is to regard it as an infinite cornucopia, and create nothing of permanent value to outlast the minerals. Alaska is a startling example. A century from now it will be like it was a century ago. The other alternative is to recognize that a storage is being converted to a flow, and try to convert some of the flow to another storage. The author discusses what Stanford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Rhodes, and Guggenheim did with their wealth from mineral resources. My life was profoundly affected by two of these men, so the argument hit me. The pattern is that governments do not have a good track record of managing depleting storages. Individual wise people do very well at that job.
Of particular interest to readers of this journal will be Mineral Economics. Huge time lags separate the time when money is spent on mineral projects to the time when major profits appear. Income first began to flow from the Prudhoe Bay oilfield 30 years after the first money was spent on exploration. The risk to reward ratio is very high, and political instability in a country with great potential oil resources my be unacceptable. Taxing reserves discourages exploration. The author relates the oil business to "natural capital."
This book, together with many other recent writings, recent government statistics on the oil business (62 percent of all U.S. oil is imported; that % is rising 3% per year) and the wild recent gyrations in earnings and share values of companies in the oil field service industry are doubtless early warning indicators of huge price increases in oil within a few years. The implications are pervasive, very far-reaching, and very serious.
Kenneth E. F. Watt
University of California
Davis, CA 95616