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May 1, 1996 E-mail:

Natural Resources: To Develop Or Not To Develop?

ALEXANDRIA, VA. Because Earth's resources are vital to all forms of life, the production, exploration, and policy decisions needed to manage natural resources are pressing questions for our society. In the May 1996 issue of GEOTIMES, two petroleum geologists and a hydrogeologist look at political, economic, and cultural aspects of fossil fuels and water.
Dave Houseknecht, energy program coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey, routinely briefs members of Congress and their staffs on the agency's periodic assessment of the nation's oil and gas resources. "We represent the interface between the earth scientists who assess the nation's resources and the policy-makers who make the laws that determine the use of the nation's lands and resources," explains Houseknecht. Science strives to be unbiased, factual, and objective, he states, but politics are governed by different rules. In his article, "Communicating Science in a Politically Charged Environment," he explains how he crosses the great divide between science and politics by teaching a crash course in geology to nontechnically trained congressional staffers, presenting the fundamentals of resource assessment and the uncertainty of probability figures.
While the United States debates whether to develop hard-to-reach oil deposits, its neighbor, Venezuela, studies ways to extract its impressive supply. Venezuela contains the most abundant concentrations of hydrocarbons on Earth, more plentiful than the Persian Gulf. The country has decided to open its doors to foreign exploration companies. In his article, "Looking for Partners, Looking for Oil: Venezuela Plans on New Production," petroleum geologist Donald C. Swanson examines the shrewd business strategy of Venezuela and the enormous economic potential of this stable, friendly, democratic state.
"Natural Bubbling Brew: The Carbonated Springs of Saratoga," by hydrogeologist Donald Siegel takes a contemporary look at this rare treasure which not only played a part in his childhood, but in the lives of the Iroquois Indians and the 19th-century European immigrants. "As the burning mountains of Italy command the astonishment of mankind, so the cold boiling springs of Saratoga ... ought to demand [its] adoration." says Dr. Valentine Seamen, who wrote about the Saratoga springs in 1805. Considered to have medicinal properties, the salty carbonated water was used to treat yellow fever, stomachaches, and other ailments. Later the carbon dioxide was extracted and used in carbonated beverages. Yet even as its curative and commercial attributes became known to millions, its sources of salinity and carbon-dioxide supply still mystify scientists today.
Coming up in June ... GEOTIMES takes a look at the stuff below our feet -- soil. Four feature articles analyze the societal and geologic questions that soil science addresses and the modeling tools used to answer them.
GEOTIMES is published by the American Geological Institute, a nonprofit federation of 29 member societies representing earth and environmental scientists. AGI also produces GeoRef, an online bibliographic database of more than 1.9 million geological references which serves a worldwide geoscience community.

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