Allegheny Petroleum

Long before producing hydro-electric power, the Allegheny was one of our original producers of petroleum.  The Bradford oil field was founded in 1875. By  1881 it was the world leader in oil supply, producing over 90% of U. S. oil (26 million barrels per year); oil production

The first well

continues to this day (750,000 barrels per year, compared with 24 billion barrels worldwide). As I hiked along the North Country National Trail, I came upon an oil well. At first, I thought it was an abandoned relic until I noticed a modern electrical panel and motor. You could smell crude oil around the area. As I continued hiking I came across yet another, also with the smell of crude.

The second well

Today, a large refinery sits on Route 6 in Warren with large tankers coming and going. Given that the river wraps around two sides of the refinery, and busy Route 6 on the third side, the only vantage point for a photograph was at the west end. Unfortunately, with employees coming and going, and the security related to refineries, I felt pretty uncomfortable taking photos (I’ve previously been approached by security people photographing other facilities). The Kinzua Dam was an exception since it accommodated visitors and photos outside its gates.

Even if we had known early on how burning fossil fuels would change the planet, given that evolution has wired us to pursue short-term benefits for survival, and our transition to an industrialized economy enabling a higher standard of living for some, I suspect that we would have continued down this road, just as we have done over the past 40 years.

Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished. (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, New York: Random House, 1980, p. 103)

I will show some photos of the flora I encountered along the North Country trail in my next post.

 

The Transformation of the Allegheny

I traveled to the Allegheny National Forest, in northwestern Pennsylvania, in early August where I photographed over a four-day period. The weather

Kinzua Dam

was kind, providing highs of 80 degrees or under and lots of cumulus clouds to add pizzaz to the daytime skies.

The Kinzua Dam  and the Kinzua Bridge have remade the Allegheny region with positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, the dam provides flood control all the way to Pittsburgh along with clean and green

Kinzua Bridge

hydro-electric power. A secondary benefit is that the huge reservoir provides a wonderful source of recreation.

Unfortunately, the dam has come at the expense of New York’s Seneca Nation that lost much of its fertile agricultural land and displaced 600 native families. This is a major reason hostilities continue among the Seneca, the federal, and state government to this day, notably over compensation for the New York Thruway traversing the reservation, and cigarette and gambling tax payments to New York State.

So while the dam and bridge benefit far more people than they hurt, whites benefit at the expense of the original native American residents.

I will present a brief history of petroleum production in the Allegheny in my next post.

The Forthcoming Allegheny River & National Forest Posts

I know some readers are expecting some posts about my recent photo trip to this region, but alas, I’m a bit behind schedule. I have most of the photos selected and processed but I haven’t yet put the story together. You can , however, find a few photos at my on-line gallery in the Allegheny Reservoir (film) album.

Please, stay tuned!

Trump As the “Destroyer of Worlds”

On reflection of the first detonation of an atomic bomb at New Mexico in 1945, the then head of the Los Alamos Lab, J. Robert Oppenheimer, remarked that this event brought a passage from Hindu scripture to mind, "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." Today, In an interview regarding North Korea, Trump remarked that if North Korea continues missile launches it will see fire and fury from the United States. Such rhetoric can only escalate a volatile situation putting people across national borders at risk.

As if this doesn't pose enough risk to humanity there is his failure to address climate change, in fact, promoting policies that will speed it up. A draft Federal climate change report made available by the Internet Archive and reported by the New York Times is awaiting approval by the Administration. The report presents detailed data showing that the average U.S. temperature has risen rapidly since 1980 and recent decades have been the warmest in the past 1500 years.

The most vulnerable and first to die as a result of climate change will be the poor in undeveloped nations. Eventually, all will suffer as global populations plummet.

This is not an issue of liberal versus conservative, it is an issue of the survival or non-survival of our children and subsequent generations.

Amerika First

A little while ago President Trump announced that the U.S. will be pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. By so doing, we join Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-participating countries to this agreement. As the U.S. is the second largest global polluter, other countries might be discouraged from putting long-term considerations of climate ahead of short-term considerations of economic growth. Alternatively, China might take the lead and thus increase its global leadership over the course of this century. However, Trump’s decision might be offset by states such as New York and California, along with many cities that are implementing their own sustainable energy policies. Governor Jerry Brown of California has even stated that California will do all it can to encourage other states and businesses to go with renewable energy, something that is clearly underway (U.S. coal is in structural decline, due to its higher cost than competing energies and foreign competition).

So, although today’s decision may not have much effect on the future of climate change (scientists say it’s nearly too late to avoid catastrophic change), it reinforces the already sent signal that the U.S. is receding from the western alliance. As our global influence comes to rely more on our military might we risk becoming perceived more as a global threat. It also sends the signal that the U.S. cares more about protecting multinational corporations and the one percent that reap most of the former’s profits and less about future generations. The sixth extinction of species will likely accelerate.

In the meantime, it is more important than ever to photograph the changing landscape so future generations can better assess what we are doing.