Tuesday, November 6, 2007

To the Ends of the Earth

Another Today Show item for the blog…This is the week when Matt, Ann, and Al are at the “Ends of the Earth,” reporting on issues in the arctic, equator, and Antarctic. They talked about how Russia planted a flag on the sea floor in the far north seas recently, and how coastal mapping and underwater mapping are becoming a bigger thing. I know several folks locally who do that for work. There was a segment about the ice pack at the north pole receding and the possibility of a sea lane being passable over the top of Canada in the summers in as little as a few years. So much about Alaska is unknown yet, but I hadn’t thought about “new” territory opening up in the sense that it used to be ice, and now it’s on the verge of being travelable, navigable water which must be mapped and explored.

Matt Lauer is reporting this week from Greenland, which was “settled” by the Danish. I’m a big fan of Knud Rasmussen and Peter Freuchen. They may have been the first white guys to dogsled along the top of North America from Greenland all the way to Alaska, in the early 1900’s, near the end of the great age of exploration. Today, the age of exploration is back on. The military is busy strategizing about how to defend this new area and to provide protection for shipping around the pole. Businesses and non-profits are working like crazy to get to know the vital statistics of this area of the planet, since it’s been largely ignored for most of the last century. A number of newer, smaller oil exploration companies have leases to look for old standby’s like crude but also natural gas, coal-bed methane, tar sands, and other fuel sources that have not previously been cost-effective to retrieve.

Those reporting on the arctic for the Today Show noted that the time of the arctic is nearly upon us. I wholeheartedly agree. With oil at $96 a barrel right now, large deposits of natural gas off the coast by Prudhoe Bay, and Southcentral Alaska being nearly out of natural gas in Cook Inlet, I am pretty sure that within 3 years Alaska will be in the middle of another “boom” period. We’re on the verge of building a new LNG (liquefied natural gas) pipeline down from the Prudhoe area. A couple more pieces of state legislation, and hopefully we can get that project going. The Anchorage Daily News had a graphic about population growth. It showed that the state’s population hadn’t been much more than 150,000 into the 1950’s. Now, at nearly 700,000, it looks like we’ll be over one million before 2020. We know that every week, eight new families are moving to our little Valley. Indeed, my area, the Mat-Su Valley stands to grow 78% from 1990-2020.
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