Higher Commodity Prices Spur Action…Elsewhere

By August 4, 2008Energy, Trade

Interesting article in the July 21st Der Spiegel (German only) about high commodity prices driving exploration and development of Germany’s oil, natural gas and mineral resources:  “The Hunt for Billions Under the Earth: “A fever for raw materials sweeping the countryside — Geological explorers comb through the country from the North Sea to the Bavarian Woods.”

The story opens with an illustrative anecdote and photo of Ernst-Adolf von der Ohe, whose Lower Saxony farm (potatoes and malting barley) is now the home of a producing Exxon oil well.

Lower Saxony’s oil-producing farmers are not the only ones throughout Germany’s countryside who are profiting from the exploding world prices. Things that would have seemed almost unthinkable during the time of high labor costs and reasonable transportation expenses is now becoming more attractive: Suddenly it’s profitable in Germany to mine for raw materials of all kinds. Copper, tin, petroleum, natural gas, fluorite, tungsten, zinc, molybdenum, phosphates, brown coal, silver and gold — it seems as if everything can be brought up from the ground with reasonable returns. All across the country, investors from around the world are peering at reconnaissance maps and promising billions in business. 

Interesting thing is, the article does not mention any opposition by environmentalist groups. While surely locals must object to this project or that, perhaps as such a central part of Germany’s history, the public is familiar with the consequences, good and bad, and finds them acceptable.

Old tin mines are being reopened in the Erzgebirge and in the poorer parts of the former East Germany, great hopes are being placed in the rebirth of the fluorite and phosphate mines. Investors from Panama and Poland are hot after copper deposits.

Meanwhile, back here in the United States

Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration on Wednesday formally protested federal plans to lease the natural gas-rich Roan Plateau in western Colorado.

The scheduled Aug. 14 lease sale by the federal Bureau of Land Management would allow the highest bidders to start drilling for natural gas on the plateau that’s as prized for its underground mineral wealth as it is for the soaring slopes and wildlife


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