Energy in the Desert: The Promise of Biofuels*

In the last Presidential elections the candidates promised to develop “green” economies by creating new domestic industries and thousands of jobs.  These investments were expected to help avert the then looming economic crisis while reducing green house emissions and foreign oil dependence through domestic alternative energy sources.  If a melting stock market and financial crisis were not enough incentive, oil prices soaring then to $140 a barrel and gas prices moving to $5 a gallon only underscored the need to “go green.”  Much, of course, has happened since then but today we see oil moving into the $120 /barrel range and fuel prices once again going above $4 a gallon. And the political drums are beating as well (do I hear $2.50 a gallon as a “must”?).  “Drill, Baby, Drill!” again is finding resonance with some as the campaign season heats up. Continue reading

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Save the ASARCO Stacks–Create a Sustainable Future

The old Asarco smelter and refinery located directly on our Texas border with Mexico and closed nearly a decade ago continues generating controversy as regional leaders look at how to “dispose” of this property, including its iconic stacks.   It  needs to be viewed in its historical context in order to understand how best to utilize the opportunity presented by the land and assets of the now defunct El Paso plant.  In large measure much of what is El Paso today, its industry, its relationship to Mexico as a major corridor of trade, the creation of UTEP and much of the wealth generated over the past century in our region is due to the presence of Asarco and the related mining and metallurgical interests of the Paso del Norte and Chihuahua region.  UTEP, for example, was first conceived and created in 1914 as the Texas School of Mines and Metallurgy to create the necessary manpower to support the growing mining and metallurgical interests of Northern Mexico and later the US desert southwest.  From the 1920’s through the 1950’s and early 1960’s El Paso was considered to be one of the richest cities in the Southwest, surpassing Phoenix, San Antonio, Austin and many others.  This wealth was ascribed to the “three C’s…Cotton, Cattle and Copper, the later, of course, being the processing of copper (and lead) carried out by Asarco and other companies in the region.  Obviously, a hundred years later matters have changed Continue reading

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