Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Changes On The Great Plains

There is a most-interesting article in the July issue of Harper's Magazine entitled: "Broken Heartland: The Looming Collapse of Agriculture on the Great Plains", by Wil S. Hylton (no link available yet), where the author argues that the imminent connection of the Texas electrical grid with the Western electrical grid will open up vast Sunbelt electricity markets and drive a vertiginous transition for Great Plains agriculture, which is already suffering from exhaustion of Oglalla Aquifer water, and ready for rapid changes anyway. Great Plains commercial agriculture (including ranching) may all but cease-to-exist (leaving just the organic farms) as the entire region is rapidly and completely converted to - wind farms! - by the year 2030! That's rapid enough that I might see it to completion in my lifetime!

Some quotes below....

For the past eight decades [the migratory exodus] has continued. ... In Kansas alone, more than 6,000 towns have vanished altogether. Nearly a million square miles of the American heartland currently meet the definition of "frontier" used by the Census Bureau more than a century ago.

"Most of us who do organic," Teske said, "are only doing it because we went bust at conventional farming. We learned the hard way."

In the dystopian future that Teske imagines, the cycle of farm dissolution and amalgamation will continue to its absurdist conclusion, with neighbors cannibalizing neighbors, until perhaps one day the whole of the American prairie will be nothing but a single bulldozed expanse of high-fructose corn patrolled by megacombines under the remote control of computer software 2,000 miles away. ... But soon the water will run out.

Until recently, most of the wind farms on the plains have been clustered below the Texas Panhandle, but not for any meteorological reason. ... That's because most of Texas is tied into a special power grid that feeds only Texan homes and, in true Texan fashion is cut off from the rest of the country. ... That situation is about to change. In August, crews in New Mexico are scheduled to break ground on the first intergrid connection to link the eastern, western and Texas grids ... promising to open not only the cities of Texas, but also the rest of the Sunbelt, from Albuquerque to Phoenix to Las Vegas. Faced with such a huge new market, developers have begun scrambling to secure wind rights throughout the region.

"You know," he said, "a lot of these farmers say they're going to keep farming after they get wind. Some of them say they'll quit row-cropping and keep cattle. My fear is, they won't do either. When you visit actual wind farms down south, most of them used to keep cattle, and most of them don't keep cattle anymore. Now, the only thing they farm is wind."

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