Pennsylvania's Natural Resources Term Paper

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Pennsylvania's Natural Resources

The state of Pennsylvania has a long and rich history. Quaker William Penn is credited with naming the state for the Latin phrase meaning "Penn's woodlands," in honor of his father (Pennsylvania pp). The two major cities of the state are Philadelphia, often called the cradle of the nation and home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers drew the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the other is Pittsburgh, a thriving inland river port (Pennsylvania pp). Pennsylvania is a state with vast natural resources and a vigorous environmental program.

The western third of Pennsylvania is quite distinctive from the rest of the state with several complex factors that set it apart from the east, including the initial difficult access across the mountains, the Mississippi drainage system of rivers, and most importantly, the complex economic system that evolved due to the rise and decline of the American steel industry that centered around Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania pp). Other factors include the rise of the oil industry, timber exploitation, the old wood chemical industry, and agriculture (Pennsylvania pp).

The state is "bisected diagonally by ridges of the Appalachian Mountain chain from the southwest to northeast," and to the northwest is the Allegheny Plateau that is "so dissected by valleys that it also seems mountainous," and is underlain by sedimentary rocks of Mississippian and Pennsylvanian age, "which bear abundant fossils, as well as natural gas and petroleum" (Pennsylvania pp).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Pennsylvania's Natural Resources Assignment

The first oil well in the United States was drilled into these sediments in 1859 near Titusville by Edwin L. Drake (Pennsylvania pp). Similar rock layers to the south contain coal and to the east, oil and gas deposits (Pennsylvania pp). Near Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, in the metamorphic or folded belt, hard coal, called anthracite, is mined, and have been an important resource to the entire state (Pennsylvania pp). For the mid-state and western regions, timber and dairy farming are also resources of livelihood, and in the far northwest, along the shore of Lake Erie, are orchards and vineyards (Pennsylvania pp).

Pennsylvania's saltwater shoreline, only eighty-nine miles, is the shortest of any U.S. state, however, the state has one of the largest seaports in the country, the Port of Philadelphia, and in the west, the Port of Pittsburgh is also large and actually exceeds Philadelphia in rank by annual tonnage, "due to the large volume of bulk coal shipped by barge down the Ohio River" (Pennsylvania pp). Smaller, though still important ports, are Chester, downstream from Philadelphia, and Erie, the Great Lakes outlet on Lake Erie in the Erie Triangle (Pennsylvania pp).

The state of Pennsylvania has been the site of some of America's most horrendous ecological disasters (Pennsylvania pp). In 1889, the South Fork Dam gave way after a heavy rain and destroyed the downstream factory town of Johnstown, killing over two thousand people in what has come to be known as the notorious Johnstown Flood (Pennsylvania pp). An exposed seam of coal at Centralia caught fire in 1961, eventually forcing the entire community to abandon the settlement, and the coal fire is still burning today and is estimated to last at least one hundred years more (Pennsylvania pp). Then in 1979, the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Incident near the capital of Harrisburg, cost approximately $1 billion to clean up and changed the national public opinion of nuclear power "to a much less favorable viewpoint" (Pennsylvania pp).

Due to the abundant supply of ore and hardwoods for furnaces, iron smelting became important in the eighteenth century and by the nineteenth century, Pennsylvania became the nation's leading steel producer, and anthracite coal made the state a dominant force in American railroading, however, heavy industry has declined in recent years, however, the state still manufactures metal products, transportation equipment, chemicals, and a variety of plastic, rubber, stone, clay, and glass products (Pennsylvania I pp).

Pennsylvania became a leader in the American iron industry during the days of the American Revolution, and when the steam age came along, the iron industry was transformed due to the demand for rolled iron for boilers (Gordon pp). Moreover, between 1830 and 1861, more than thirty thousand miles of railroad were built in the United States, resulting in a huge market for iron rails and increasing the demand for iron mills (Gordon pp). The abundance of rich iron ore and the cheap water transport available, ensured Pennsylvania its place as the center of the American iron and steel industry (Gordon pp). In 1901, J.P. Morgan and Elbert H. Gary established the United States Steel Corporation, the largest industrial enterprise on earth, and controlled more than sixty percent of the American market (Gordon pp). However, by the middle of the twentieth century, new, more efficient steel plants with lower labor costs were being build abroad, thus, the state's steel industry began to decline (Gordon pp).

Beginning in the 1700's, coal mining in Pennsylvania fueled the Industrial Revolution in the United States, first supporting the Colonial iron industry, then Andrew Carnegie's steel mills of the 1800's and eventually electric power plants during the modern era (Coal pp). Today, Pennsylvania is the fourth largest coal producer in the country, following Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky (Coal pp). In 1995, over 69.5 million tons of coal (roughly 6.7% of the U.S. production) were mined in the state in 878 mining operations directly employing more than ten thousand people (Coal pp). "Since 1870, Pennsylvania's Annual Report on Mining Activities has recorded 51,483 deaths from mining accidents, 31,113 deaths in anthracite mines and 20,370 deaths in bituminous mines" (Coal pp). However, modern mining methods, safety training and inspections of the industry have dramatically improved the safety record, and today, it is about equal to agriculture and the construction industry (Coal pp). Unfortunately, coal mining in Pennsylvania has left the legacy of over 2,400 miles of polluted streams by acid mine drainage from old mining operations, this acid mine drainage is the single largest source of water pollution in the state (Coal pp).

This legacy has resulted in a series of environmental laws to regulate coal mining operations that began in 1913, and moreover, the state has invested $20.7 million to construct thirteen acid mine drainage treatment plants to treat acid mine drainage discharges (Coal pp). Economically, mining contributes about one percent of the state's gross "economic product through over $1.5 billion of direct coal sales, a payroll of nearly $350 million, a support service industry with a payroll of nearly $200 million, business tax revenues of over $1.5 million" (Coal pp).

Pennsylvania's state forest system includes sixty-one special natural areas and fourteen wild areas that are set aside to "protect unique or unusual biologic, geologic, scenic and historic features, or to showcase outstanding examples of Pennsylvania's major forest communities" (Pa.'s pp). Generally speaking, sustainable forestry is defined as protecting the long-term health and viability of forests by using management techniques that value "all uses of the forests," thus, protecting the forest "ecosystem, recreation, clean water, and the production of timber for current and future generations" (Pa.'s pp). Pennsylvania employs sustainable forestry practices of its 2.1 million acres of state forestlands (Pa.'s). In 1998 and 1999, a team of scientists praised Pennsylvania's commitment to its forests and its "exemplary practices and innovation in managing forest resources" (Pa.'s pp). Today, Pennsylvania's forest state forest system is the largest certified forest in the United States and one of the largest in the world (Pa.'s pp).

According to 2001 data, export-supported jobs account for an estimated 5.3% of Pennsylvania's total private-sector employment, or one of every nineteen jobs (Exports pp). More than one-sixth, 17.3%, of all manufacturing workers in Pennsylvania depend on exports for their jobs (Exports pp). In 2002, a total of 12,497 companies exported goods from Pennsylvania locations, of these, 10,802 or 86% were small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than five hundred employees (Exports pp). In 2001, SMEs generated approximately one-third, 33%, of the state's total exports of merchandise (Exports pp).

In 2003, Pennsylvania's export shipments of merchandise totaled $16.3 billion and posted the 13th largest export total among the fifty states (Exports pp). The state exported to 207 foreign destinations, with the top two markets being Canada and Mexico (Exports pp). Pennsylvania shipped $5.8 billion worth of export merchandise to Canada and $1.1 billion to Mexico (Exports pp). Other top markets were the United Kingdom, $846 million, Germany, $751 million, China, $565 million, the Netherlands, $477 million, Australia, $430 million, France, $372 million, and Belgium, $373 million (Exports pp). In dollar terms, China was the state's leading growth market from 1999 to 2003, from $263 million in 1999 to $565 in 2003 (Exports pp). Among the top thirty destinations, China was also the state's fastest growing market, rising 115% over this period (Exports pp).

In 2003, manufactured goods were 95% of Pennsylvania's merchandise exports (Exports pp). The biggest manufactured export categories for that year were chemical manufactures, $2.6 billion, transportation equipment, $2.1 billion, computers and electronic products, $2.1… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Pennsylvania's Natural Resources.  (2005, April 17).  Retrieved June 5, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Pennsylvania's Natural Resources."  17 April 2005.  Web.  5 June 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Pennsylvania's Natural Resources."  April 17, 2005.  Accessed June 5, 2020.