Natural resources (naturally occurring products that humans use) range from the renewable to the rare and limited, and have the power to make a region rich. While the Midwest is known for its farmland and the south boasts large oil reserves, the western United States has a number of natural resources that make it one of the most valuable regions in North America.
Since Americans took over the West in the early 19th century, the western United States has been one of the staple areas of farmland in the country. In California alone, there are 25,364,695 acres of farmland as of 2007. Farms proliferate in the West, and particularly along the coast, thanks to nutrient-rich soil and a variety of elevations and climates. While much of the farmland is dedicated to growing corn and other cash crops, the West also boasts a number of large cattle ranches.
Oil is currently one of the most precious resources on Earth. Used to power many of the power plants in the United States and to fuel most of the cars, oil is also used in a number of petrochemical applications, such as plastic production, clothing manufacturing and even as an ingredient in some medicines. Unfortunately, oil supplies are nonrenewable and have been aggressively exploited rather than conserved over the last 100 years, making the world’s remaining supplies of oil extremely valuable. California, Oregon and Washington are all producers of oil, and scientists predict that they have only begun to tap into the potential oil in the ground and off shore near the continental shelf. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) for the Pacific OCS Region found, in their assessment of the area’s potential for oil discovery, that, “Nearly 11 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 19 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered gas in the region may be recoverable using existing technology.”
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As much as the western United States may be one of the last great oil strikes, the diversity of climates and ecospheres in the area make it one of the leading areas of potential for renewable alternative energy in the country. Large deserts in the southwestern United States are perfect for solar energy plants and coastal winds make ideal conditions for the installation of wind farms near the continental shelf.