“The Houston of the Eastern Hemisphere”

Aberdeen is the Europe’s Energy Capital. It has the headquarters of Shell and BP, as well as Petrofac, Wood Group, Amec, Total E&P UK, plus loads of smaller never-heard-before companies that actually are very wealthy and turn over a large amount of money each year.

Houston is the American Energy Capital. It has the headquarters of the second largest number of Fortune500 companies after New York City. It is the largest producer of petrochemicals in North America and is the largest petrochemical producing area on the planet.

The difference between the world’s two oil capitals, sorry energy capitals, are numerous. Aberdeen is the third largest city in Scotland, whereas Houston is the fourth largest city in the US. The cities are twinned by their nature of oil and gas building them into bustling cities of vast wealth and povery areas, each with their own large immigrant populations – Houston home to hundreds of thousands of Latin American’s, first through fourth generation, where Aberdeen is home to more English, Indian, American and African employees than any place outside of London. The cities are similar… but for some reason Aberdeen is always looking to be “the somewhere of somewhere else”.

This year the talk has been of my boss Sir Ian Wood and his ambitious plans to transform the Union Terrace Gardens in the city centre, just next to Union Street and the Denburn Valley, into some kind of large civic space with shops, gardens and the covering of a large scar through the city centre in a smaller version of the Big Dig. The plan is impressive… but it brings back a thought I had recently.

Why is Scotland always trying to be something else? Recently I watched a TV show that showcase the plans that companies have for creating green energy from wind and wave power, as well as hydro electric power. These plans are numerous and well thought out and will work. They will because they have to – we are going to have to change the way we create our energy and it’s going to have to be cleaner and greener than ever before.

Being the top part of a northern set of island we have loads of coastline. These companies that plan to build turbines in the north sea to harness the wind power or wave power off our numerous coastlines suggest that we could become the Saudi Arabia of Wind Power, exporting hundreds of thousands of GigaJoules of electricity to countries who don’t have the wave or wind power to create it – like Holland or England.

But why can’t we just be Scotland? Why can’t Aberdeen just be Aberdeen? Being very close friends with a girl from Tejas and several of the Mustangers over from Houston they have grown to accept Aberdeen for what it is – old, creaky, full of character and with flaws that have been handed down through generation upon generation of growing city into a space that probably never should have been a city.

So I am all for Sir Ian Wood pledging money to build a new garden area and I think it would be awesome, but honestly thinking that it will make us like Houston is just silly – it will just mean a better Aberdeen and that’s point, no?

The Plans for the Garden

Aberdeen Skyline

Houston Skyline

A post by Ana, from Tejas, about the plans from November.

The BBC News Story