In the United States, much of a state’s dynamic is based on what it comes by naturally. Its general economic picture is based on how well its natural resources can be cultivated and utilized. Illinois is fortunate to have a number of natural resources that help stimulate the economy and enrich the lives of its residents.
Nicknamed "The Prairie State," Illinois has based much of its economy on agriculture and its supporting industries. Fertile soil, located throughout the state, is perhaps Illinois' greatest natural resource. Rainfall is plentiful during the growing season, and, as a result, the land produces extensive crops and rich pasturage each year. Among the crops cultivated in Illinois are corn, wheat and soybeans.
Illinois has a rich fossil-fuel industry that includes an abundance of both coal and oil. According to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Employment Security, Illinois has more bituminous coal resources than any other state. Coal is mined in 12 counties. The Illinois coal industry totals nearly $1 billion in profits yearly, and government and environmental officials are looking for ways to develop a clean-coal initiative to be based in the state. The initiative would feature technology that reduces emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulates.
Another of the state's fossil-fuel commodities is oil, which is mostly found in the southern part of Illinois. Over the years, oil has had a great impact on Illinois’ economy, with the biggest oil boom occurring during the mid-20th century. Nearly 600 million barrels were drilled in 2008, up from only 250 million in 2000. According to the Illinois Oil and Gas Association, the Southern Illinois Oil Basin contains approximately 7 billion barrels of oil, of which 3.5 to 4 billion has already been extracted.
Trees cover more than 35 million acres of land in Illinois. The thriving tree industry has helped Illinois produce some of the finest hardwoods in the entire country. Tree species in Illinois include black walnut, red and white oaks, yellow poplar, ash, hickory and hard and soft maples.
The state's forest-based earnings average about $4.5 billion annually, according to the University of Illinois Extension Center. But, not all trees cultivated in Illinois are destined to be lumber or wood-products; some are used for a more celebratory purpose. Christmas trees are a $9 million dollar retail industry in Illinois.
Leah Williams has written for many newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites, including the "Mt. Vernon Register-News" and "Nightlife." She has her bachelor's degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University and is now working on her graduate degree. Williams likes to write about parenting, arts and entertainment, education and features.