Eating Our Oil

Posted on Saturday, December 13 at 00:57 by N Say
This article is so serious in its implications that I have taken the unusual step of underlining 26 of its key findings. I did that with the intent that the reader treat each underlined passage as a separate and incredibly important fact. Each one of these facts should be read and digested separately to assimilate its importance. I found myself reading one fact and then getting up and walking away until I could come back and (un)comfortably read to the next. All told, Dale Allen Pfeiffer's research and reporting confirms the worst of FTW's suspicions about the consequences of Peak Oil and it poses serious questions about what to do next. Not the least of these is why, in a presidential election year, none of the candidates has even acknowledged the problem. Thus far, it is clear that solutions for these questions, perhaps the most important ones facing mankind, will by necessity be found by private individuals and communities, independently of outside or governmental help. Whether the real search for answers comes now, or as the crisis becomes unavoidable, depends solely on us. It is also abundantly clear that fresh water, its acquisition and delivery, is a crisis that is upon us now as certainly as is Peak Oil and Gas.

Here are just of few of the report's key findings:

1. In the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to feed each American (as of data provided in 1994).[7] Agricultural energy consumption is broken down as follows:
- 31% for the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer (excluding feedstock)
- 19% for the operation of field machinery
- 16% for transportation
- 13% for irrigation
- 08% for raising livestock (not including livestock feed)
- 05% for crop drying
- 05% for pesticide production
- 08% miscellaneous [8]

2. To give the reader an idea of the energy intensiveness of modern agriculture, production of one kilogram of nitrogen for fertilizer requires the energy equivalent of from 1.4 to 1.8 liters of diesel fuel. This is not considering the natural gas feedstock.[9] According to The Fertilizer Institute (http://www.tfi.org), in the year from June 30 2001 until June 30 2002 the United States used 12,009,300 short tons of nitrogen fertilizer.[10] Using the low figure of 1.4 liters diesel equivalent per kilogram of nitrogen, this equates to the energy content of 15.3 billion liters of diesel fuel, or 96.2 million barrels.

3. Between 1945 and 1994, energy input to agriculture increased 4-fold while crop yields only increased 3-fold.[11] Since then, energy input has continued to increase without a corresponding increase in crop yield. We have reached the point of marginal returns. Yet, due to soil degradation, increased demands of pest management and increasing energy costs for irrigation (all of which is examined below), modern agriculture must continue increasing its energy expenditures simply to maintain current crop yields.

4. The U.S. food system consumes ten times more energy than it produces in food energy. This disparity is made possible by nonrenewable fossil fuel stocks.

5. Unfortunately, if you remove fossil fuels from the equation, the daily diet will require 111 hours of endosomatic labor per capita; that is, the current U.S. daily diet would require nearly three weeks of labor per capita to produce.

Michael C. Ruppert
October 3, 2003
http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/100303_eating_oil_summary.html

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