We at www.Peakfood.co.uk have tried hard in the last few years to raise awareness that the food industry has become totally dependent on fossil fuels. Some experts have now calculated that on average it takes 10 calories of fossil energy to deliver 1 calorie of food energy- clearly a situation that can only be temporary given the finite nature of fossil fuels.
We must therefore consider the implications for food supply in future years. US oil production has been in decline for many years leaving them importing 5 million barrels a day from the Middle East. Other big suppliers such as Mexico are themselves now in decline.
The North Sea is also outputing less making Europe increasingly dependent on imports. Around 60% of the world’s reserves are in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia by far the biggest supplier.
Given the relationship already described between food calorie output and fossil calorie input in modern agriculture, this will make us dependent on the Middle East for our food just as surely as if it was grown there. We will, in effect, be importing millions of tonnes of virtual food from this volatile region.
If western governments aren’t worried about this they should be. Maybe they are, and that would explain why billions of dollars and thousands of lives have been spent in an attempt to keep the region functioning and under western influence so that oil, our virtual food, can keep flowing. If there were no large oil reserves in the Middle East, it would be a fairly insignificant region and would not warrant heavy intervention from the US and it’s allies.
Islamic extremists are dedicated to denying what they see as “Muslim oil” to the hated infidels and in the past have planned attacks on oil installations. These have been unsuccessful, but we should expect that they will be planning other ways to cut oil supplies. The dream is to establish Islamist control of the region.
Unless we find sustainable ways to produce our food using renewable energy, we run the risk of severe and sudden food shortages caused by the failure of our fossil dependent system.
Peak Food author John Gossop this week had this article printed on pages 28 and 29 of the Farmers Weekly under the topic of the week section. Dated 8th January 2010, the article was entitled ‘Agriculture has a key role in taking heat out of global warming debate’. The issues raised were then then debated on the Farmers Weekly Forum.
The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time slow the depletion of finite oil and gas reserves has massive implications for the future of farming, which has become nothing more than a system of converting cheap, plentiful calories into a much smaller amount of expensive food calories. As oil and gas supplies are finite, and their production is expected to peak soon and then decline, our present farming system must be regarded as temporary.
As the world moves to collecting and using more of the abundant solar energy that reaches us every day, the most important method will be to use plants to collect solar energy to synthesise simple carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water – in other words agriculture. But to feed the nine billion people predicted by 2050 with fewer fossil inputs, we will need to grow more of our input energy, fix more of our nitrogen and recycle more nutrients. It will be a massive challenge, but agriculture will surely become the most important industry in the world.
Following headlines in the national news about Sir Paul McCartney’s call for everyone to eat let meat, John Gossop, author of Peak Food, spoke on Andy Comfort’s Morning Show on Radio Humberside. John answered questions alongside Annette Pinner, Chief Executive of the Vegitarian Society.
Click below to listen to the interview. It is in two parts and not all is included due to download limitations.