Eating Fossil Fuels

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by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

"What follows is most certainly the single most frightening article I have ever read and certainly the most alarming piece that FTW has ever published."


October 3 , 2003, 1200 PDT, (FTW) -- Some months ago, concerned by a Paris statement made by Professor Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton regarding his concern about the impact of Peak Oil and Gas on fertilizer production, I tasked FTW's Contributing Editor for Energy, Dale Allen Pfeiffer to start looking into what natural gas shortages would do to fertilizer production costs. His investigation led him to look at the totality of food production in the US. Because the US and Canada feed much of the world the answers have global implications.

What follows is most certainly the single most frightening article I have ever read and certainly the most alarming piece that FTW has ever published. Even as we have seen CNN, Britain's Independent and Jane's Defence Weekly acknowledge the reality of Peak Oil and Gas within the last week, acknowledging that world oil and gas reserves are as much as 80% less than predicted, we are also seeing how little real thinking has been devoted to the host of crises certain to follow; at least in terms of publicly accessible thinking.

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% miscellaneous8

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 (, 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

JAH's comment:-

America has helped to feed the Russians and Chinese for decades to prevent them from starving, with the surplus from massive over-production, to thereby also limit the amount available to the American public to artificially inflate the price in America, rather than lower the price to American consumers.

Once that over-production becomes under-production and there is none to give to the Russians and Chinese they will be forced to fight for what food exists.

King of kings' Bible - Ezekiel

38:1 And the Word of the "I AM" came unto me, saying,
38:2 Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech (Moscow) and Tubal (Tobolsk), and prophesy against him,
38:3 And say, Thus saith the Lord "I AM"; Behold, I [am] against thee, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech (Moscow) and Tubal (Tobolsk):
38:4 And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws (hunger), and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts [of armour, even] a great company [with] bucklers and shields, all of them handling weapons of destruction (lightning):
38:5 Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:
38:6 Gomer, and all his bands; the House of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: [and] many people with thee.
38:7 Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.
38:8 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land [that is] brought back from the sword, [and is] gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell
safely all of them.
38:9 Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.
38:10 Thus saith the Lord "I AM"; It shall also come to pass, [that] at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:
38:11 And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates (no defences),
38:12 To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places [that are now] inhabited, and upon the people [that are] gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
38:13 Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?
38:14 Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord "I AM"; In that day when My people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know [it]?
38:15 And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:
38:16 And thou shalt come up against My people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against My land, that the heathen may know Me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.
38:17 Thus saith the Lord "I AM"; [Art] thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by My servants the Prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days [many] years that I would bring thee against them?

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