What Will We Eat as the Oil Runs Out?

December 6, 2007

Richard Heinberg has a wonderful paper which discusses the direness of the oil crisis, and eloquently debunks the idea that biofuels are a viable solution to our energy crisis:

One factor influencing food prices arises from the increasing incentives for farmers worldwide to grow biofuel crops rather than food crops. Ethanol and biodiesel can be produced from a variety of crops including maize, soy, rapeseed, sunflower, cassava, sugar cane, palm, and jatropha. As the price of oil rises, many farmers are finding that they can produce more income from their efforts by growing these crops and selling them to a biofuels plant, than by growing food crops either for their local community or for export.

Already nearly 20 percent of the US maize crop is devoted to making ethanol, and that proportion is expected to rise to one quarter, based solely on existing projects-in-development and government mandates. Last year US farmers grew 14 million tons of maize for vehicles. This took millions of hectares of land out of food production and nearly doubled the price of corn. Both Congress and the White House favor expanding ethanol production even further - to replace 20 percent of gasoline demand by 2017 - in an effort to promote energy security by reducing reliance on oil imports. Other nations including Britain are mandating increased biofuel production or imports as a way of reducing carbon emissions, though most analyses show that the actual net reduction in CO2 will be minor or nonexistent.

Heinberg, unlike many alarmist environmentalists today, attempts to offer viable solutions to our impending crisis, which can be summed up with one word: conservation. I encourage everyone and anyone to peruse his article carefully; it provides a well-cited, insightful overview of the resource depletion crises which will affect every human on the planet. Most importantly, Heinberg stresses that “applying mere techno-fixes … will almost certainly lead to dire consequences.”

See you all on the farm.