Apr 2, 2008

Food and Energy Crisis

Recently had a few email exchanges with a couple of friends on food/energy crisis (and possible solutions) thought it might interest some of the blog community so here are the emails:

me:
food crisis is directly related to energy crisis:

1-In today's world farming is energy intensive, farmers use huge trackers/tillers to work the land, all of it requires lots of energy

2-since in a capitalist economy production is driven by demand therefore farmers are responding to the energy demand by moving from food crops to energy crops

3-even if that trend is reversed, farmers would not be able to work there fields as there would be no energy available to do so

One existing solution to both the problems is in Cuba's collective farming (small farms with in communities where every one pitches in) though most of us capitalist would denounce it vehemently as it would mean a fundamental shift in how we use growth as the main measure of corporate success, part of the shift would also require us reducing consumption by a great degree

Another solution (which I don't think is yet proven in the field on a large scale) would be micro power (wind mills, solar panels) as suggested by Amory Lovins, where the grid would serve to carry energy from houses to other houses and industrial complexes/agricultural farms (though given the astronomical power requirements of these complexes, I wonder if it will ever be feasible.

I think the only other option left is to use BTUs from human embryos (matrix :)), think about it, since the whole human life will be simulated in a capsule no need for energy hogging SUVs, or mass farming, heck you don't even need food diversity as all you would need is glucose to keep the brain alive ;)

John:
Ethanol is a scam! Unless it comes from fields that do not require tilling (CO2 emissions from farm equipment), enormous fertilizer inputs (mostly manufactured from natural gas Haber process) and water inputs etc...

It's CO2 neutral as long as the plants absorb the same amount of CO2 emitted by the manufacturing and final use of the ethanol. But it's a total scam if the entire process requires massive fossil fuel, water inputs and gov farmer subsidies (US style industrial agriculture). And don't even start me with top-soil erosion issues.

US: Let's use massive amounts of the cleanest burning fossil fuel (natural gas) to make fertilizer, subsidize farmers since they cannot break even because they have to buy expensive GMO seeds and accompanying expensive toxic pesticides from criminal companies like Monsanto, and destroy our fertile top-soil in the process. Now we can drive inefficient SUVs on ethanol that costs us more than just burning the natural gas we started with!

Brazil: Let's cultivate/harvest (no till, little inputs) endless seas of sugarcane which is much more efficient than maize/corn, and instead of burning the plants every year lets make ethanol to offset ~ 40% of our gasoline usage in our relatively few lightweight cars.

Still, after all that, Brazil has to import oil although it's a major oil producer!!!

Biofuels: Green energy or grim reaper?
Biofuels 'crime against humanity'
The Ethanol Scam: One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles
Ethanol fuel in Brazil

Salman:
The Ethanol Scam: One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles

Insightful to know who else is drinking the kool-aid:

As former CIA director James Woolsey, an outspoken ethanol evangelist, puts it, "American farmers, by making the commitment to grow more corn for ethanol, are at the top of the spear on the war against terrorism."
If you love America, how can you not love ethanol?


Anyway, today's WSJ reports Soybean is becoming a more lucrative crop so US farmers will plant more of that and 20% less corn. Also, prices of milk, eggs and other staples have jumped 20-30% over the past year.


me:
people like James Woolsey have genuine interest in making US energy independent (some of there drive may be based on patriotism rather then science but that's ok) a lot of the people when talking about ethanol think about ethanol production from algae or other future crops where the return might be 1:30 or something crazy like that, in any case if a real solution doesn't arrive soon, we may actually become the first generation shopping for matrix style pods, imagine being the bunny in the Energizer commercial :)

1 comments:

Salman said...

Nice idea.

How are ads working out? Should we be more hawkish/controversial to generate more hits in the future??