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Peak Oil & Agriculture

 
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PowerSwitchJames



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: London

PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 9:42 am    Post subject: Peak Oil & Agriculture Reply with quote

Another one for editing and thoughts etc.
-----------------
Most of the British public have so little interest in agriculture that the typical traveller through the countryside feels no connection with this unknown world at the other side of the ?looking glass? of the supermarket.

Because it was the first country to industrialise, the 18th century saw the last British generation to be closely linked to agriculture. The history of British food became dominated by imports from the Empire, then by the brand names of the large corporations who controlled or processed these products and most recently by a few giant retailers who frighteningly appear to be considered the true source of the nation?s food. All that matters is that it be cheap. In contrast most people in the rest of the world at least still have rural family links and therefore value food and secure supplies of local produce.

Our food supply is perhaps the most vulnerable on earth to an energy shortage. We are so entirely dependant on road haulage that the nation?s larder is actually our motorway system. Around 40% of the trucks on British roads relentlessly move farm products and food from ports and airports and between huge processing plants, dairies and abattoirs, through vast central distribution depots and finally to the supermarkets. Any major disruption in fuel supplies to this fragile supply chain could see food riots developing at supermarkets within days, if only car-dependant consumers have the fuel to drive there.

Restricted supplies and ever-rising costs of oil and gas carry even worse long ? term dangers. After the food shortages of the Second World War great advances were made in increasing UK food self-sufficiency. Output accelerated further after joining the EU?s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) so that the last two decades of the 20th century were spent in dealing with surpluses through land ?set-aside? policies. This created the foolish impression that Great Britain, a small island of 60 million people, had a surplus of farmland. The dramatic increases in crop yields and the parallel reduction in the price of farm produce during the post-war period were the result of the worldwide ?Green Revolution?; Huge applications of Nitrogen fertiliser to crops and grassland boosted production, but demanded an arsenal of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides to protect this unnaturally lush growth from disease. The manufacture of these chemicals and fertilisers absorbed huge inputs of oil and natural gas.

The resulting glut of food caused a steady fall in food commodity prices which freed up incomes to help fuel the consumer and property booms of recent decades. Globalisation is now forcing farm prices down further as production moves to lower-cost countries. In 2004 alone, for example, Brazil increased its imports of Nitrogen fertiliser by a tonnage equivalent to UK agriculture?s entire consumption in order to boost output of soya and beef from the barren soils of Amazonia.

Along with most of the developed countries, agriculture in the UK is now derided as an ?occupation of last resort? as incomes have collapsed. As the average age of farmers approaches 60, vital skills are rapidly disappearing with them and vast tracts of our best farmland are being swallowed up by roads and housing.

The doctrines of consumerism and globalisation have tragically become so all-pervasive that the British public and our politicians could hardly be in a worse position from which to begin even to understand the scale of the reversals in thinking which will be necessary to try to regain a degree of UK of food security. A savage combination of dwindling oil supplies and dramatic declines in global food production as climate change begins to bite will make the revival of localised, low energy-input food production a national priority.
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Totally_Baffled



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 2824
Location: Hampshire

PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep this article sums it up nicely in a nutshell.

I wish though that people who write these articles provide somesort of context.

For example:

Quote:

The manufacture of these chemicals and fertilisers absorbed huge inputs of oil and natural gas.


Which of course is true, but if you take the UK as an example (which is one of the countries that use Nitrogen fertilizer the most intensely)

6m Hectares of arable * 285kg per hectare = 1,710,000,000 kg Fertilizer

1,710,000,000kg = 1,710,000 tonnes

1,710,000 tonnes * 616cm gas (22,000 cf) = 1,053,360,000 cm gas

UK total Current Gas consumption = 100,000,000,000 cm

Therefore 1,053,360,000/100,000,000,000 = 1.1%

Also:

Quote:

vast tracts of our best farmland are being swallowed up by roads and housing.


Which is also true , and I wish we would just stop ALL building on any site unless it is brownfield.

But , between 1945 and 1995 705,000 hectares of rural land was lost to development. So non arable farmland has dropped from circa 13m hectares to 12.3 m hectares.

Arable land (the good stuff) has remained the same at 6m hectares (presumably even our authorities arent stupid enough to build on prouctive cropland? - lets hope so!)

As for the transport aspect. I agree entirely. Firstly we should stop buying crops from abroad that can be grown either here , or in Europe. High fuel costs may actually improve this situation. For god sake, apples from New Zealand and wine from South Africa is nuts!!

Having said that, if we did stop buying food from further afield , then it would worsen the problems of developing nations?

Food for thought (no pun intended ! Laughing )
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DamianB
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 1:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Peak Oil & Agriculture Reply with quote

Most of the British public have so little interest in agriculture that the typical person traveling through the countryside feels no connection with this unknown world on the other side of the ?looking-glass? of the supermarket.

Because Britain was the first country to industrialise, the last generation to be closely linked to agriculture lived over 100 years ago in the 18th century. The history of British food became dominated by imports from the Empire [is this true? we still produce 70% of our food now], then by the brand names of the large corporations who controlled or processed these products and most recently by a few giant retailers who frighteningly appear to be considered the true source of the nation?s food. All that matters is that it be cheap. By contrast, most people in the rest of the world still have rural family links and therefore value food and secure supplies of local produce.

Our food supply is perhaps the most vulnerable on earth to an energy shortage. We are so entirely dependant on road haulage that the nation?s larder is actually our motorway system. Around 40% [I thought it was 25%] of the trucks on British roads relentlessly move farm products and food from ports and airports, between huge processing plants, dairies and abattoirs, through vast central distribution depots and finally to the supermarkets. Any major disruption to fuel supplies in this fragile supply chain could see food riots developing at supermarkets within days, if car-dependant consumers have the fuel to drive there.

Restricted supplies and ever-rising costs of oil and gas carry even worse long?term dangers. After the food shortages of the Second World War, great advances were made in increasing UK food self-sufficiency. Output accelerated further after joining the EU?s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) so that the last two decades of the 20th century were spent in dealing with surpluses through land ?set-aside? policies. This created the foolish impression that Great Britain, a small island of 60 million people, had a surplus of farmland. The dramatic increases in crop yields and the parallel reduction in the price of farm produce during the post-war period were the result of the worldwide ?Green Revolution?; huge applications of nitrogen fertiliser to crops and grassland boosted production, but demanded an arsenal of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides to protect this unnaturally lush growth from disease and pests. The manufacture of these chemicals and fertilisers absorbed huge inputs of oil and natural gas. [See TB's comment]

The resulting glut of food caused a steady fall in food commodity prices which freed up incomes to help fuel the consumer and property booms of recent decades. Globalisation is now forcing farm prices down further as production moves to lower-cost countries. In 2004 alone, for example, Brazil increased its imports of nitrogen fertiliser by a tonnage equivalent to UK agriculture?s entire consumption in order to boost output of soya and beef from the barren soils of Amazonia.

Along with most of the developed countries, agriculture in the UK is now derided as an ?occupation of last resort? as incomes have collapsed. As the average age of farmers approaches 60, vital skills are rapidly disappearing with them and vast tracts of our best farmland are being swallowed up by roads and housing. [Exaggeration - see TB's comments]

The doctrines of consumerism and globalisation have tragically become so all-pervasive that the British public and our politicians could hardly be in a worse position from which to begin even to understand the scale of the reversals in thinking which will be necessary to try and regain a higher degree of UK of food security. A savage combination of dwindling oil supplies and dramatic declines in global food production as climate change begins to bite will make the revival of localised, low energy-input food production a national priority.
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Totally_Baffled



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 2824
Location: Hampshire

PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/ssdataset.asp?vlnk=5542

Also:

UK agriculture uses 1.7 mtoe vs the total for the UK of 245.5 mtoe. (0.7%)

and:

UK agriculture only creates 0.7% of CO2 emissions.

http://www.nfuonline.com/stellentdev/groups/press/@native/documents/ianda/106998.pdf

Not so good on the methane though. Creates 46% of the UK's emissions!! Those cows fart like you wouldnt believe!
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Peak oil? ahhh smeg..... Sad


Last edited by Totally_Baffled on Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Totally_Baffled



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

Most of the British public have so little interest in agriculture that the typical person traveling through the countryside feels no connection with this unknown world on the other side of the ?looking-glass? of the supermarket


This is true.

However, maybe need to mention that horticulture is still a multi billion pound industry in the UK.(and apart from the last year , has grown quite quickly)

The company I work for sells ?150 million a year of plants alone!! This was ?50 million 5 years ago!(ironically organic vegetables are one of the fastest growing areas!)

I know I am clutching at straws now!!! Wink Wink
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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2005 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd suggest you mention "Haber-Bosch" process in relation to petroleum and the Green Revolution.
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