More on Re: Reason article

Jill Taylor Bussiere jdt at itol.com
Sun Jun 9 08:09:29 EDT 2002


Finite Resources - here are some more thoughts on the energy additions 
that Avery advocates.  One must remember that petroleum is heavily 
subsidized by the government as well, both in research and exploration, 
as well as in our current series of wars - which are incredibly 
expensive.  Since conventional ag is a large user of petroleum products 
in its pesticides and fertilizers, to claim that such a dependence is 
more sustainable than organic farming is ludicrous at best.
Predictions of peak oil production range from already having occurred to 
5 years to 20 years. According to an article by Mike Duffy, "Prices on 
the Rise: How will higher energy costs impact farmers?", energy expenses 
for fuel, fertilizers and pesticides, added up to 16 percent of total 
farm expenditures in 1998 - with 2.6% for fuel, 7% for fertilizers, and 
6.5% for pesticides. This causes the cost of production to rise. 
According to the US Department of Energy, agriculture is one of the 9 
top energy-intensive industries in the United States (April 2, 2002).

"Natural gas is the primary cost component in producing nitrogen 
fertilizers. Since experiencing a record high natural gas price at $9.00 
per MMBtu in January 2001, natural gas cost has accounted or about 92 
percent of the cost of ammonia production. Without a sharp increase in 
nitrogen fertilizer prices, , the higher natural gas price creates 
significant pressure for nitrogen fertilizer producers to curtail 
production." (Economic Analysis of the Changing Structure of the U.S. 
Fertilizer Industry C.S. Im, H. Taylor, C. Hallahan, and G. Schaible, 
Economic Research Service, USDA)

"Reliable estimates from the Department of Energy show that 5 pounds of 
nitrogen have the energy equivalent of a gallon of diesel fuel, in other 
words, 100 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer would have the energy of 20 
gallons of diesel fuel." (Prices on the Rise, p 1-2))

"Pesticides are made from petroleum. The exact amount depends on the 
product. A common measure used is that it takes the equivalent of a 
gallon of diesel fuel to make one pound of active ingredient of 
pesticides." (Prices on the Rise, p. 2)
                - Jill

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