Why Our Food is So Dependent on Oil
April 2nd, 2005
"Concentrate on what cannot lie. The evidence..." -- Gil Grissom
Eating Oil" was the title of a book which was published in 1978 following
the first oil crisis in 1973 (1). The aim of the book was to investigate the
extent to which food supply in industrialised countries relied on fossil fuels.
In the summer of 2000 the degree of dependence on oil in the UK food system was
demonstrated once again when protestors blockaded oil refineries and fuel distribution
depots. The fuel crises disrupted the distribution of food and industry leaders
warned that their stores would be out of food within days. The lessons of 1973
have not been heeded.
Today the food system is even more reliant on cheap crude oil. Virtually all
of the processes in the modern food system are now dependent upon this finite
resource, which is nearing its depletion phase.
Moreover, at a time when we should be making massive cuts in the emissions of
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in order to reduce the threat posed by climate
change, the food system is lengthening its supply chains and increasing emissions
to the point where it is a significant contributor to global warming.
The organic sector could be leading the development of a sustainable food system.
Direct environmental and ecological impacts of agriculture 'on the farm' are
certainly reduced in organic systems. However, global trade and distribution
of organic products fritter away those benefits and undermine its leadership
Not only is the contemporary food system inherently unsustainable, increasingly,
it is damaging the environment.
The systems that produce the world's food supply are heavily dependent on fossil
fuels. Vast amounts of oil and gas are used as raw materials and energy in the
manufacture of fertilisers and pesticides, and as cheap and readily available
energy at all stages of food production: from planting, irrigation, feeding and
harvesting, through to processing, distribution and packaging. In addition, fossil
fuels are essential in the construction and the repair of equipment and infrastructure
needed to facilitate this industry, including farm machinery, processing facilities,
storage, ships, trucks and roads. The industrial food supply system is one of
the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and one of the greatest producers of greenhouse
Ironically, the food industry is at serious risk from global warming caused by
these greenhouse gases, through the disruption of the predictable climactic cycles
on which agriculture depends. But global warming can have the more pronounced
and immediate effect of exacerbating existing environmental threats to agriculture,
many of which are caused by industrial agriculture itself. Environmental degradation,
water shortages, salination, soil erosion, pests, disease and desertification
all pose serious threats to our food supply, and are made worse by climate change.
But many of the conventional ways used to overcome these environmental problems
further increase the consumption of finite oil and gas reserves. Thus the cycle
of oil dependence and environmental degradation continues.
Industrial agriculture and the systems of food supply are also responsible for
the erosion of communities throughout the world. This social degradation is compounded
by trade rules and policies, by the profit driven mindset of the industry, and
by the lack of knowledge of the faults of the current systems and the possibilities
of alternatives. But the globalisation and corporate control that seriously threaten
society and the stability of our environment are only possible because cheap
energy is used to replace labour and allows the distance between producer and
consumer to be extended.
However, this is set to change. Oil output is expected to peak in the next few
years and steadily decline thereafter. We have a very poor understanding of how
the extreme fluctuations in the availability and cost of both oil and natural
gas will affect the global food supply systems, and how they will be able to
adapt to the decreasing availability of energy. In the near future, environmental
threats will combine with energy scarcity to cause significant food shortages
and sharp increases in prices - at the very least. We are about to enter an era
where we will have to once again feed the world with limited use of fossil fuels.
But do we have enough time, knowledge, money, energy and political power to make
this massive transformation to our food systems when they are already threatened
by significant environmental stresses and increasing corporate control?
The modern, commercial agricultural miracle that feeds all of us, and much of
the rest of the world, is completely dependent on the flow, processing and distribution
of oil, and technology is critical to maintaining that flow.
Oil refined for gasoline and diesel is critical to run the tractors, combines
and other farm vehicles and equipment that plant, spray the herbicides and pesticides,
and harvest/transport food and seed Food processors rely on the just-in-time
(gasoline-based) delivery of fresh or refrigerated food Food processors rely
on the production and delivery of food additives, including vitamins and minerals,
emulsifiers, preservatives, colouring agents, etc. Many are oil-based. Delivery
is oil-based Food processors rely on the production and delivery of boxes, metal
cans, printed paper labels, plastic trays, cellophane for microwave/convenience
foods, glass jars, plastic and metal lids with sealing compounds. Many of these
are essentially oil-based Delivery of finished food products to distribution
centres in refrigerated trucks. Oil-based, daily, just-in-time shipment of food
to grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc., all oil-based; customer
drives to grocery store to shop for supplies, often several times a week
ENERGY, TRANSPORT AND THE FOOD SYSTEM
Our food system is energy inefficient...
One indicator of the unsustainability of the contemporary food system is the
ratio of energy outputs - the energy content of a food product (calories) - to
the energy inputs.
The latter is all the energy consumed in producing, processing, packaging and
distributing that product. The energy ratio (energy out/energy in) in agriculture
has decreased from being close to 100 for traditional pre-industrial societies
to less than 1 in most cases in the present food system, as energy inputs, mainly
in the form of fossil fuels, have gradually increased.
However, transport energy consumption is also significant, and if included in
these ratios would mean that the ratio would decrease further. For example, when
iceberg lettuce is imported to the UK from the USA by plane, the energy ratio
is only 0.00786. In other words 127 calories of energy (aviation fuel) are needed
to transport 1 calorie of lettuce across the Atlantic. If the energy consumed
during lettuce cultivation, packaging, refrigeration, distribution in the UK
and shopping by car was included, the energy needed would be even higher. Similarly,
97 calories of transport energy are needed to import 1 calorie of asparagus by
plane from Chile, and 66 units of energy are consumed when flying 1 unit of carrot
energy from South Africa.
Just how energy inefficient the food system is can be seen in the crazy case
of the Swedish tomato ketchup. Researchers at the Swedish Institute for Food
and Biotechnology analysed the production of tomato ketchup (2). The study considered
the production of inputs to agriculture, tomato cultivation and conversion to
tomato paste (in Italy), the processing and packaging of the paste and other
ingredients into tomato ketchup in Sweden and the retail and storage of the final
product. All this involved more than 52 transport and process stages.
The aseptic bags used to package the tomato paste were produced in the Netherlands
and transported to Italy to be filled, placed in steel barrels, and then moved
to Sweden. The five layered, red bottles were either produced in the UK or Sweden
with materials form Japan, Italy, Belgium, the USA and Denmark. The polypropylene
(PP) screw-cap of the bottle and plug, made from low density polyethylene (LDPE),
was produced in Denmark and transported to Sweden. Additionally, LDPE shrink-film
and corrugated cardboard were used to distribute the final product. Labels, glue
and ink were not included in the analysis.
This example demonstrates the extent to which the food system is now dependent
on national and international freight transport. However, there are many other
steps involved in the production of this everyday product. These include the
transportation associated with: the production and supply of nitrogen, phosphorous
and potassium fertilisers; pesticides; processing equipment; and farm machinery.
It is likely that other ingredients such as sugar, vinegar, spices and salt were
also imported. Most of the processes listed above will also depend on derivatives
of fossil fuels. This product is also likely to be purchased in a shopping trip
...is dependent on oil...
One study has estimated that UK imports of food products and animal feed involved
transportation by sea, air and road amounting to over 83 billion tonne-kilometres
(3). This required 1.6 billion litres of fuel and, based on a conservative figure
of 50 grams of carbon dioxide per tonne-kilometre resulted in 4.1 million tonnes
of carbon dioxide emissions (4). Within the UK, the amount of food transported
increased by 16% and the distances travelled by 50% between 1978 and 1999.
It has been estimated that the CO2 emissions attributable to producing, processing,
packaging and distributing the food consumed by a family of four is about 8 tonnes
a year (5).
..and is unnecessarily contributing to carbon emissions.
It is not that this transportation is critical or necessary. In many cases countries
import and export similar quantities of the same food products (6). A recent
report has highlighted the instances in which countries import and export large
quantities of particular foodstuffs (6). For example, in 1997, 126 million litres
of liquid milk was imported into the UK and, at the same time, 270 million litres
of milk was exported from the UK. 23,000 tonnes of milk powder was imported into
the UK and 153,000 tonnes exported (7). UK milk imports have doubled over the
last 20 years, but there has been a four-fold increase in UK milk exports over
the last 30 years (8).
Britain imports 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat a year from the Netherlands and
exports 33,100 tonnes to the Netherlands. We import 240,000 tonnes of pork and
125,000 tonnes of lamb while exporting 195,000 tonnes of pork and 102,000 tonnes
of lamb (6).
This system is unsustainable, illogical, and bizarre and can only exist as long
as inexpensive fossil fuels are available and we do not take significant action
to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
GLOBAL WARMING AND FINITE OIL
The threat of global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions
The nearness of the depletion stage of oil supplies
Discovery of oil and gas peaked in the 1960s. Production is set to peak too,
with five Middle Eastern countries regaining control of world supply (9). Almost
two-thirds of the world's total reserves of crude oil are located in the Middle
East, notably in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq (10). An assessment of future world
oil supply and its depletion pattern shows that between 1980 and 1998 there was
an 11.2 per cent increase in world crude oil production, from 59.6 to 66.9 million
barrels of oil per day (10). Current world production rates are about 25 Gb (billion
barrels) per year. A simple calculation shows that if consumption levels remain
constant, world crude oil reserves, at approximately 1 trillion barrels, could
be exhausted around 2040 (11).
The oil crises of the 1970s when the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC) states reined in their production have passed into folk memory. However,
they were accompanied by massive disruption and global economic recession. The
same happened in 1980 and 1991 (12).
Colin J. Campbell, a pre-eminent oil industry analyst, believes that future crises
will be much worse. "The oil shocks of the 1970s were short-lived because
there were then plenty of new oil and gas finds to bring on stream. This time
there are virtually no new prolific basins to yield a crop of giant fields sufficient
to have a global impact. The growing Middle East control of the market is likely
to lead to a radical and permanent increase in the price of oil, before physical
shortages begin to appear within the first decade of the 21st century. The world's
economy has been driven by an abundant supply of cheap oil-based energy for the
best part of this century. The coming oil crisis will accordingly be an economic
and political discontinuity of historic proportions, as the world adjusts to
a new energy environment" (9).
The three main purposes for which oil is used worldwide are food, transport and
heating. In the near future the competition for oil for these three activities
will be raw and real. An energy famine is likely to affect poorer countries first,
when increases in the cost of paraffin, used for cooking, place it beyond their
reach. Following the peak in production, food supplies all over the world will
begin to be disrupted, not only because of price increases but because the oil
will no longer be there.
IS ORGANIC ANY DIFFERENT?
The organic system is more energy efficient to the farm gate...
One of the benefits of organic production is that energy consumption and, therefore,
fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, are less than that in conventional
The energy used in food production is separated into direct and indirect inputs.
Indirect inputs include the manufacture and supply of pesticides, feedstuffs
and fertilisers while direct energy inputs are those on the farm, such as machinery.
One measure of the energy efficiency of food production that allows a comparison
between different farming practices is the energy consumed per unit output, often
expressed as the energy consumed per tonne of food produced (MJ/tonne) or the
energy consumed per kilogram of food (MJ/kg).
A study comparing organic and conventional livestock, dairy, vegetable and arable
systems in the UK found that, with average yields, the energy saving with organic
production ranged from 0.14 MJ/kg to 1.79 MJ/kg, with the average being 0.68
MJ/kg or 42 per cent (13). The improved energy efficiency in organic systems
is largely due to lower (or zero) fertiliser and pesticide inputs, which account
for half of the energy input in conventional potato and winter wheat production
and up to 80 per cent of the energy consumed in some vegetable crops.
In conventional upland livestock production, the largest energy input is again
indirect in the form of concentrated and cereal feeds. When reared organically,
a greater proportion of the feed for dairy cattle, beef and hill sheep is derived
from grass. In the case of milk production, it has been found that organic systems
are almost five times more energy efficient on a per animal basis and three and
a half times more energy efficient in terms of unit output (the energy required
to produce a litre of milk) (13).
...but not when it goes global.
So far so good - but once passed the farm-gate, things begin to go wrong. Britain
imports over three-quarters of its organic produce, and despite consumer demand,
only two per cent of its land is organically farmed (14). As the market has grown
it has been met by imports.
A study looking at the energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions when importing
organic food products to the UK by plane (15) found that carbon dioxide emissions
range from 1.6 kilograms to 10.7 kilograms. Air transport of food is the worst
environmental option but road transport, especially unnecessary journeys, is
also bad. For example 5kg of Sicilian potatoes travelling 2448 miles emits 771
grams of carbon dioxide.
The problem is that, overall, human beings have developed a tendency to deal
with problems on an ad hoc basis - i.e., to deal with 'problems of the moment'.
This does not foster an attitude of seeing a problem embedded in the context
of another problem.
Globalisation makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation.
Any society in turmoil today, no matter how remote, can cause problems for prosperous
societies on other continents, and is also subject to their influence (whether
helpful or destabilising).
For the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline.
Shocks to the system
As already stated, the three main purposes for which oil is used worldwide are
food, transport and heating. Agriculture is almost entirely dependent on reliable
supplies of oil for cultivation and for pumping water, and on gas for its fertilisers;
in addition, for every calorie of energy used by agriculture itself, five more
are used for processing, storage and distribution.
Since farming and the food industry are not famous for spending money unnecessarily,
there must be a presumption that there is very little short-term 'slack' which
would allow its demand for energy to be reduced at short notice without disruptions
in food prices. In the case of transport and heating fuel, there is more scope
for saving energy at short notice; cutting leisure journeys, for instance, wearing
extra pullovers and, in the slightly longer term, driving smaller cars have a
role to play while, in the longer term, there is a totally different low-energy
paradigm waiting to be developed. But it is the short term that has to be survived
first and, in that short term, the competition for oil for food, transport and
heating will be real and raw.
Through its dependence on oil, contemporary farming is exposed to the whole question
of the sustainability of our use of fossil fuels. It took 500 million years to
produce these hydrocarbon deposits and we are using them at a rate in excess
of 1 million times their natural rate of production. On the time scale of centuries,
we certainly cannot expect to continue using oil as freely and ubiquitously as
we do today. Something is going to have to change.
The same applies more widely to every natural resource on which industrial civilisation
relies. Furthermore, one might think that there is a compounded problem. Not
only are there more people consuming these resources, but their per capita consumption
also increases in line with the elaboration of technology. We seem to be facing
a problem of diminishing returns, indeed of running out of the vital raw materials
needed to support our economic growth.
Almost every current human endeavour from transportation, to manufacturing, to
electricity to plastics, and especially food production is inextricably intertwined
with oil and natural gas supplies.
Commercial food production is oil powered. Most pesticides are petroleum- (oil)
based, and all commercial fertilisers are ammonia-based. Ammonia is produced
from natural gas Oil based agriculture is primarily responsible for the world's
population exploding from 1 billion at the middle of the 19th century to 6.3
billion at the turn of the 21st Oil allowed for farming implements such as tractors,
food storage systems such as refrigerators, and food transport systems such as
trucks As oil production went up, so did food production. As food production
went up, so did the population. As the population went up, the demand for food
went up, which increased the demand for oil. Here we go round the Mulberry bush
Oil is also largely responsible for the advances in medicine that have been made
in the last 150 years. Oil allowed for the mass production of pharmaceutical
drugs, and the development of health care infrastructure such as hospitals, ambulances,
We are now at a point where the demand for food/oil continues to rise, while
our ability to produce it in an affordable fashion is about to drop.
Within a few years of Peak Oil occurring, the price of food will skyrocket because
the cost of fertiliser will soar. The cost of storing (electricity) and transporting
(gasoline) the food that is produced will also soar.
Oil is required for a lot more than just food, medicine, and transportation.
It is also required for nearly every consumer item, water supply pumping, sewage
disposal, garbage disposal, street/park maintenance, hospitals and health systems,
police, fire services and national defence.
Additionally, as you are probably already aware, wars are often fought over oil.
If we think we are food secure here in the UK and other industrialised countries
simply because we have gas in the car, frankly, we are delusional. Despite the
appearance of an endless bounty of food, it is a fragile bounty, dependent upon
the integrity of the global oil production, refining and delivery system. That
system is entirely dependent on the thread of technology. Modern, technology-based
agriculture produces both food, and seeds for next year's food, on a just-in-time
basis. There are precious little reserves of either food or seeds to sustain
any protracted interruption.
Technology and the incredibly rich tapestry it has made possible has created
a false sense of security for so many of us. The thread is flawed; the tapestry
is now fragile; famines are possible. We must take that seriously. . .
Our food supply, and our economic survival as a whole, depends on the steady
availability of reasonably priced oil. Is oil our Achilles heel?
This means our food supply is:
The oil supplies that fuel the food system could be exhausted by 2040 (19). In
many regions oil production has peaked and most reserves lie in the Middle East.
Food security is also threatened: for example, even if all UK fruit production
was consumed in the UK, of every 100 fruit products purchased, only 5 will now
have been grown in the UK.
For every calorie of carrot, flown in from South Africa, we use 66 calories of
fuel. The huge fuel use in the food system means more carbon dioxide emissions,
which means climate change, which means more damage to food supplies, as well
as other major health and social problems.
Even organic supplies are becoming hugely damaging as imports fill our shelves
(17). One shopping basket of 26 imported organic products could have travelled
241,000 kilometres and released as much CO2 into the atmosphere as an average
four bedroom household does through cooking meals over eight months (18).
Other problems highlighted include loss of nutrients in food, increased incidence
and spread of diseases such as Foot & Mouth and other major animal welfare
problems. Poor countries producing food for distant markets are not necessarily
seeing benefits through increased and often intensive production for export.
The report reveals how such trends could be reversed through industry, government
and public action.
In other words, we won't have to run completely out of oil to be rudely awakened.
The panic starts once the world needs more oil than it gets.
To understand why, you've got to fathom how totally addicted to oil we have become.
We know that petroleum is drawn from deep wells and distilled into gasoline,
jet fuel, and countless other products that form the lifeblood of industry and
the adrenaline of military might. It's less well known that the world's food
is now nourished by oil; petroleum and natural gas are crucial at every step
of modern agriculture, from forming fertiliser to shipping crops. The implications
are grim. For millions, the difference between an energy famine and a biblical
famine could well be academic.
Independent policy analyst David Fleming writes in the British magazine Prospect
With a global oil crisis looming like the Doomsday Rock, why do so few political
leaders seem to care? Many experts refuse to take the problem seriously because
it "falls outside the mind-set of market economics." Thanks to the
triumph of global capitalism, the free-market model now reigns almost everywhere.
The trouble is, its principles "tend to break down when applied to natural
resources like oil." The result is both potentially catastrophic and all
too human. Our high priests-the market economists-are blind to a reality that
in their cosmology cannot exist.
Fleming offers several examples of this broken logic at work. Many cling to a
belief that higher oil prices will spur more oil discoveries, but they ignore
what earth scientists have been saying for years: there aren't any more big discoveries
to make. Most of the oil reserves we tap today were actually identified by the
mid-1960s. There's a lot of oil left in the ground - perhaps more than half of
the total recoverable supply. Fleming says that that is not the issue. The real
concern is the point beyond which demand cannot be met. And with demand destined
to grow by as much as 3 percent a year, the missing barrels will add up quickly.
Once the pain becomes real, the Darwinian impulse kicks in and the orderly market
gives way to chaos.
Some insist that industrial societies are growing less dependent on oil. Fleming
says they're kidding themselves. They're talking about oil use as a percentage
of total energy use, not the actual amount of oil burned. Measured by the barrel,
we're burning more and more. In Britain, for instance, transportation needs have
doubled in volume since 1973 and still rely almost entirely on oil. Transportation
is the weak link in any modern economy; choke off the oil and a country quickly
This wouldn't matter much, Fleming laments, "If the world had spent the
last 25 years urgently preparing alternative energies, conservation technologies,
and patterns of land use with a much lower dependence on transport." (He
figures 25 years to be the time it will take a country like Britain to break
its habit.) Instead, "the long-expected shock finds us unprepared."
SOME UK FOOD STATISTICS
UK food supply chain
UK food retailing market was worth £103,800 million in 2001
Food manufacturing is the single-largest manufacturing industry in the UK
Food supply chain employs 12.5% of the entire workforce in the UK
Food supply chain contributes 8% to the UK economy
Food and drink accounts for 21% of weekly household expenditure
Food supply chain and unsustainability
Food supply chain is the largest energy user in the UK
Food production and distribution contributes up to 22% of the UK's total greenhouse
Food travels further than any other product - 129 km compared to the average
product travel of 94 km
Wages in the food industry are notoriously low compared to other sectors
Nearly 30% of household waste is food waste
Proximity and localisation of food system would be beneficial.
The contemporary food system is inherently unsustainable.
Indicators of social, environmental and economic performance, such as food security,
greenhouse gas emissions, food miles, farm income and biodiversity highlight
this fact. This process could be reversed by re-establishing local and regional
food supply systems and substituting 'near for far' in production and distribution
systems. This would reduce both the demand for, and the environmental burdens
associated with, transportation.
The proximity principle is a straightforward concept in Eating Oil, where production
processes are located as near to the consumer as possible. When applied to food
supply, local food systems in the form of home-delivery box schemes, farmers'
markets and shops selling local produce would replace imported and centrally
Taking UK food supply and trade at present, there is great potential to apply
the proximity principle, in the form of import substitution. Apart from products
such as bananas, coffee and tea, many of the foodstuffs that are imported at
present could be produced in Britain. Many meat products, cereals, dairy products
and cooking oils are - or could be - available here throughout the year. So could
fruit and vegetables, perhaps the most seasonal of food groups, through a combination
of cultivating different varieties and traditional and modern storage and preservation
The land currently used to produce food that is exported could be used to increase
There is growing evidence of environmental benefits of local sourcing of food
in terms of reduced transport-related environmental impact. In the case of organic
produce, a survey of retailers compared local and global sourcing of produce
marketed in different outlets between June and August 2001. Products were chosen
that were available in the UK during these months but are at present imported
by the multiple retailers. These included spring onions imported by plane from
Mexico, potatoes imported by road from Sicily, onions imported by ship from New
Zealand. It was found that local sourcing through a farmers market, for example,
would therefore reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with distribution
by a factor of 650 in the case of a farmers' market and more for box schemes
and farm shop sales (16).
The value of UK food, feed and drink imports in 1999 was over £17 billion.
It is clear that a reduction in food imports through import substitution would
not only be of benefit to the UK economy as a whole but could also be a major
driver in rural regeneration as farm incomes would increase substantially. Local
food systems also have great potential to reduce the damaging environmental effects
of the current food supply system.
A sustainable food system cannot rely, almost completely, on one finite energy
source; an energy source which causes enormous levels of pollution during its
production, distribution and use. Although food supplies in wealthy countries
such as the UK appear to be secure and choice, in terms of thousands of food
products being available at supermarkets, seems limitless, this is an illusion.
The vulnerability of our food system to sudden changes was demonstrated during
the fuel crisis in 2001. A sharp increase in the price of oil or a reduction
in oil supplies could present a far more serious threat to food security and
is likely to as oil enters its depletion phase. Food production and distribution,
as they are organised today, would not be able to function. Moreover, the alternatives,
in the form of sustainable agriculture and local food supplies, which minimise
the use of crude oil, are currently unable to respond to increased demand due
to low investment and capacity.
The food system is now a significant contributor to climate change. Reducing
the carbon dioxide emissions from food production, processing and distribution
by minimising the distance between producer and consumer should be a critical
part of any strategy to mitigate global warming.
There are many benefits to organic farming, including reduced fossil fuel energy
consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. However, these are often overshadowed
by the environmental damage of long distance transport. Organic products that
are transported long distances, particularly when distribution is by plane, are
almost as damaging as their conventional air freighted counterparts. Highly processed
and packaged organic foodstuffs have an added adverse environmental impact.
The priority must be the development of local and regional food systems, preferably
organically based, in which a large percentage of demand is met within the locality
or region. This approach, combined with fair trade, will ensure secure food supplies,
minimise fossil fuel consumption and reduce the vulnerability associated with
a dependency on food exports (as well as imports). Localising the food system
will require significant diversification, research, investment and support that
have, so far, not been forthcoming. But it is achievable and we have little choice.
Compiled by Norman Church
April 2nd, 2005
The biggest problem I feel is not the actual demise of fossil fuels, like Peak
Oil, but that all that all our systems, finance, communications and power (electric)
depend on, and interrelate and depend either directly or indirectly to each other.
Obviously from this point oil is a major supplier of not only power but many
other products. It is this, an obviously food as a main concern, that must be
understood. I also think that in understanding this then people may be more able
to understand what is being said about Peak Oil.
I wonder if those that seem to accept the Peak Oil problems, or more so the fossil
fuel problem, see the effects that it will have and that it may well even now
be too late to do anything much to mitigate its coming effect on society.
I am starting work on another similar article that expands on my earlier article
'Domino Effect and Interdependencies' which can be found at: http://www.powerswitch.org.uk/portal/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=452
I feel that it will be this that will ultimately bring us all down, as the amount
of oil decreases and the price increases.
It is this systems dependence which is not clearly understood or appreciated.
This also includes the relationship between Peak Oil and global earth change
situations like global warming, soil erosion, higher sea levels, water depletion
and deforestation to name a few. They are all interrelated.
1. Green, B. M., 1978. Eating Oil - Energy Use in Food Production. Westview Press,
Boulder, CO. 1978.
2. Andersson, K. Ohlsson, P and Olsson, P. 1996, Life Cycle Assessment of Tomato
Ketchup. The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, Gothenburg.
3. Cowell, S., and R. Clift., 1996. Farming for the future: an environmental
perspective. Paper presented at the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth,
July 1996,CES, University of Surrey.
4. Data for shipping and airfreight from Guidelines for company reporting on
greenhouse gas emissions. Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions:
London, March 2001. Data for trucks is based on Whitelegg, J., 1993. Transport
for a sustainable future: the case for Europe. Belhaven Press, London; and Gover,
M. P., 1994. UK petrol and diesel demand: energy and emission effects of a switch
to diesel. Report for the Department of Trade and Industry, HMSO, London.
5. BRE, 1998. Building a sustainable future. General information report 53, energy
efficiency best practice programme, Building Research Establishment, Garston,
6. Caroline Lucas, 2001. Stopping the Great Food Swap - Relocalising Europe's
food supply. Green Party, 2001.
7. 21 Lobstein, T, and Hoskins, R, The Perfect Pinta. Food Facts No. 2. The SAFE
8. FAO, 2001. Food Balance Database. 2001. Food and Agriculture Organisation,
Rome at www.fao.org
9. Colin J. Campbell, 1997. The Coming Oil Crisis. Multi- Science Publishing
10. Green Party USA, 2001. World crude oil reserves - Statistical information.
Based on data from the Oil and Gas Journal and the Energy Information Agency.
11. Medea: European Agency for International Information, 2001. Oil Reserves.
at - http://www.medea.be/en/ 11 David Fleming, 2001. The Great Oil Denial. Submission
to the UK Energy Review. At
12. EIA, 2001. World Oil Market and Oil Price Chronologies: 1970 - 2000. Department
of Energy's Office of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Analysis Division, Energy
Information Administration, Department of the Environment, USA, at www.eia.doe.gov
13. Energy use in organic farming systems ADAS Consulting for MAFF, Project OF0182,
DEFRA, London, 2001.
14. Natasha Walter, 2001. When will we get the revolution. The Independent 19th
15. Based on data on sourcing from UKROFS and a survey of supermarket stores
during June - August 2001; distance tables for air miles at www.indo.com/cgi-bin/dist
and the environmental impact of airfreight in Guidelines for company reporting
on greenhouse gas emissions. Department of the Environment, Transport and the
Regions, London, March 2001.
16. Data for shipping and airfreight from Guidelines for company reporting on
greenhouse gas emissions. Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions:
London, March 2001. Data for trucks is based on Whitelegg, J., 1993. Transport
for a sustainable future: the case for Europe. Belhaven Press, London; and Gover,
M. P., 1994. UK petrol and diesel demand: energy and emission effects of a switch
to diesel. Report for the Department of Trade and Industry, HMSO, London. Data
for cars from the Vehicle Certification Agency at www.vca.gov.uk; Whitelegg,
J., 1993. Transport for a sustainable future: the case for Europe. Belhaven Press,
London; and Gover, M. P., 1994. UK petrol and diesel demand: energy and emission
effects of a switch to diesel. Report for the Department of Trade and Industry,
17. RCEP, 2000. Energy - The Changing Climate. The Royal Commission on Environmental
Pollution, Twenty-second Report, June 2000, HMSO, London.
18. DETR, 2001. The draft UK climate change programme. DETR, 2001. HMSO, London.
19. USDOE, 2001.World Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption and Flaring
of Fossil Fuels, 1980-1999. US Department of the Environment at http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/international