Energy and Industrialized Agriculture Essay

1599 Words 7 Pages
Agricultural practices throughout the ages have evolved dramatically. Having started off as simple pastoral management and shifting cultivation, these methods have been altered substantially in the name of “progress”, primarily in the US and other industrialized nations. Through this progression the energy inputs and outputs has been drastically altered. The industrialized food system as we know it is much more complex today than the simple agricultural practices used thousands of years ago. Today, the industrialized agricultural system is dependent on extraordinary amounts of fossil fuel inputs in order to maintain its complexity. Energy is needed for growing, processing, packaging, distributing, preparing and disposing of food. With the …show more content…
These factors account for the calculation that on average each person in the US consumes 400 gallons of oil equivalent each year. [4] Most of this energy is used for the production of fertilizers which are necessary for the high yielding crops we have grown accustom to. Fertilizer is produced using the Haber-Bosch process which uses methane from natural gas in order to complete nitrogen fixation from the atmosphere.
Another source of this petroleum use on a smaller scale is for the production of pesticides. The crops being grown, like corn and soybeans, are monoculture which are typically more prone to insect infestation and therefore covered in energy-intensive pesticides. Most pesticides are derived from ethylene and propylene, which are obtained by catalytic cracking of crude petroleum oils, or from methane from natural gas.
These crops are being grown in large part to continue the energy-inefficiency of our industrial food system. Energy on Earth is almost entirely derived from the sun. Plants are able to absorb this energy, and through photosynthesis, convert it into energy that is useful to other living organisms on Earth. Western culture has distorted this simple process and created a much more complex way of consuming this energy.
Monoculture crops, like corn, are being produced on very large scales, however the energy absorbed by these autotrophs aren’t what is being served on our plates. Typically this energy is transported…