The next time you’re strolling the aisles of your local grocery store, consider the crucial role of fossil fuels in providing our food.
As the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports, “The U.S. agriculture industry used nearly 800 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy in 2012, or about as much primary energy as the entire state of Utah.”
Agricultural energy consumption includes both direct and indirect energy consumption. Direct energy consumption includes the use of diesel, electricity, propane, natural gas, and renewable fuels for activities on the farm. Indirect energy consumption includes the use of fuel and feedstock (especially natural gas) in the manufacturing of agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.
Energy makes up a significant part of operating expenditures for most crops, especially when considering indirect energy expenditures on fertilizer, because the production of fertilizer is extremely energy-intensive, requiring large amounts of natural gas. For some crops like oats, corn, wheat, and barley, energy and fertilizer expenditures combined make up more than half of total operating expenses.
Far from threatening human life and well-being, as environmentalists and their sympathizers allege, fossil fuels make possible the mass production of goods and services—including food and the delivery thereof—that people need in order to live and prosper in a modern, industrialized society.
As we enter the season of Thanksgiving, remember to thank the energy producers without whom most of the food we buy simply would not exist.