On average about 40 years is required to bring a newly found and drilled oil field to reach peak production. After the rate of oil extracted from the deposit has reached its maximum flow, the volume of oil that can be retrieved from the field drops year after year. The graph below shows the amount of oil discovered each(bar chart) and the volume of oil pumped from the ground each year (smooth curve). Based on historical trends scientists have found a way to predict how much oil will be discovered in the future.
The amount of fuel energy required to transport produce has risen many fold over the past 90 years. In 1920 one unit of energy burned on the farm produced three units of caloric value in the corresponding harvest. Food grown on a 1920 farm tended to be eaten within a few miles or at the resident farm house. Fast forward to 2010, we now burn one calorie of fuel for every calorie the farm produces. Add to that the cost of shipping produce from California to North Carolina. After refrigerated transportation energy requirements are included, seven units of petroleum based energy are used to produce one unit of food energy.
If the graph above accurately depicts oil’s supply and demand, we have entered the peak. Despite some unpredictable variations, gasoline and diesel prices are guaranteed to rise. The question is not if, but when.
We can address the problem preemptively or wait until economics dictate the time for a solution.
In 1990 when the USSR dissolved, Cuba was abruptly left without its key trading partner. Overnight it experienced peak oil and had to adapt quickly. Almost overnight Cubans went from a diet of 3000 calories to 2000. The average Cuban lost 20 pounds of body weight by 1993. Looking to solve their unexpected food crisis, the country had to relearn how to grow its own food with little oil input. By 1998, the Cubans were gaining weight again.
So what do we do now? In North Carolina, it is possible to grow greens all winter long with minimal resources. It is time we start growing more of our own food in our backyards. It is time to begin supporting our local farmer. It takes years to learn how to farm and garden well. It takes longer to move a small farm into full production. We can start now and go through the growing pains in the comfort of a multi-year buffer. Or we can re-experience what happened to Cuba and realize the urgency sensed on an empty stomach.
If you want to deliberately support the sustainable food movement in North Carolina, you might want to consider using Leading Green Distributing to help partner local farms with your home, grocer or restaurant.
"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." ~Mahatma Gandhi