August 31, 2006

WHEN YOU HAVE SO MUCH FOOD YOU BURN IT FOR FUEL IS YOUR SYSTEM REALLY FRAGILE?:

Will the End of Oil Be the End Of Food? (Jason Mark, August 31, 2006, AlterNet)

In response to alarms about the fragileness of the food system, some farmers are taking initiatives to wean themselves from petroleum and find more sustainable ways of growing food. One of the most popular approaches is biofuels. For farmers, it's a solution to high oil prices that makes intuitive sense, as it raises the possibility of growers cultivating their own fuel, just as most farmers did a century ago when they harvested oats to feed their horse teams.

Phil Foster is one farmer who has made a commitment to reducing his farm's reliance on fossil fuels. A prominent California organic fruit and vegetable grower who is a supplier to Whole Foods, Foster runs nearly all of the trucks and tractors on his 250-acre farm on B100-pure biodiesel. The remainder of his machines -- older tractors with more finicky engines -- operate on B30, which is a blend of biodiesel and conventional petroleum diesel. At the same time, Foster is trying to reduce the amount of electricity his farm pays for. Several years ago he installed a bank of solar panels to help power his packing shed, refrigerators, irrigation pumps, and sales office. He calculates that the sun provides about 20 percent of his energy.

For Foster, using biodiesel and employing solar technology isn't just an effort to be environmentally correct. It's simply smart business, he says, a way to ensure that his farm will be economically sustainable over the long run.

"It was kind of a no-brainer for me to move in that direction," Foster said. "Especially in a business like ours, customers that buy organic would tend to like their growers to be kind of on the forefront. As a business that wants to think about longevity, I want to know how we can position ourselves."

Organic growers aren't the only ones bullish on the future of biofuels. Large, conventional grain farmers are also looking at biofuels as a way to reduce their costs, and many corn growers are hoping to make money by selling their surplus harvest to ethanol processors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 31, 2006 8:12 AM
Comments

Bio-diesel is the trendy alternative to fossil fuels that will help us win our energy independence right now, but it will be interesting to see consumers' rections the first time there's a summer drought in a couple of key midestern states, and the price of both diesel and consumable corn-based products goes up as the two industries battle over the temporarrily limted supply.

Posted by: John at August 31, 2006 9:18 AM

"Fragileness"? Has "fragility" really been removed from the language? Seeing terms like this (or the equally annoying "agreeance") might make me reconsider the proposition that lefties really are the best and smartest among us.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at August 31, 2006 10:41 AM

I can't express my agreementude strongly enough.

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2006 11:35 AM
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