What is in this article?:
- Solving energy problems key to agriculture‚Äôs future
- Problems need to be solved
- Supplies hard to reach
• A key to solving energy problems and invigorating agriculture in the U.S. and worldwide is to invest billions, not millions, into meaningful research efforts that could change the very fiber of energy production and consumption worldwide.
GALE BUCHANAN, former Dean of Agriculture at Auburn University discusses energy with current AU Dean Bill Batchelor.
Supplies hard to reach
• Not only has the discovery of oil peaked, but remaining supplies are located in hard to get to places. Future oil won’t come nearly as easily as puncturing a hole in the Earth’s surface and capturing oil as it spews from the ground.
• This oil in hard to find places will require much more water and energy to capture and process. Oil in shale or tied up in tar sands will be difficult to extract and expensive to get in a usable form.
• All forms of natural energy are finite. “Think of it terms of your bank account — you have to write bigger and bigger checks, but you can’t add any money to your account,” Buchanan explains.
Buchanan’s facts are hard to dispute, though he admits there are many who do. The bigger question, he says, is what do these facts mean?
“For my generation and probably for my children’s generation, these facts don’t mean much in terms of our everyday life. Certainly, our current supply of oil and coal will be abundant in my lifetime and likely throughout much or all of my children’s lifetime,” he says.
Future generations are another story entirely, he adds. “We are spending the energy inheritance of future generations at a frightening rate,” Buchanan says.
He contends world political leaders and business leaders don’t seem to be looking at the obvious answers. “We spend money for energy in the trillions of dollars, yet we invest in finding new and sustainable energy sources in millions of dollars,” Buchanan says.
“To meet the challenges of energy, which directly impacts on our ability to produce food for a growing world population, and to preserve a finite supply of water, we must invest more heavily in finding more sustainable and affordable energy sources,” he adds.
Highly respected organizations, like the New York Times, publish stories and produce white papers about the plentiful supply of coal and natural gas and of new discoveries of oil supplies. They paint a very rosy picture of our current energy supply, leading many people in powerful places to use the old adage — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, Buchanan says.
“I’ve never liked that phrase — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I contend, if it ain’t broke, use the time it’s fixed to make it better. Making energy better is going to be critical to the future of world agriculture and to the people of world. “Fossil fuel has given us the time we as a planet needed to fix our energy problem. So far the attempts to fix energy haven’t worked, and in fact have probably done just the opposite.
“Stimulating the use of alternative energy with federal dollars is wonderful for the folks receiving those dollars, but it hardly addresses the problem. The development of competitive alternative fuels, with the emphasis on competitive, people will use them,” he says.
“Focusing research on developing competitive, affordable alternative biofuels is what we should be doing and this is not what we have been doing.”