Peak Oil is Here: Ag Alarms are Sounding

oil-derrickAccording to a widely respected energy blog, The Oil Drum, the long-prophesied phenomenon termed Peak Oil has already happened. It happened about a year ago, in mid-2008 at 81.73 million barrels of oil per day,

If The Oil Drum is correct, and there are lots of reasons to assume it is, then that means oil production declines from here on out, supply tightens and cost goes up

No doubt there will continue to be disagreements about the exact date of Peak Oil, but the posters at The Oil Drum are learned nerds and have earned a wide measure of respect in both business and academic realms. If they are off in their reckoning, they are likely not off by much.

combineThe reality of declining oil supplies has – and will have – profound consequences for the small percentage of people who grow food, as well as for 100 percent of the people who eat food. The industrial agriculture system which now supplies the vast majority of our food depends absolutely on gas and oil not only to power the heavy equipment in the fields and the trucks used to ship it, but also for the production of petrochemical-based fertilizers and pesticides.

Changes in the cost of the raw material – oil – mean changes in the capacity of industrial farms to purchase and employ these fundamentally polluting materials. And that will mean changes for food cost, already a crisis according to Time Magazine, and for food supply in the years ahead.

Many householders, neighborhoods, urban and suburban communities already sense this change along with the reality of a recession in full swing and a fundamental shift in base of national and global economics. According to a recent story from the Associated Press, they are responding in droves.

AP reported that industry surveys show double-digit growth in the number of home gardeners this year and mail-order companies report such a tremendous demand that some have already run out of seeds for basic vegetables such as onions, tomatoes and peppers.

“People’s home grocery budget got absolutely shredded and now we’ve seen just this dramatic increase in the demand for our vegetable seeds. We’re selling out,” according to George Ball of Burpee Seeds, the largest mail-order seed company in the U.S. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

A new report by the National Gardening Association predicts a 19 percent increase in home gardening in 2009, based on spring seed sales data and a telephone survey. Community gardens nationwide are also seeing a surge of interest.

The Links page of this blog offers resources that can be employed now to develop gardens, community farms, and a host of other sustainable, earth-healing responses to Peak Oil, to the call of the wallet, and in general to the call of the land.

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