By Miguel Ángel Llana
Energy is the most sensitive component on which the production system is mounted, including the agricultural one. Nothing is conceived without their participation being absolutely essential, and even fossil energy is used as a raw material to obtain products derived from oil and gas.
"The waste of energy and raw materials, herald the end of the industrial and agricultural revolution"
The knowledge of science and technology, together with the use of enormous amounts of raw materials and energy, opened a new social and economic era for a few countries. The resources of the colonies, the growth of the cities - of their suburbs - and an abundant and cheap labor force were the necessary complement. The social aspects of labor exploitation, which exceeded the imaginable, is better known, on the other hand, raw materials and energy products, have not been sufficiently related to the process.
The steam engine, the internal combustion engine and the electric motor provide the force - the energy - to carry out the necessary transformations and work; transportation of raw materials, goods produced and the workers themselves. The point is that all of this is based mainly - and increasingly - on the import of these raw materials and the necessary energy. The so-called industrial countries have long since exhausted their resources and have been depending on suppliers for years, which are precisely the third world countries, the so-called underdeveloped countries, which are - and must continue to be - to maintain "our" development.
Energy is the most sensitive component on which the production system is mounted, including the agricultural one. Nothing is conceived without their participation being absolutely essential, and even fossil energy is also used as a raw material to obtain a large quantity of products derived from oil and gas. The agricultural revolution that originates with the mechanization of crops; sowing, harvesting and storage, uses oil and gas to obtain fertilizers and pesticides, without which agriculture could not survive.
This "revolution", dependent on oil and gas, is heading for an imminent decline linked to shortages and the depletion of the fields, which have been the savings generated, for millions of years, by photosynthesis. Neither biodiesel nor biomass can be energy substitutes, since the photosynthesis that originates them is limited, and will have to be used, primarily, as substitutes for current fertilizers and current agricultural mechanization.
The increase in energy consumption -energy inefficiency- is greater than economic growth and even worse in agriculture, since intensive crops reduce aquifers, deplete nutrients, increase pests, which translates into higher consumption of fertilizers and pesticides , for a decreasing yield per hectare.
In intensive agriculture, to obtain a calorie it is necessary to consume something more, and in some vegetables, transported thousands of kilometers, much more.
If we talk about animal protein, for each calorie obtained, we need five to ten calories; according to which animals, growth and fattening. In other words, we have to spend five to ten units of oil or gas, to get only one.
The reasonable and immediate objective should be a drastic reduction in energy consumption. Alternative sources can only replace a small part of current consumption. Transportation of hundreds or thousands of kilometers of any merchandise is an energy nonsense, and the same as the other massive uses of energy, which should be limited and optimized. The great revolution that is coming will be to begin to skimp on its use and to give it the value that it has and is, a very scarce good.
There is talk of the beginning of the energy crisis for this same decade, or at most, in a few more years. This will at least end the policies of flight forward and unsustainable quantitative growth. We may not live better that way, but surely we will. It will be the end of blood for oil and the clash of civilizations or the North-South clash. www.EcoPortal.net
* Miguel Ángel Llana engineer and graduate in Business