Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Coming to a Yard Near You

The average plate of food travels over 1500 miles to get from the field to your plate. In the process it consumes copious amount of fossil fuels and ends up less than fresh the day it lands on your grocery store shelf.

What if there was a way to bring the growing of fresh fruits and vegetables closer to home? What if we were to take the dramatic step of moving the fields right into our own neighborhoods?

Consider Neighborhood Supported Agriculture.

By converting a small portion of the millions of acres of Kentucky Bluegrass that surround our homes with organic vegetable gardens and orchards we have the opportunity to greatly reduce our dependence on the fossil fuels required to plant, fertilize, harvest, process, pack and transport our food.

In Boulder, Colorado an innovative Neighborhood Supported Agriculture model is bringing local food production and distribution into urban settings. A 3 ½ year old urban farming project called Community Roots Farm was created by farmer Kipp Nash, who has successfully converted 13 front and back yards, and church lawns into vegetable gardens for neighbors and CSA shareholders, with surplus for the local Farmer’s Market and food for families in need - while creating increased community connections among neighbors at the same time.

This model which is being studied in order to help replicate it across the nation is at the forefront of the urban agriculture or locavore movement.

As the economic contraction continues and the cost of oil begin to go up again, the ability to eat locally produced organic food may become one of the most important aspects of sustainability.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Downside of Ecomomic Growth

With all the talk these days around increasing the flow of money, what would happen if our banks really did start lending in a big way next week?

The stalled economic engine of our country would begin rolling again, we would see a surge in loans to the construction industry, increases in production and (hopefully) sales of autos, large and small manufacturing, people would be called back to work and everything would be great again.

Well... there is one not-so-small problem with that scenario.

For those who have been following the roller coaster ride in the energy industry, you already know how close our current supply and demand is. Since the global economy started to significantly slow last fall, we have reduced our global consumption of oil by over 3 million barrels per day (bpd), to about 83 million bpd. This is about 2.4 million bpd less than in 2008 and the lowest level since 2004. A real reduction, but nothing like the collapse in demand we have been hearing about. On top of that the work to secure both additional sources of oil and investment in alternatives has almost come to a standstill. Billions of dollars of new projects have been delayed or cancelled completely and the oil services industry, those companies actually doing the exploration and drilling, has cut back almost 50% since last year.
According to the Rig Count industry website who follows the changing number of active oil and natural gas rigs:

The year-over-year oil exploration in the US is down 42.3 percent. Gas exploration is down 48.0 percent.
So if our economy begins to ramp up again it will not take long for our demand to outpace our supply. When that happens prices go up. Oil has already risen from a low of $35 per barrel to the low $50's while demand has been low. This cycle of economic activity causing higher energy prices is a relationship we have not seen in the past.

We simply do not have the option to just re-start our economy in the same fashion we have been doing for the past 100 years. We are being forced to re-structure our economy to be more resilient to these supply constraints while increasing our local self-sufficiency. This will result in reducing our dependence on massive amounts of energy from faraway countries in order to bring us our food, to heat our homes, and to manufacture the items we truly need for a high standard of living.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Future of the Auto Industry

As the administration looks for ways to help out the failing auto industry, I agree with Mr. Wipple quoted below, that this is the time to take an "out-of-the-box" look at the situation to see what makes the most sense as we move forward.

- Zev

The Peak Oil Crisis: Seize the Moment
by Tom Whipple
Earlier this week the Obama administration, now the effective owner of the U.S. automobile industry, put Detroit on notice that it has 30-60 days to come up with a believable plan to "restructure" itself or it goes into bankruptcy.
This action makes it a good time to step back and ponder just where America's industrial base is going. With $2 gasoline and some incentives, recession-wracked American consumers seem willing and able to absorb another 8 or 9 million new gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks this year --- but does this make any sense? The "restructuring" plan seems to be one of trimming overhead, shutting some factories, abrogating labor agreements, and stiffing shareholders, bondholders and debtors to the point where the manufacturers might be able to limp along with a minimal infusion of taxpayer dollars.
This plan might be fine except for one glaring fallacy. In the next few years, oil prices are going up so high that ownership and use of the automobiles and trucks in their present form will be a totally uneconomic proposition. How many of the current flavor of cars and trucks is Detroit going to sell with gasoline at $10 a gallon or higher?
full story