Monday, March 27, 2006
My Saudi Arabian breakfast
by Chad Heeter, from Tomdispatch.com, posted on Energy Bulletin.
For decades, scientists have calculated how much fossil fuel goes into our food by measuring the amount of energy consumed in growing, packing, shipping, consuming, and finally disposing of it. The "caloric input" of fossil fuel is then compared to the energy available in the edible product, the "caloric output."
What they've discovered is astonishing. According to researchers at the University of Michigan's Center for Sustainable Agriculture, an average of over seven calories of fossil fuel is burned up for every calorie of energy we get from our food. This means that in eating my 400 calorie breakfast, I will, in effect, have "consumed" 2,800 calories of fossil-fuel energy. (Some researchers claim the ratio to be as high as ten to one.)
But this is only an average. My cup of coffee gives me only a few calories of energy, but to process just one pound of coffee requires over 8,000 calories of fossil-fuel energy -- the equivalent energy found in nearly a quart of crude oil, 30 cubic feet of natural gas, or around two and a half pounds of coal.
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