Monday, January 19, 2009

Eating Oil

There is a constant discussion about saving energy by buying and driving fuel efficient cars or using public transportation, but changing how we eat can have as much impact on fossil fuel use as what we drive or ride to work. About 19% of the fossil fuels used in this country go into food production which is about the same amount that we use in our cars. A recently published study by David Pimentel, a professor at Cornell, who has been doing research for years about the link between food production and oil, describes how food production energy needs could be cut in half.

The good thing is that by changing the way and what we eat, we can not only reduce our use of fossil fuels but be healthier to boot. Eating smart would be the same as taking half the cars off the road.

For example, the researchers recommend:
  • Eat less and cut down on junk food: To produce the typical American diet requires the equivalent of about 500 gallons of oil per year per person, says the study. Americans, on average, consume about 50 percent more calories than recommended by the federal government for optimal health and get one-third of their calories from junk food. Eating less and cutting down on junk food would use significantly less energy, considering all the processing, packaging and transportation costs saved.
  • Eat less meat and dairy: We use 45 million tons of plant protein to produce 7.5 million tons of animal protein per year, according to Pimentel. Switching to a vegetarian diet, he says, would require one-third less fossil fuel than producing the current animal-based American diet.
  • Eat more locally grown food: Food travels an average of 1,500 miles before it is eaten. "This requires 1.4 times the energy than the energy in the food," Pimentel said. A head of iceberg lettuce, for example, which is 95 percent water, provides 110 calories and few nutrients. Irrigating the lettuce in California takes 750 calories of fossil energy and shipping it to New York another 4,000 calories of energy per head, according to the analysis. Locally grown cabbage, on the other hand, requires only 400 calories to produce and offers far more nutrients, not to mention it can be stored all winter long.
  • Use more traditional farming methods: Pimentel's team also shows how using methods to reduce soil erosion, irrigation and pesticide use, through such things as crop rotation, manure and cover crops, could cut the total energy now used in crop production.
It's basically a no brainer!

h/t La Vida Locavore

No comments: