Opinion: David Chaston looks at whether the global food supply can feed 7 billion people. Your view?

Opinion: David Chaston looks at whether the global food supply can feed 7 billion people. Your view?

By David Chaston

The genuinely big news in the last week has been that the world's population has now pushed on up through seven billion people.

It has only taken 12 years to add the last billion, although the rate of increase is slowing and it is now expected that it will take 16 years to add the next billion.

Food supply will be challenged to keep up.

But it does seem to be keeping up - the levels of malnutrition and hunger are at their lowest levels in both relative terms ever, and the surprising thing is that they are at their lowest levels in absolute terms as well. The actual numbers show there are now about as many hungry people today as there were in 1969 when the population was less than 4 billion.

It is a monumental achievement.

It has been done at the same time we have seen dramatic improvements in living standards in Asia - both east Asia and south Asia - lower levels of hunger and malnutrition, and at the same time living standards have risen world wide.

Hunger and malnutrition rarer and real news now

And a decade ago the big worry was Africa. However rapid economic growth there has raised living standards for millions in Africa as well.

Hunger and malnutrition are real news now, precisely because outbreaks are much rarer, and we tolerate them much less. And as the FAO reports point out, it is politics and disorganisation that are now the big drivers of regional problems.

All this is in stark contrast to the 1962 predictions kicked off by Rachel Carson and the ideas in her book Silent Spring. What is surprising is how many of the warnings of the early environmental movement have failed to materialise.

A whole generation - in fact more than one generation - grew up accepting these predictions (and I was one - I was introduced to these ideas in my MBA classes by enthusiastic teachers and was won over by the compelling arguments). But two generations have passed since then and the Malthusian warnings have (so far) proven to be wildly wrong. Perhaps the actual and positive outcomes explain why people of my Baby Boomer generation are so sceptical of the religious enthusiasm of todays sirens - in the 1970's we heard, we believed, but the prophecy was false, so we are now sceptics when we hear the 'new' (= very similar) updated prophecy.

The challenge to keep the food supply growing is not a new one - it is one that has been largely met over the past two generations - and there will always be valid questions about whether it will keep up in the future.

Despite the recent GFC price rises, food prices have more than halved since 1961, only gaining back a relatively small portion in the past few years. It is this latest recovery, however, that is fueling the massive rise in food output.

GE drives rise in production

The immediate prospects look satisfactory, mainly because the world is embracing genetically modified crops. A few western countries have turned their backs on the technology, but countries that have adopted it are seeing significant double-digit rises in production. It is this output that is feeding the millions of new citizens and allowing them to raise their living standards.

2012 crop outputs for corn, wheat and soybean look like they will come in at all-time records. Brazil, Australia, the US, and Europe all appear to be headed for record-breaking seasons for grain output.

It is interesting that the really big increases in food production are coming from cereal crops rather than livestock or fish. (Perhaps the future is vegetarian.)

For New Zealand, there is obviously a 'GE-free' market niche. But it does mean our output will always be aimed at small sectors in rich western middle-class markets, and our output won't have any significant impact in meeting the global challenges of food supply and rising living standards. That responsibility falls to others who will do the real heavy lifting in research and production.

New Zealand is a spectator in this mammoth and globally important task.

What number are you? The BBC has a nifty calculator that tells you what number in the 7 billion you are.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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World Population

From now until the middle of the 21st century, in only fifty years, the world's population will increase by 50% from 6 billion at the end of 1999 to close to 9 billion in 2050.

October 12, 1999 has been chosen as the official date marking the advent of a planet with 6 billion inhabitants. This historic milestone serves as a reminder that the rate of population growth has varied widely down the centuries. Two thousand years ago, only about 300 million people lived on Earth. The world population grew rather slowly, taking 1,500 years to double. From 1750 onward, however, the rate began to accelerate, doubling to 1.7 billion in a mere 150 years. A decline in the mortality rate, coupled with scientific and technical progress, was responsible for this spectacular growth.

Population growth has continued to accelerate since the turn of the century. In 1950, the world had 2.5 billion inhabitants; on the eve of the third millenium there are 6 billion, with most of the new births occurring in developing countries.

The world's population continues to increase. Nevertheless, we are living at the end of the fastest growth period of human demographics. Between 1995 and 2000, the growth rate was 78 million people per year; less than predicted a few years ago but the equivalent of a new China in 15 years nonetheless.

The growth rate is slowing down. Between 2015 and 2020 the annual growth rate will decrease to 64 million and then to 30 million by 2045-2050. In 2050, the Earth will be inhabited by 8.9 billion humans. A much slower growth rate is predicted after this time even though the possibility remains that the world's population will continue to grow to one day reach 10 billion.

In 2050, Africa and Asia will be home to 20 and 60% of the world's population respectively. Developed nations will have twice as many elderly people as youth and the population of many in between will be in decline.  

http://www.tranquileye.com/clock/ 

In other words, population is growing, arable land is shrinking.  There is an equilibrium there somewhere, doubt we'll find it.

"arable land is shrinking"

I wouldn't stress over this. In the latest FOA data which covers the period 2000 to 2008, 'arable land' which is land for annual crops shrank by 1.8 million hectares over that 8 year period, a reduction of 0.1% of all arable land in the world. Meanwhile 'permanent crop' land grew by 10.7% in the same period, increasing by 14.2 million hectares, way more than the fall in 'arable land'.

Meanwhile land in pasture fell by almost 70 million hectares, or -2% in those eight years. But when I look at NZ in that data I find NZ had an even bigger fall -22%, due in large part because we locked up really large areas into national park. Agricultural land may be shrinking, but not because of headline environmental reasons.

I think it depends on the size of the middle class, if 2 billion join it then food supply could be streched, however if 2 billion drop out then it wont be an issue.  I remember being in France and the Family had Chickens and Rabbits a big Vegi garden and things like snails.  If we all started living like that then it would be huge adjustment for agriculture.  When we start to think like that then it becomes obvious that the crunch wont be in the food chain as much as the supply chain as energy issues create havoc.

...size of the middle class... you mean the number of people within middle class, or are you refering to the waist size of the middle class? Plenty of space used up on luxuries too, e.g. alchohol, tobacco etc. etc. how many possums, goats, deer go to rot on the N.Z. hillsides alone and all on top of the overweight amongst us. I wouldn't be too worried at this stage..

David

Firstly I'd suggest you reread "Silent Spring" because one of the major predictions of it, falling mammalian fertility, has come true and the raising of conciousness she achieved I believe contributed to the end of the "agent orange" era of mass chemical poisoning of the bioshere for corporate profit.,

I'd also suggest you investigate world food stocks as well as production predictions, a flood here, a drought there can change a lot

Neven

For New Zealand, there is obviously a 'GE-free' market niche. But it does mean our output will always be aimed at small sectors in rich western middle-class markets, and our output won't have any significant impact in meeting the global challenges of food supply and rising living standards. That responsibility falls to others who will do the real heavy lifting in research and production.

I think that could just as easily be written as :- rich, neurotic, middle-class markets

On a board such as this there is little point in labouring the point of the missed opportunity that New Zealand is facing by opting out of developing genetically modified crops that have enhanced features such as increased yield, or drought and disease resistance, but when combined with the Nuclear Free nonsense of the 1980s you begin to see how a segment of this society hobbles the country and deprives it and all of us of opportunities - and you are right, David, it’s also responsibilities -  that effect our collective bottom line. Opportunity and innovation in this country and the sad lack of it reflects very much the choices made by the people. It’s attitudes that need to change here if you want to get back in to the top half of the OECD, not governments.

But when you have a society that is largely scientifically illiterate and embraces ignorance as a moral good, well...............

So do you think monopolies are a healthy thing? What happens when it is over your food supply?

It's called Monsanto.

Patents on food.

Lawyers.

In the USA small independents are already being sued out of food production.

But don't feel left out, as it's coming to New Zealand with the help of our new Food Bill.  Scarey stuff indeed.

For more information on the new bill, see http://nzfoodsecurity.org/

Want to see something even more scarey - the documentary "The Future of Food".  Like "Food Inc." but it focuses more on the GE side of things ... and patents.

We wanted to buy an olive tree for our edible garden, but didn't because the only suitable strain available, here in little old NZ, was patented.

 

Show me the money

David, upcoming worldwide accumulating and accelerating negative events, why should we develop megalomaniac attitudes to be in the top half of the OECD ?  New Zealand a small, remote nation highly in debt - how can we and why should we possibly compete on that scale ?

Opportunity and innovation – the success in this country needs to be based on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQqDS9wGsxQ

 Think small, but with big ideas. http://www.postcarbon.org/article/560652-small-thinking-about-small-busi...

GE-free, organic... and then there's the little word no-one likes..... 'local' .

Like all of that...

regards

The rapid rises in population all come down to borrowing from the bank and I would suggest it is not sustainable.

All previous civilasations have eventualy depleted their natural resources and disintegrated because of it. So it is a historic pattern of behaviour we can draw on to predict the future.

Wood used to be the paramount resource, for fuel and building, then the industrial revolution came along and coal became the fuel of choice. Twice as dense as wood it permitted production on a scale never seen before, and then late in the 19thC oil, twice as dense again, took over from coal. These fuel sources took millions of years to be banked, and we don't yet have a viable replacement.

The real clincher is the affect that the discovery of nitrogen had on food production, but todays fertilser is sourced from natural gas. Without that nitrogen the worlds population is likely to be limited to two billion.

There is also evidence to show that key agricultural areas are depleting the aquifers upon which the rely.

Hmmm, no fertiliser, no water. I don't think any of your genetic modification can help you with that one.

fair enough. I accept that one day resources like natural gas reserves will run dry. And that the use of natural gas causes significant other issues.

But running out is not likely to be anytime soon. Apparently current provable reserves exceed 60 years at current consumption rates "and rising fast".

In my lifetime, I recall the warnings that they were going to run out by 2000 ...

What happens to the reserves of natural gas when we start using it for transport fuel because the oil has run out?

Same argument for coal. We apparently have 200 years supply here, but I bet that would go in a generation if we started using Fischer Tropsch to convert it to liquid.

Keep very much in mind the demand curve here.

(by the way I have always said the America will survive the economic woes simply because they have good food growing capacity and plenty of natural gas, the aquifer might cause issues though)

The thing is though, scarfie, the nitrogen in the fertiliser (urea) that you refer to doesn't come from the natural gas, does it, it comes from the atmosphere. The natural gas (methane – CH4) is just a source of hydrogen and carbon atoms that are also needed to make the urea (NH2CONH2). I have no doubt that you are fully aware that there are plenty of other sources of hydrogen and carbon atoms on this planet that can also be used instead of natural gas. Natural gas is used because it’s cheap and up until recent times there wasn't much of an alternative use for it.

The natural gas (methane – CH4) is just a source of hydrogen and carbon atoms

Sure. And what provides the large amount of energy required?

Energy required for what??? Energy doesn't create atoms. You don't create nitrogen, or carbon atoms. You need to be clear about what it is you are saying, and then say it.

But when you have a society that is largely scientifically illiterate and embraces ignorance as a moral good, well ...

I think you should front up a bit better than that, Colin, don't you think?

The problem was that I didn't know at what level to respond - your comment suggested that you had managed to pass through school without picking up even basic science.

Anyway, do I have a deal for you. I will provide you with water and carbon dioxide, and you will turn it into the hydrocarbon octane. We will split the revenue from selling the output equally, I'll keep the carbon credits, but you will provide any energy required.

As I've said on this board before, Colin, I have a science background, I have worked as a scientist, and I have a PhD in a science discipline. I'm very comfortable with my knowledge in science and that includes chemistry. And I have to tell you that your comment about water, carbon dioxide and turning that into hydrocarbon octane in the context of this discussion is just bizarre. I can only hope for your sake, given that your name here is public, that you don’t have colleagues or clients reading this! 

I can understand why you prefer to use a pseudonym. Why you are not prepared to name your discipline, the institution that granted your PhD (and the year would make a difference) is less clear.

If you have a science background there is no excuse for you making this statement:

The natural gas (methane – CH4) is just a source of hydrogen and carbon atoms

You correctly spotted the inanity of my statement - it was there as a parallel to your statement on 'methane just being a source of carbon and hydrogen', and in the hope you might join the dots:

your comment about water, carbon dioxide and turning that into hydrocarbon octane in the context of this discussion is just bizarre.

You clearly have no idea of the chemistry of urea manufacture, Colin. I suggest you go off and educate yourself on that before you come in here and make yourself look even more of a fool than you have already to anybody who actually knows.  What's that saying, Colin, when you're in a hole stop digging. Advice you should take on board. If you were with my chemistry colleagues you would be laughed out of the room.

And that’s the last I’m going to say on this subject because I don’t participate here just to indulge your ego.

David says: If you were with my chemistry colleagues you would be laughed out of the room.

Colin, I would say this is extremely cruel – as simple souls like us - to be surrounded from all these “smart arse” people in one room – almost penetrating – to much academic fumes and the aristocratic smells -  Cough syrup please and a bag !  

If anybody wants to skip the urea pissing (ha ha i made a pun) match there's more than anybody ever wanted to know here:

http://nzic.org.nz/ChemProcesses/production/1A.pdf

Wow David you are a star - article written by J. C. Copplestone (Petrochem) and Dr. C. M. Kirk (Taranaki Polytechnic)

with revisions by S. L. Death, N. G. Betteridge and S. M. Fellows (all of Petrochem) and David B. (Smart Arse Agri Gore South)

editing by Heather Wansbrough.

I checked that article (I have read it in the past) before I made my first comment.

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This argument started with Scarfie inferring that without nitrogen fertilisers food production would decrease to a point where the world's population is likely to be limited to 2 billion. Scarfie further stated that todays fertiliser is sourced from natural gas. His question was what happens when natural gas reserves are no longer available for urea production.

Enter David B stating that the nitrogen comes from the atmosphere and that natural gas was not required to make urea as other sources of carbon and hydrogen were available. That is true and a good example is apparent from the link and extract:

www.perdaman.com.au/media/9792/energydigitalarticle.pdf

The Perdaman Collie Urea plant will be a world-scale facility and the first of its kind in Australia -- with high operating efficiencies achieved by using proven, best-in-class technologies.

Fertilisers are essential to meet the needs of an expanding global population and its increased demand for food, says Director (Corporate) Mr Andreas Walewski. India is currently importing five to six million tons of urea annually and this will increase to nine million tons by 2013. Without fertiliser, it's estimated we would only be able to feed 40 per cent of the world population. Of the fertilisers available today, urea is undeniably the most efficient. It is safe, clean, easily transported and economical to manufacture and apply.

COAL GASIFICATION

As natural gas is plentiful in Western Australia, the company initially looked into gas as an energy source for the urea plant, but found it difficult to secure sufficient gas for its future needs at a competitive price over a long period.

We looked at alternatives, says Mr Walewski. This area of the south west is known for coal mining and the local Member of Parliament had started the Coal Futures Group to look at alternative uses for coal other than coal-fired power stations. He sent coal samples to Germany for testing and found they were suitable for gasification.

At the plant, coal will be milled, dried and injected into a gasifier, together with oxygen to affect a partial oxidisation of the coal. The resultant syngas is the building block to produce ammonia. Ammonia is then mixed with carbon dioxide to produce urea.

The point that needs to be made though is that creating plant available forms of nitrogen from atmospheric nitrogen - whether by industrial process or by bacteria - requires energy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process

The Haber process, also called the Haber–Bosch process, is the nitrogen fixation reaction of nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas, over an enriched iron or ruthenium catalyst, which is used to industrially produce ammonia.[1][2][3][4]

Despite the fact that 78.1% of the air we breathe is nitrogen, the gas is relatively unavailable because it is so unreactive: nitrogen molecules are held together by strong triple bonds. It was not until the early 20th century that the Haber process was developed to harness the atmospheric abundance of nitrogen to create ammonia, which can then be oxidized to make the nitrates and nitrites essential for the production of nitrate fertilizer and explosives. Prior to the discovery of the Haber process, ammonia had been difficult to produce on an industrial scale.

The Haber process is important today because the fertilizer generated from ammonia is responsible for sustaining one-third of the Earth's population.[5] It is estimated that half of the protein within human beings is made of nitrogen that was originally fixed by this process, the remainder was produced by nitrogen fixing bacteria and archaea.[6]

And further down the page:

The Haber process now produces 500 million tons (453 billion kilograms) of nitrogen fertilizer per year, mostly in the form of anhydrous ammonia, ammonium nitrate, and urea. 3–5% of world natural gas production is consumed in the Haber process (~1–2% of the world's annual energy supply).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen_fixation

Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) occurs when atmospheric nitrogen is converted to ammonia by an enzyme called nitrogenase.[1] The reaction for BNF is:

N2 + 8 H+ + 8 e− → 2 NH3 + H2

The process is coupled to the hydrolysis of 16 equivalents of ATP and is accompanied by the co-formation of one molecule of H2. In free-living diazotrophs, the nitrogenase-generated ammonium is assimilated into glutamate through the glutamine synthetase/glutamate synthase pathway.

Then we get to the sticking point with David claiming:
The natural gas (methane – CH4) is just a source of hydrogen and carbon atoms that are also needed to make the urea (NH2CONH2)

That rather conflicts with the view of Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers that the natural gas is needed as an energy source:
As natural gas is plentiful in Western Australia, the company initially looked into gas as an energy source for the urea plant,

I asked David where the energy came from, and got this response:
Energy required for what??? Energy doesn't create atoms. You don't create nitrogen, or carbon atoms. You need to be clear about what it is you are saying, and then say it.

So take your pick – David and his colleagues say producing urea doesn't require energy. The chumps producing 2 million tonnes of urea a year at Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers seem to think otherwise, and so do I.

 

"I accept that one day resources like natural gas reserves will run dry."

You speak as though it's the same as with your car, sucking fuel out of the tank, with no loss of performance, until the last drop is gone.  The reality is very different.

As a field ages the rate you can extract the resource decreases.  Even if you stick in many more wells to try and keep the rate of extraction up, it will eventually fall.  This happens long before the resource is empty.

The North Sea gas field peaked around 2000.  With each passing year, on average less and less gas is extracted.  Less and less income for the companies and countries owning the wells.  Less and less gas for use in food production.  Less and less for transport.  Less and less for keeping warm.

Cantarell, the super giant oil field in Mexico, second in size to Ghawar, the world's largest in Saudi Arabia, peaked a few years back.  All downhill from here for that field.  Unfortunately most of the world's oil comes from these few super giants, so when they start decreasing in output it's worth taking note of.

The US peaked in 1970 or there abouts for oil.

In fact presently about two thirds of all oil wells are in decline.

For a very educational and fun way to see these peaks, have a look at the online game called Oiligarchy.

So as long as your ideas on food production don't involve oil and gas, you're fine.  Unfortunately that limits you to organic food and that's more expensive that a lot of people can afford.  Oh oh.

 

wow is all I can say, this from Interest.co.nz....do your research....

a) Shale plays are questionable economically as the collapse quickly.......

b) Its not the running out that hurts, its the we are at peak production and cant get out any more PER day, not the fact we will have some in 2050...

I dont recall anyone saying 2000 was run out, but approx peak oil, it was actually 2006....mot  a bad guess from the 1950s.

regards

"Hmmm, no fertiliser, no water. I don't think any of your genetic modification can help you with that one." ."."

I don't know if it is a paradox or irony but your sentence above are the issues that created the first business case towards scoping out the possibilities of GM.

If we take GM as accelerating a natural selection process (entirely different to GE), then we already know that there are a number of cultivars/species out there that are A. Drought tolerant and B. Thrive in low fertility conditions. Extrapolate this to the nth degree and this will be the world future-proofing itself.

Perhaps, the weakness in the system is that we have narrowed down the gene pool during the industrial revolution, concentrating on yield alone. For instance there were once commonly 7000 apple varieties, how many do you find now? When disease strikes the few that are left then where do we turn?

But yes I did mean GE rather than GM.

I read a book on natural (organic) farming earlier this year. Fascinating read really and it is the way we should be heading. There are far more important things than yield.

spot on scarfie...resilience of the variety stock to potential unforseen threats.

Yeh, but thats what the Doomsday vault is for. What publicly controlled seed banks WERE for until they were dismantled by the mad "free market" apostles.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/02/photogalleries/seedvault-pictures/

Scarfie! Are you serious? You make a very good point regarding the lack of diversity in our gene pools and then you make a ridiculous statement claiming that organics is the way of the future...

Organics put simply is not an option for the future. If we do not strive for increased yield from existing areas then, under an organic regime, we can expect a reduced yield per hectare leading to the need to introduce more land. What land I hear you ask? Rainforests, wetlands, areas of significant natural diversity. That kind of thing.

Organics is a bourgeoisie choice for a starving world...

I thought I knew a lot about organics, but after a bit of reading I knew bugger all. It seems likely that your knowledge might be limited also.

You go ahead and die young buddy, I am going for 120+.

As I said, there are more important things than yield, although yield is still desireable. Plenty of research going into charcoal as a soil additive, but we are behind the knowledge the ancients had there.

 

You may like to advise me why my knowledge is limited? Compared to yours? Because I don't espouse the virtues of the organics movement? Because you really believe that eating organically will make you live longer?

Beware of the lunatic fringe. It really has a way of highlighting those who are not of the brightest disposition...

I have been reading these forums for several years now and posting for about a year. I don't recall your posting here during that time, so I took the view that I don't know you and tempered my statement above with 'might'. However you stroll on in boots and all and imply I might be a lunatic or of not the brightest dispostion. Wow.

But at least I know that by resorting to fallacious statements that my statement is now proven, because by resorting to such tools you demonstrate you are out of ammunition to debate any further rationally.

To imply that organic farmers are not interested in yield is just absurd, and there are many other flaws in your position. 

".....Thrive in low fertility conditions".  It is the fertility bit that our bodies require, thus you might be able to inprove the yield, bt all you are doing is growing food of increasingly poor quality. 

 

Go on then - go run an a proper closed loop organic farm and see how well you do.  Organic farming does not work.  Taking an intelligent look at how to make the system as systainable as possible does but closed loop organic farming doesn't.  And with your Nitrogen argument isnt pastoral agriculture in NZ based on P + S +K to grow clover with rhizobium to fix N which is then cycled back into the system to grow ryegrass. If we got back to these principles (rather than dairying using N out the bag) wouldn't the problem largely (not entirely be reduced).  Once the price of N increases to much farmers will just move down the production curve and the good pastoral clover growers will continue to do well -  but at the moment its still economic to chuck plenty of N at the system and make milk so why not ?

And of course N (urea or similiar) out of the bag isn't the environmental problem - its the cow urine patches  (1000 kg/N/ha equivalent) working out the mitigation strategies for that is the issue.

The real clincher is the affect that the discovery of nitrogen had on food production, but todays fertilser is sourced from natural gas. Without that nitrogen the worlds population is likely to be limited to two billion.

There is also evidence to show that key agricultural areas are depleting the aquifers upon which the rely.

Hmmm, no fertiliser, no water. I don't think any of your genetic modification can help you with that one.

But when you have a society that is largely scientifically illiterate and embraces ignorance as a moral good, well...............

David B. - you make your self such an easy prey again and again - but when you have scientists, who are scientifically arrogant and embrace ignorance as a moral good, well.....

You're like my obsessed stalker on this board, kunst, aren't you?

....love it David - just love it - great response - Kunst - that's me - need a good hiding !!

What like all the property spruikers completely ingnorant of the money supply, I am with you there.

But science has become a let down as it has become corrupted. There was an article or link on interest.co recently that pointed to the probability that 80% of scientific studies are likely wrong.

Ever read Velikovsky? 

But, scarfie, that's not the point or value of science in a situation like this. The point is to be sufficiently knowledgeable and educated about how the physical world around you actually functions so that when the time comes you can make informed decisions about the physical world that have some basis in reality, rather than been based on wishful thinking, superstition, bigotry, political dogma, or fear.

You comment above is, with respect, a cop-out and a defence of ignorance.

This nation will not catch up with Australia when people in this country continue to embrace ignorance over enlightenment. And ignorance sums up the green movement as far as I am concerned.

Actually David if you were familiar with my posts, and my invention, you would be aware I do have some knowledge in the area of gasification, gas to liquids, or more to the point biomass to liquids. The same problems that plague those areas are the same for nitrogen.

The really simply fact is that it hasn't been done on a scale that is in any way hopeful of replacing the high intensity fossil fuels, despite billions having been thrown at the problem by governments around the world. It is at a point where they have lost credibility because of the failures and will struggle to attract finance in the future.

If you really want to talk to an expert in the field, get a hold of Doug Williams from Fluidynenz. Retired now, but has been working in the field for 30+ years.

I’m sorry, scarfie, but you’ve lost me. I don’t see the connection between biomass to liquids with reacting air (contains 70% nitrogen) and hydrogen gas together to produce ammonia, and then reacting that with CO2 to produce urea – all done over catalysts - with methane being the source of the hydrogen and the CO2.

I think I’ll leave it there.

If it was all that easy then why would they be wasting valuable transport fuel to do it now then? Perhaps some knowledge of chemistry and physics might be helpful instead of fantasy.

I’ve already said, scarfie, it’s because natural gas is relatively cheap, and certainly when the urea plant in Taranaki was built by Muldoon’s Think Big, the govt. was trying to find a use for all this gas they had just discovered. For decades natural gas at oil fields was just burnt off as an unwanted product. Of course uses for it now have changed greatly, but it’s still relatively cheap.

What's your invention?

Well, I think thermodynamics is a little beyond most conservatives Scarfie. They're more comfortable in the fairytale world of finance which has only a tenuous connection to reality. Frederick Soddy tried to inform them about the relationship between thermodynamics and the economy back in the 1930s to no avail. Oh well. 

34 Million clinical obese...probably at least ten fold that number that could afford to eat less for their own sake.........so yeah may be a little while before we go scratching about in the dirt for a tasty worm.....

Not that there's anything wrong with that, Megadriles n bugs of all creeps of life are undervalued as a food source.......

 You like almond icing ?...try chocolate coated ants...the tinned ones are the best.

http://www.worldometers.info/obesity/.....ha ! look at the add you first see on your right....now that's what I call cynical.!! 

I take that back ...they changed it....it was a picture of a giant Burger King Burger...

yeah , its not running out of food thats a concern,its running out of drink . Imagine 'peak alcohol'

prehaps steven could give us a lesson on that

ps - whats happened fo powerdownkiwi - has he peaked too ?

"But it does seem to be keeping up - the levels of malnutrition and hunger are at their lowest levels in both relative terms ever,"

Hang on, isn't the portion of children in NZ under the poverty line at at all time high of 1 on 5?

"All this is in stark contrast to the 1962 predictions kicked off by Rachel Carson and the ideas in her book Silent Spring. What is surprising is how many of the warnings of the early environmental movement have failed to materialise."

I would suggest the grren revolution was the reason for that.  ... The most efficient way of transforming crude oil into food yet known.  The green revolution has bought us time - it's not a sustainable solution.

"Despite the recent GFC price rises, food prices have more than halved since 1961"

Yeah, while the QUALITY of food has plummeted.  Actually, the cost of eating the foods we used to eat has actually gone up a lot, speaking personally.

 

I think the author may be confused about who wrote what, when, and what "predictions" were made by those urging us to clean up our air, water and land.

The author said:  "All this is in stark contrast to the 1962 predictions kicked off by Rachel Carson and the ideas in her book Silent Spring. What is surprising is how many of the warnings of the early environmental movement have failed to materialise."

What predictions did Ms. Carson actually make?  She said if DDT use were not restricted, it would breed pest insects that are resistant and immune to the stuff, and she warned that overuse of DDT would mean that DDT would become less useful, or useless, against certain pests.

She was 100% correct, of course.  Sadly, by 1965 the World Health Organization had to abandon its ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria from the world, precisely because overuse of DDT in agriculture had bred mosquitoes that are resistant and immune to DDT.

So, she was right in her predictions.

What did the author think Rachel Carson had predicted?  Has the author actually read Ms. Carson's work?

Odd that anyone would take the occasion of our hitting 7 billion people on the planet to go after environmentalists, who warned us, appropriately, that we need to protect air, water and land, to support a larger population -- like 7 billion. 

Policy makers listened in the '60s and '70s, and we can support our massive human populations because policy makers listened to environmentalists back then.

Carson was right, and we should not forget that:  http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/history-may-15-1963-president...

WATER!

I cannot say it loud enough. Someone please tell how we can get enough usable water to ovecome the food increased need?

Also apparently phosphate is more important than nitrates for plant production and the easily got phosphates are nearly gone. Plenty on the ocean floor but how o get it isthe question.

1000 tonnes of water just to grow 1 tonne of wheat. But don't worry about it all Basel, we can all just keep selling houses to each other and it will be alright.

PDK posted this ages ago (John Fleming interview).

A 'taster' from the Herald. Much better to spend the time with the interview above though....

A use for 'off-peak' electricity maybe - there must be so many....

Apologies if the science has been 'disproved' since.

The trouble is that hydrogen burns twice as hot as gasoline, so it requires stainless steel valves. Where do we get the stainless from in sixteen years, when the chromium supplies run out? Probably less than that if we develop more applications for it.

There are an awful lot of people in a fantasy world, there are currently NO alternatives to fossil fuel. All the promise and theory in the world won't make it so, in the near term anyway.

We need a energy return on energy invested of no worse than 10 to 1......current fossil fuels is 30 to 1.....wind, tide about 12~16 to 1.....hydrogen at best 1 to 1.....its a conversion process to get a transport fuel.....like ethanol its a waste of time.

The "taster" is actually very interesting transitionary tech....ie we keep current cars going while we find something else....(but the odds are not good on that).  Its one of the good hopefuls from what Ive read.....

regards

 

A word in your fuel tank steven.....the geothermal potential beneath us is where we will find the energy...it is a question of financing the development of the deep drilling tech to tap into the hot magma and that is where we will get most of our power requirement from in 100 years....by then the urban gas guzzla will be dead as...the all electric consumer staple vehicle will dominate...diesel will remain as the trucking and rural fuel of choice...

The greater risk is in the idiots in the Beehive, likely to have been demolished by 2112, flooding the islands with immigrants....it is pop stability we need.

Looking at geo-thermal it has limitations here even in NZ.....and Im not aware that the thermal limitations of any drilling technology will ever allow us to get near the magma.....let alone pressures.  URL(s)?  you are not an engineer Wolly......so I am, so I'd like to see some evidence that what you are saying is practical....I dont believe it is, and never will be.

Right now it looking like the rural ppl will be living like the Amish, though quite how they cope with the effects of AGW remains to be seen.. Not by you and I of course, we will be long gone.  I also supect that the rural community will be far bigger but spread out.....I dont think real urban density will ever work again.....electric cars will be for the very middle-upper class...farmers with big land holdings, yes bio-deisel I suspect.....

Its the scale Wolly.....most ppl have not even tried to get their head around it yet.....I am, and I am certainly struggling....

regards

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/pandoras-box/

This is interesting to watch, Tribeless will have a screaming fit......gives me the "willies" as well....

regards

"GE drives rise in production" The articles I have seen suggest that actually GE isnot doing much good.....what we do see is the heavier and heavier use of fertilizers which GE crops are reliant on and work bets with.......so really we are getting better at converting fossil fuels to food....and fossil fuel is limited....

I commented on those limitations before.....I find the depth of this report shockingly shallow.....do your research.

regards

 

Chaston pays no heed to the potential for a pandemic cutting the Human pop in half....he ought to.

"it is one that has been largely met over the past two generations"

It has mostly been met by converting fossil fuels to food via fertilizers...within 5 years fossil fuel output will decline, therefore we cant feed 7 billion......

So far it OK is like jumping off a cliff....so far its ok........the problem is the rapid stop at the bottom....

regards

But they keep finding more and more !

Oil company Repsol YPF has announced its largest-ever oil discovery, doubling its proven reserves in Argentina and increasing by a third the amount of recoverable oil held worldwide by the Spanish-Argentine energy company.

A company spokesman says "this changes the map for Argentina" and is transformational for the company, which is based in Madrid but operates in more than 30 countries around the world. As of Monday, Argentina is home to two-thirds of its 3 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, up from half.

The company says it confirmed 927 million barrels of oil and gas in the Vaca Muerta basin of Argentina's Neuquen province. Spokesman Kristian Rix tells the Associated Press that it's enough oil to turn Argentina into an energy-exporting nation.

-AP

 

scale.....We use 86mbpd........so their one find is about 11 or 12 days use....

We have not been finding enough oil to replace what we use, currently its use 3 and find 1...even stupid ppl should be able to see where that leads...

regards

I learnt a long time ago that even people with PhD's can be stupid. See they typically know a lot about a little.

Whereas an Architect needs to know a moderate amount about a lot.

But it is all just something we have to tolerate for the privilege of posing here I guess.

Keep it up anyway.

Ive worked with a lot of architects......unfortuantely they think they know a lot about everything...sorry, but as a group Im glad I dont work them them any more, 1 or 2 have become good friends though.

regards

 

 

There are certainly some structural problems with the profession in New Zealand, so your comments don't surprise me at all. In fact as a group they could be labelled a bunch of arrogant elitist snobs.

Fertiliser usage on farms is falling.  At a recent meeting one of the Big Two fert companies said that  as fertiliser sales have been trending downwards for a while now, in order to survive they now need to look at products other than fertiliser,  They believe the key for their company will be in animal nutritional feeds.

Trending down due to cost?  certainly the little bits ive been reading suggests that cost is the primary driver.....especially in the developing world....so now they want to get into something else that also needs lots of fossil fuels.....like duh....

If this is truely "key" then thats shares not to invest in.

regards

No, not just cost, Steven.  Less tonnage is spread these days.  We have considerably reduced the tonnage usage from what we used 10 years ago.  A large part of this is due to annual soil testing and creating a nutrient plan based on those results.  Fert companies (well, the big two, anyway) create nutrient budgets every year for farmers now. We are using fert smarter and the nutrient value of irrigated effluent is now recognised. You will hear a growing number of farmers say they don't fertilise the paddocks that receive effluent, except with maybe some lime and/or a 'special brew' just for the elements that are required every now and again.

Chook manure is also used widely (by those that can get it).  One spreader has told me they can't get enough chook manure to meet demand.

Cropping farmers are probably the heaviest users of fertiliser.  That goes for food crops for humans (i.e. market gardening) too.  But for some reason Joe Bloggs public think it's dairy farmers. ;-)

As we explode our way to virus status in terms of numbers....there technically speaking is no shortage of food....provided you  gan get your head around taking a bite or two out of each other....

 Far fetched....?.........youd be surprised..!

So it's not too early to have resorted to cannibalism?

burp

Not at all Kakapo....why if push came to shove and I had to evaluate produce on the hoof so to speak............. a few of those tasty bankers may by then be surpus to requirement.

 I mean they won't be overly muscled therefore stringy,... I would assume their diet was of the finest order..... so richness of flesh assured......little likelyhood of carrying foot in mouth as that's a politicians disease .....and best of all probably would not be missed by many.

 Yes it's all food for thought is it not...?

ooops...! and don't forget to eat your Greens......even though politically a leftover...it's their wholesomeness that makes them desirable.

not vegans though.....bad after taste...its the fanatic in them....

regards

They'd be reasonably easy to catch.  All you need is a pit trap baited with a naive pensioner with life savings to invest.  Oh, wait, no, that's for hunting finance company directors.

LMAO, I needed a good laugh.

we all do scarfie...! good for you.

Well despite some of the mischevious comments from people that appear to know better, the search for renewable sources with which to make fertiliser ends up turning back to the next most dense from of energy to oil. 

Notice in that article the conversion to syngas first. So you then end up in a competition between transport fuel and fertilser production.

As I have already indicated there has not been a single successful biomass to liquids (via syngas) plant.

If there were cheaper ways to extract nitrogen then we would be doing it.

The question further begs to be asked, why are solid energy researching this? Perhaps they can see the sun setting on oil?

I think anyone in the enegy business is looking for ways to survive longer term....but also short term in terms of share price.....the second they say we are stuffed longer term.

regards

Water............water.....water....water.......our most precious .....

 Misused ....mismanaged....misdirected......misunderstood.....

where it's at....!

Absolutely Christov – a real shame turning the cleanest, most valuable NZgem into the dirtiest - daily.