Friday, April 18, 2008

Peak oil = peak food?

(lame peak oil satire)Peak Food is the point in time when the maximum rate of global food production is reached, after which the rate of production enters its terminal decline. If global consumption is not mitigated before the peak, a food crisis may develop because the availability of conventional food will drop and prices will rise, perhaps dramatically. M. King Hubbert first used the theory in 1956 to accurately predict that United States oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. His model, now called Hubbert peak theory, has since been used to predict the peak food production of many other countries, and has also proved useful in other limited-resource production-domains. According to the Hubbert model, the production rate of a limited resource will follow a roughly symmetrical bell-shaped curve based on the limits of exploitability and market pressures.

Some observers, such as food industry experts Kenneth S. Deffeyes and Matthew Simmons, believe the high dependence of most modern humans, agricultural and industrial systems on the relative low cost and high availability of food will cause the post-peak production decline and possible severe increases in the price of food to have negative implications for the global economy. Although predictions as to what exactly these negative effects will vary greatly, "a growing number of food industry chieftains are endorsing an idea long deemed fringe: The world is approaching a practical limit to the number of tonnes of food that can be supplied every day."[1]

If political and economic change only occur in reaction to high prices and shortages rather than in reaction to the threat of a peak, then the degree of economic damage to importing countries will largely depend on how rapidly food imports decline post-peak. The Export Land Model shows that the amount of food available internationally drops much more quickly than production in exporting countries because the exporting countries maintain an internal growth in demand. Shortfalls in production (and therefore supply) would cause extreme price inflation, unless demand is mitigated with planned conservation measures and use of alternatives, which would need to be implemented 20 years before the peak. (/lame peak oil satire)


Dr. Clam said...

(joke)What the Hubbert analysis ignores is that as the price of food increases, lower grade food resources such as bark and grass will become more economically competitive, and people will turn to alternative sources of energy -such as genetically modifying themselves for direct photosynthesis and cyborging themselves into biomass/electric hybrids.(/joke)

Jenny said...

Photosynthesis - well thats for the Greenies.