How are fossil fuels used in modern agriculture


Fossil fuels are used to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides as well as the energy source for agricultural machinery, thus characterizes modern agriculture. Bio-fuel production and the possibility of the agriculture system as a form of energy input are discussed. Publication types

Large amounts of fossil fuel are required to power heavy farming machinery, to process foods, to refrigerate foods during transportation, to produce packaging materials, and to manufacture and transport chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.


Why are fossil fuels needed in agriculture?

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What fossil fuel is used the most for energy production?

  • There are five energy-use sectors, and the amounts—in quadrillion Btu (or quads )—of their primary energy consumption in 2020 were:
  • electric power 35.74 quads
  • transportation 24.23 quads
  • industrial 22.10 quads
  • residential 6.54 quads
  • commercial 4.32 quads

Can biofuels replace fossil fuels totally?

Biofuels will never completely displace fossil fuels. In fact, biofuels will probably never displace all liquid fuels. The size of the resource just isn’t large enough.

Do fossil fuels produce a lot of energy?

Fossil fuel is one of the most efficient sources of energy. The fuel generates massive energy even when used in small amounts. For example, a small amount of petroleum can fuel a big machine or vehicle.


What fossil fuels do farmers use?

These combined estimates of fossil fuels used in US agriculture represent about 2% of the total US C emissions….Fossil Fuel Use in Agriculture.FuelsaVolume (106 l)Carbon (MMTCE)Diesel13,62611.02Gasoline5,6263.32Propane3,0284.97Sum19.319 more rows•Sep 11, 2021

What fuels are used in agriculture?

Farms consume energy in many forms, mainly diesel (44 percent of direct energy consumption), electricity (24 percent), natural gas (13 percent), gasoline (11 percent), and liquefied petroleum gas (7 percent). Diesel and, to a lesser extent, gasoline are used to power farm machinery.

Why does modern agriculture depend so heavily on fossil fuels?

Why does modern agriculture depend so heavily on fossil fuels? Because fossil fuels are used to make fertilizers and pesticides, operate tractors, pump water, and harvest food.

How are fossil fuels used in today’s society?

Fossil fuels are used to produce energy; in the home they are burned to produce heat, in large power stations they are used to produce electricity and they are also used to power engines.

Are fossil fuels in fertilizer?

Nitrogen fertilizer is a fossil fuel product, made primarily from natural gas. One can think of a modern nitrogen fertilizer factory as having a large natural gas pipeline feeding into one end and a large pipe coming out the other carrying ammonia, a nitrogen-rich gas.

How is energy used in agriculture?

Agriculture uses energy directly as fuel or electricity to operate machinery and equipment, to heat or cool buildings, and for lighting on the farm, and indirectly in the fertilizers and chemicals produced off the farm.

How much fossil fuel is used in fertilizer?

In the production of ammonia or urea, natural gas is processed at an upgrading plant together with nitrogen (taken from the air). During the process, 80% of the gas is used as feed¬stock for fertilizer, while the remaining 20% is used for heat and electricity production.

How is oil used in agriculture?

Vast amounts of oil and gas are used as raw materials and energy in the manufacture of fertilisers and pesticides, and as cheap and readily available energy at all stages of food production: from planting, irrigation, feeding and harvesting, through to processing, distribution and packaging.

What is a benefit of fossil fuel consumption?

 A major advantage of fossil fuels is their capacity to generate huge amounts of electricity in just a single location.  Fossil fuels are very easy to find.  When coal is used in power plants, they are very cost effective. Coal is also in abundant supply.

What products are made from fossil fuels?

These petroleum products include gasoline, distillates such as diesel fuel and heating oil, jet fuel, petrochemical feedstocks, waxes, lubricating oils, and asphalt. A U.S 42-gallon barrel of crude oil yields about 45 gallons of petroleum products in U.S. refineries because of refinery processing gain.

What industry uses the most fossil fuels?

transportation sectorThe transportation sector is the largest consumer of primary fossil fuel energy in the United States. Largely due to reliance on petroleum-based motor fuels, the transportation sector consumed over 25 quadrillion British thermal units of fossil fuel energy in 2021.

Why are fossil fuels our most important source of energy today?

They are high source of energy which on burning gives us heat and light and are cost effective which have made them very much dependable sources of energy. These fossil fuels are utilized for cooking, to run automobile engines, generate electricity. Most of our industries depend on these fossil fuels.

Why are fossil fuels important?

In addition to the need for advanced fertilizers and pesticides to enhance agricultural productivity, fossil fuels have become essential to deliver food to global markets. Global transportation systems are highly reliant on fossil fuels.

What were the livestock used for?

The livestock were then used to generate manure as fertilizer and muscle power for plowing the fields for crop production. As fossil fuels were introduced, synthetic fertilizers, farm machinery, and other modern technologies were adopted to dramatically increase food production.

What are the things that are made possible by fossil fuels?

Electric grids, transportation systems, consumer goods, hot water, clothing, and plastics have largely been made possible by fossil fuels. While renewable energy generation is rapidly becoming more common, fossil fuels are still projected to be a necessity in the coming decades. As part of the building blocks of society …

How have fossil fuels improved agriculture?

While agriculture once existed without the use of fossil fuels, fossil fuels have dramatically enhanced agricultural productivity and the ability to adequately feed the world’s rapidly growing population.

What are the primary needs of fossil fuels?

There are four primary needs for fossil fuels in agricultural production. In addition to supplying power to mechanical equipment such as tractors, fossil fuels are used to manufacture fertilizer, transport food to markets, and within processing and packaging food supplies. These four focal areas require a significant amount …

What are indirect sources of energy?

On the other hand, indirect sources of energy consumption occur when fuels like diesel and natural gas are used to manufacture agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers. After World War II, the production of cheap …

What are the future energy sources?

Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydro will play a vital role in the future of energy production. However, when evaluating the current state of the global agriculture industry, it’s clear that fossil fuels will remain crucial in the coming decade.

How have fossil fuels insulated us?

Fossil fuels have also insulated us from the fickleness of Mother Nature, removing the periodic famines that have plagued humanity for most of its history. Another fossil fuel based innovation is the great variety of modern agricultural equipment.

How has abandoning fossil fuels benefited humanity?

Fossil fuels have not only benefited humanity by improving access to affordable food, but by reducing our footprint on the land, they have also helped preserve nature.

What is the “keep it in the ground” movement?

The claim of many people who advocate for limiting or abandoning fossil fuels – commonly known as the “keep it in the ground” movement – is that our expanding use of fossil fuels is fundamentally damaging to the environment.

How do fossil fuels benefit agriculture?

Contrary to the claim that our expanding use of fossil fuels is fundamentally damaging to the environment, fossil fuel based improvements in agricultural production have preserved Mother Nature by reducing humanity’s footprint on the land. October 12, 2018.

What is the role of fossil fuels in agriculture?

Fossil fuels are the great unsung hero of the agricultural revolution, allowing both the U.S. and the most of the world to produce food far more efficiently now than at the turn of the 20 th century. Fossil fuel based innovations in fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and machinery has enabled food supply …

What are the most critical components of the Green Revolution?

Fossil fuels have banished the Malthusian trap to the annals of history in most developed countries and will do the same in the developing world as these innovations spread. Ammonia-based fertilizers are one of the most critical components of this “green revolution.”.

How has fossil fuels helped the world?

Fossil fuel based innovations in fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and machinery has enabled food supply and production to not just keep up with population growth but actually far exceed it. The world population has more than quadrupled in the last hundred years, but fossil fuel based innovations have helped shrink the average hectares …

How much fossil fuel is used to produce meat?

Now that you know how fossil fuels are used to produce animal products, consider this: the average American consume 209 pounds of meat per year. Multiply that by the population of three billion, and we’re easily looking at 627 billion pounds of meat a year. If producing one hamburger (about a quarter pound) uses the same amount of fossil fuels as driving your car 20 miles, that would make a total of 80 miles for one pound of meat. To put that all in context, the American meat consumer expends the same amount of fossil fuels annually meat as they would driving 16, 720 miles! Anyone up to drive cross-country six times?

How much fossil fuel does a calorie of animal protein require?

In fact, one calorie of animal protein requires about 10 times the input of fossil fuel energy than one calorie of plant protein. This input can be higher depending on the type of meat produced. For example, it is estimated that grain-fed beef requires 35 fossil fuel calories for every one calorie produced.

How much water does slaughtering an animal use?

It is estimated that slaughtering one animal utilizes 132 gallons of water in the cleaning process. Between heating, cooling, cleaning and ventilation, America’s 20,000 factory farms guzzle quite a lot of fossil fuels. 3. The Fossil Fuels That Make Farm to Table Possible.

How many units of fossil fuels are needed to make a farm to table?

A report from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, found that it takes about 2.5 units of fossil fuels to process …

What happens when we dig fossil fuels out of the ground?

When we dig fossil fuels, like coal and oil, out of the ground and burn them, they release a ton of harmful greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. You see these fuels are essentially composed of ancient organic material (leaves, trees, dinosaurs) that have been compressed over millions of years.

How much water does a dairy cow use?

These systems use around 150 gallons of water per cow, per day and must be run at all times to pump clean water in and soiled water out.

What percent of energy is used in food production?

According to a study from Sustainable Table, “Approximately 23 percent of the energy used in our food production system is allocated to processing and packaging food.”. The majority of factory farms in the United States are located in the Mid-West, meaning meat often has to travel long distances to get to the consumer.

What is synthesized fertilizer?

To take just one example, synthesized fertilizers are the plant-nutrient inputs that feed humanity�s food crops, and this plant food is overwhelmingly made possible by fossil fuels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2010, �the U.S. nitrogenous fertilizer industry consumed more than 200 trillion Btu …

What is the role of fossil fuels in our food?

Fossil Fuels Are The Food Of Food. We all know that fossil fuels power our machines. Often overlooked however is the vital role they play in powering humans, as the food we eat is made possible by fossil fuels.

Is electricity used to power water pumps?

Today, the electricity to power water pumps, filtration, and treatment systems, is inexpensive and abundant, thanks to coal- and natural gas-fired central power stations; while more rural settings can depend upon water pumps powered by diesel or propane generators.

Why not use some of the sun to power a farm?

Why not utilize some of that sunshine to power the farm and its facilities? Solar panels can be installed on farm buildings or in empty fields and be used to generate electricity. This would greatly reduce the farm’s reliance on the energy created by burning fossil fuels. The number of government incentives, grants and customization make solar and other forms of renewable energy an option with high ROI.

What was the book “Eating Oil” about?

Following the oil crisis of the early 1970s, a book was published called “Eating Oil” that investigated how much of the U.K.’s food supply relied on the use of fossil fuels. In spite of the problems that occurred during the 1970s, much of the agriculture industry relies on these finite resources.

Why is nitrogen important for crops?

Nitrogen is necessary for photosynthesis to occur, so in order for crops to grow, the soil must have nitrogen. More nitrogen in the ground results in a better harvest. The easiest way to increase the amount of nitrogen is to apply fertilizer.

What is the energy used in farming?

Energy Consumption of Farm Equipment. Each stage of farming requires the use of equipment and machinery that burn fossil fuels. When we burn these fuels, we add to the greenhouse gasses in the air – such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – that result in raising the Earth’s temperature.

Why is agriculture important?

With governments placing more restrictions on carbon emissions, it’s important for farmers to do their part in reducing their carbon emissions. By doing so, they can also reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and save more money.

How much water does a slaughterhouse use?

Slaughtering just one animal can use up to 132 gallons of water. That matters because the water doesn’t just appear – it has to be pumped in and out of the slaughterhouse. Those pumps run on electricity, which runs on fossil fuels.

Why do we plant alfalfa in the fall?

For example, he plants alfalfa and soybeans in the fall because there is nitrogen-fixing bacteria found in the roots of these plants. When the plants die in the spring, the nitrogen is released into the soil, free to be used by the next crop planted.

What is energy consumption?

Energy Consumption in Processing, Packaging, and Transporting Food. Producing food, whether it be through growing crops or raising cattle for slaughter, is only part of the equation. How the food makes it to your plate also factors into agriculture’s dependence on fossil fuel.

What is the energy central power industry?

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea – power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

How did fossil fuels form?

The name fossil denotes a substance produced from dead decaying matter accumulated over millions of years. Fossil fuels were formed more than 650 million years ago. The energy was released from carbon stored in dead matter. This energy was converted to natural gas, coal, and oil. Fossil fuels are a nonrenewable source of energy.

What is the process of making soap?

Detergents used in daily household cleaning chores are made from saponification. A process that involves heating fats and oils, which then react with alkali and glycerin. Hydrocarbons found in petroleum and oils are an important component in soap making. They repel water while attracting oil and grease.

What are the components of pesticides?

They are hydrocarbons synthesized in the laboratory. Chlorine, oxygen, sulfur, phosphorus, nitrogen, and bromine are commonly used components. Inert ingredients are dependent on pesticide type, Liquid pesticides use kerosene while others use petroleum distillate as a carrier. 11.

What is synthetic rubber made of?

Synthetic rubber is an artificial elastomer made from synthesized polymers of petroleum by-products, it’s used in making doors, window profiles, water hoses, belts, matting, flooring, and many other products. Two-thirds of material used in making car tires are synthetic rubber.

What are plastics made of?

Almost all plastic components in a car are made from petroleum byproducts. Plastics are versatile, durable and lightweight. This makes them ideal raw materials for, car handles, air vents, dashboards, and airbags. 3. Petroleum Jelly. Everybody knows Vaseline, a worldwide brand of petroleum jelly.

What is Vaseline made of?

The crude material is vacuum distilled, filtered through bone char to produce the jelly. It’s an odorless semi-solid mixture of hydrocarbons.

What is the main product of crude oil?

Almost 60% of crude oil goes into manufacturing different products, the bulk of which are plastics. Gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil, kerosene is processed from crude oil. Both petroleum and Natural gas are then used to produce electricity which powers industries and lights homes. 2.

How does land use affect climate?

Land use changes can also significantly contribute to climate change. Large scale changes such as deforestation, soil erosion or machine-intensive farming methods may all contribute to increased carbon concentrations in the atmosphere.

How much carbon has been lost from the biosphere in the last 300 years?

A more frequently quoted figure is that 200 to 250 Gt of carbon have been lost from the biosphere as a whole in the last 300 years. Whatever the correct figure, these reductions of ‘living carbon potential’ have resulted from. Land use changes can also significantly contribute to climate change.


Energy as A Necessity

The Importance of Food Systems

  • Human health and survival depend heavily on access to modern and productive food systems. Societies that lack easily accessible food supplies have lower life expectancies and elevated rates of infant and maternal mortality, in addition to malnutrition and poor health in general (Goklany, 2012). The initial development of agriculture thousands of year ago led to the rise of humanity. …

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Fossil Fuels and Food

  • Prior to incorporating fossil fuels into food production, agriculture was heavily dependent on both human and animal labor. Before the Industrial Revolution that took place beginning in the 18thcentury, the sun provided the primary input of energy for agricultural production. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants grew incrementally and then served as food for livestock. Th…

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Primary Needs

  • There are four primary needs for fossil fuels in agricultural production. In addition to supplying power to mechanical equipment such as tractors, fossil fuels are used to manufacture fertilizer, transport food to markets, and within processing and packaging food supplies. These four focal areas require a significant amount of energy and fossil fue…

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Synthetic Ammonia

  • Agricultural studies have concluded that about 40 percent of the global supply of food would not exist without the use of synthetic ammonia (Pfromm, 2017). As a result of the massive levels of ammonia production needed in industrial agriculture, ammonia has become the second most produced chemical in the world. The total annual carbon emissions associated with ammonia pr…

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Transportation and Packaging

  • In addition to the need for advanced fertilizers and pesticides to enhance agricultural productivity, fossil fuels have become essential to deliver food to global markets. Global transportation systems are highly reliant on fossil fuels. While some global policymakers have been planning to implement bans on fossil fuel-powered vehicles, the overwhelming majority of food being transp…

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Dependence and Sustainability

  • While many natural resource professionals and environmentalists are optimistic about a future less dependent on fossil fuels, it’s clear that a great deal of work is still needed to address energy consumption for agriculture. In a recent interview, a researcher from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization effectively captured how dependent the agriculture industry is on fossil …

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Future Advancements

  • In addition to technological advancements to reduce fossil fuel dependence in the agriculture industry, numerous low-tech solutions have been gaining traction. Household composting, reducing food waste, and encouraging plant-based diets have all been deemed as opportunities to reduce energy consumption from agricultural production. Composting is being publicized as a w…

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  • Canning, P., et al. (2017). “The Role of Fossil Fuels in the U.S. Food System and the American Diet.” United States Department of Agriculture: Economic Research Report Number 224. EIA. (2014). “Energy for growing and harvesting crops is a large component of farm operating costs.” U.S. Energy Information Administration. Goklany, I. (2012). Humanity Unbound: How Fossil Fuel…

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