Peak Soil

Posted on August 19, 2007  Comments (5)

An interesting article. Obvious the author has a biased viewpoint (that doesn’t mean the conclusions are wrong but it certainly can make one cautious – just as if a drug company shows results that their drug is effective or safe – you just have to pay a bit more attention…). I would be interested in others thoughts on this. My perception (though it is just an opinion based on limited facts) is that topsoil loss is a problem and that using corn for ethanol is more a federal government payoff to buy votes than a wise national policy. I am less inclined to accept some of the more extreme suggestions in the article. Peak Soil: Why cellulosic ethanol, biofuels are unsustainable and a threat to America

“The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

When you take out more nutrients and organic matter from the soil than you put back in, you are “mining” the topsoil. The organic matter is especially important, since that’s what prevents erosion, improves soil structure, health, water retention, and gives the next crop its nutrition. Modern agriculture only addresses the nutritional component by adding fossil-fuel based fertilizers, and because the soil is unhealthy from a lack of organic matter, copes with insects and disease with oil-based pesticides.

I believe it makes sense to research things like bio-fuels. However I am not convinced massive payments to the political well connected is a wise course of action.

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5 Responses to “Peak Soil”

  1. Reg
    August 21st, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

    This is not a new debate, but it is the first time I’ve heard it called “Peak Soil”. Makes sense and it’s a solid name that voters can get their heads around.

    Politicians find it cheapest to buy rural votes – (a) fewer people so more results per $ input, plus (b) you just need to fund one thing to make ’em happy (unlike a city with distinct communities).

    So politicians ensure there is overproduction of food – worldwide. Except of course in developing countries where small farmers traditionally haven’t had a chance to produce crops for a profit. Now with the increase in food prices due to biofuels, logically every arable scrap of land in these developing countries will be producing. And these are the areas that can least afford investment back into the soil.

    You can see this one approaching a mile off.

  2. Joe
    August 21st, 2007 @ 5:45 pm

    This is a curious topic.. it would be interesting to see how this funding could be distributed on a more competitive basis such as the free market concept.

  3. Chamonix
    August 22nd, 2007 @ 3:55 am

    With the price of everyday foodstuffs increasing do to the amount of crops being put aside for bio-fuels the publics’ enthusiasm for bio-fuels must surely be dented.

  4. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Ethanol: Science Based Solution or Special Interest Welfare
    November 29th, 2007 @ 7:23 pm

    I believe the way to deal with the need for energy resources should be primarily science and economics based. I do not think it should be based on who can best reward politicians for giving them a bunch of federal dollars…

  5. CuriousCat: Biofuels use Could Worsen Global Warming
    February 9th, 2008 @ 9:31 am

    The biofuels themselves produce less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, but not nearly enough to offset the carbon dioxide that is released when land is cleared and plowed up to produce crops…

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