Given the nature of what comes out of the fossil fuel lobby these days, it’s no surprise that another X-File is likely to be opened for this industry. A blogger friend of mine tells me of a call he received from someone who only identified themselves as “F. M.” My fellow blogger using the moniker, “Deep Green”, noted that F. M.’s voice was electronically masked to make him sound like Darth Vader huffing helium. F.M. purportedly has information from the Lone Gunmen about a new energy lobbyist, energyyesterday.com. As the name suggests, it’s all about yesterday’s energy sources and they have nothing to do with tomorrow. This group has a marketing initiative that endeavors to ensure that the public knows where fossil fuel energy sources originate, that is, yesterday as in 500,000,000 years ago, there’s no tomorrow or long term future with fossil fuels, and the lobby is here to help. They struck a deal with the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, which was brokered by C. G. B. Spender, a.k.a., the Cigarette Smoking Man, who is now a consultant for energyyesterday.com. HHS will provide marketing assistance to energyyesterday.com because HHS knows that more energy production with preferably inefficient fossil fuel sources with heavy agricultural interlinkages will cause food prices to rise. The US gets more energy, food becomes unaffordable, and the public gets thinner. It is really all about a humanitarian initiative to confront the obesity problem in the U.S. And, as a fortuitous circumstance, the fossil fuel industry prospers. New marketing slogans have already been floated such as “Want not, waist not!” and “Go frack yourself and lose a few!”
If you think the above vignette is baseless and totally bereft of reality, you are probably right. Well, maybe. In truth, the vignette is a spoof and satirical parody that is designed to both alert and (hopefully) entertain the reader. In reality, the societal conflict between energy and food is real and is currently being manifested. This conflict will only worsen. Consider that the fossil fuel energy marketing apparatus performs like a (pardon the pun) well-oiled machine. The public gets inundated with ads from organizations like www.energytomorrow.org whose tacit goal is to manipulate public opinion in order to influence national energy policy to favor fossil fuels over renewables. This objective is even implied in their website (Rozich, 2014).
Previously, this blogger (Rozich, 2014) called attention to fossil fuel energy’s befuddling thesis on the status of U.S. fossil fuel energy reserves and potential resources and the lobby’s associated arcane rationale. There are at least two potential negative impacts that this skewed public relations juggernaut can have:
• Disadvantaging the renewable energy industry.
• Crippling the agricultural industry and food production.
Let us reflect on the second bullet point regarding the crippling of agriculture. Kindly observe that not once has the “C” term, carbon dioxide and associated references to global warming, been mentioned as a reason to warn against overdependence on fossil fuels. The concern with fossil fuel dependence in this discourse concerns resource interlinkages. In today’s societal functionality, agricultural productivity is inexorably interlinked with the availability of water and energy. This interlinkage also manifests itself in the costs of water and energy as these costs impact production costs for food. Intensive agriculture has higher water and energy usage. Water is also needed for energy production and energy is also required in other industries. For example, energy is needed for the production of water. These factors set the stage for a “resource competition” that is ultimately unhealthy and must be addressed. A nexus perspective provides a better working framework with which to reconcile these emerging conflicts. An unbalanced and prejudicial emphasis on only one component of the nexus works to the detriment of societal functionality by debilitating one or all of the other nexus components.
As a society, we must question whether we are missing the mark when it comes to priorities. It is not suggested that the importance of energy be dismissed in favor of agriculture. However, the public perception of the role of agriculture and ensuring that it has the ability to maintain current functionality must at the very least have parity with that of the energy industry. The early, great civilizations grew up near great water and fertilizer sources, and not near coal mines or oil wells, for a reason. It was not a fortuitous coincidence.
A Department of Energy (DOE) report (Skaggs, et. al., 2012) notes a good example that occurred in Texas in 2011. Water withdrawals in Texas for thermoelectric production were already significant and there were other competing water withdrawals for domestic, industrial, and agricultural concerns. This situation resulted in numerous overlapping competitions for water which antagonized interlinkage effects because all of these water users needed energy and a key energy source is thermoelectric which uses significant amounts of water. A heat wave and associated drought depleted critical deposits of water while at the same time increasing water demand in the various areas of societal functionality. The result was there was not enough water to meet all the requirements of the water users such as farmers who need water for food production. Unless society embraces a nexus perspective in ameliorating and preventing resource conflicts, interlinkage effects will only worsen ultimately leading to intra-societal clashes and strife.
Rozich, A.F., Other Inconvenient Truths Beyond Global Warming, Virtual Bookworm.com, College Station, Texas, 2013.
Rozich, A.F., Why Oil Industry Estimates for Energy Reserves Can Be an X-File, Blog, http://www.otherinconvenienttruths.com/?p=141, Accessed, March 17, 2014.
Skaggs, R. et. al., Climate and Energy-Water-Land System Interactions, US Department of Energy, PNNL-21185, March, 2012.
Lone Gunmen: Byers, Frohike and Langly, Courtesy, Wikimedia
C. G. B. Spender, Courtesy, Wikimedia
Ancient Egyptian Farmer, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain