NIAB - National Institute of Agricultural Botany

Orson's Oracle

The fuel that refuses to peak

Posted on 13/11/2014 by Jim Orson

The preparations for the wedding were amazingly thorough. We believed that we had thought of every eventuality but I had not thought of the conversation I would have with my youngest daughter on the way to the Church. She was cool and collected and so I did not have to ward off last minute doubts or nerves. So I heard myself say as we passed the nearest petrol station “diesel has gone down 5p a litre this week”. To give my daughter credit, she did not react to this, in the circumstances, rather crass comment! 

That was in 2008 during the height of the financial crisis when the oil price suddenly collapsed. It is now falling again, this time at a steady rate. Diesel prices are now back at wedding day levels. 

A couple or so years before 2008 the green blob was making a great thing about peak oil production and that supplies would soon start to run down. This they argued would mean that the price of nitrogen would inevitably become so high that conventional farming would collapse. I assume that they were aware that this could have disastrous consequences. An adviser to the President of the USA had previously stated that a world without nitrogen fertiliser could sustain a human population of no more than 5 billion. It is now at 7 billion. 

I am not sure why the green blob associated the oil price with the cost of nitrogen. True enough, making nitrogen depends on energy but it can come from any source, oil, gas or (sustainably as well as unsustainably generated) electricity. In fact the first time the Haber-Bosch process was used to produce ‘artificial’ nitrogen it was fuelled by electricity. 

One of the causes of the recent fall in oil prices is fracking in the USA. It has distorted all the previous projections on oil production. Apparently we have good reserves that could be fracked but of course the green blob is instinctively against this. Media coverage has indicated that rather oddly, the main ‘evidence’ they quote against it has been largely generated and promulgated by the oil rich nations who have something to fear from the technique. Also, the NIMBY vote is on their side. During the demonstrations at Balcombe in East Sussex there were placards saying that 82% of the residents were against fracking. I am sure that the same 82% would also be against a wind farm or a solar energy park within their parish boundary. 

I find the green blob’s view on what is considered good evidence intriguing. They constantly criticise politicians for ignoring the “overwhelming evidence” that climate change is occurring but with breathtaking hypocrisy ignore the overwhelming evidence that the currently registered GMs are not harmful and that the technology offers unique future options for crops that will benefit society and the environment. The hypocrisy does not stop there. They now acknowledge that there are vast areas of the world covered by GMs but state that the technology has not delivered what it promised.  We all know why this may be; the unreasonable and ill-informed opposition that has hindered or halted the development of this technology in many parts of the world. 

There is one area where I am on the side of the green blob. Much of their concern is about the companies who own the GM traits having too much influence over the food supply chain. However, that is not the fault of the technology but a challenge to legislators.

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