Food and fuel consumption are inextricably linked. Production is nearing capacity, yet demand increases. Shortages are a real possibility in the near future. Yet few Americans realize how our economy, lifestyles and well-being will be affected. We take food and fuel for granted, even as we face an impending crisis.
Without a concerted effort at all levels to separate the link between food and fuel – and to develop solutions in both agriculture and energy – we will be faced with a global crisis. As daunting as the outlook is – there is hope on the horizon.
Sustainable America’s goal is to bring together like-minded groups to foster awareness through open dialog and educational outreach, and act as a catalyst for the development and funding of innovative, entrepreneurial solutions to the impending food/fuel crisis. Thinking & working together can we cultivate the change that fuels our future as a Sustainable America.
Our global oil system is operating near full capacity. That can’t last – for our wallets or our stomachs.
As many Americans feel the financial squeeze when they go to the gas pump or to a lesser extent, the grocery store, there is not always a good understanding of the larger forces at work. Supply and demand imbalances exist for the two consumer staples most vital to sustaining daily American life: food and oil. Both industries are currently operating near capacity and forecasts indicate this situation will only get worse due to increased demand on a relatively fixed supply.
Food and oil production are linked – affecting both pricing and availability.
Oil is used in our agricultural process. The link between food and fuel means that any change in one will alter the other, so prices will rise (or fall) in unison. Though the food and fuel markets have always been somewhat connected, this connection has grown as we have begun to turn food into ethanol to supplement our oil supply. The growing imbalances and this connection have several consequences. At best, we can expect higher prices, which in turn affect the economically vulnerable most because they spend the highest share of their income on food and fuel. At worst it could lead to physical shortages, as both markets are volatile; oil because of political upheaval and food due to sensitivity to global weather patterns and drought.
Global caloric demand is expected to grow 50% by 2050.
The food market (which includes commodity markets for grains, sugar, dairy, proteins, and other key nutritional inputs) is a global market today, similar to the market for oil. Global demand for calories is expected to grow 50% over the next 40 years, due to population growth and increases in per-capita consumption.
Stockpile-to-usage ratios are at lowest levels in 30 years.
The challenge of meeting accelerating food demands is a chief concern as a broad range of factors tightens supply and creates an unsustainable relationship between food usage and production. World grain usage has exceeded production in recent years, with a capacity utilization of over 100%, driving stockpile-to-usage ratios of corn and wheat to their lowest global levels in 30 years.
Food staple prices are up by 200 to 300% since 2000.
The increased cost of essential staple items has a direct impact on the purchasing power of a paycheck. Tight capacity utilization, along with rising demand, have contributed to many main food commodities like sugar, cereals and dairy doubling or tripling in price over the last 10 years.
A connection we can afford to break – before it breaks the USA.
The Economic Impact
This interconnectedness has broad, negative consequences, especially for low-income populations. Tight global supply and disruptions in either market will continue to drive up food and fuel prices. Food, and in many cases, fuel, are non-negotiable expenditures. Price increases on these staple items strain already-tight budgets with little if any leeway because these items make up a much greater proportion of their total income. In 2010, the lowest quintile of earners spent a combined 43% of total income on food and gasoline, whereas the top quintile of earners spent only 9% on these items.
Beyond affecting the most disadvantaged economically, these price shocks hamper economic growth as a whole. Each of the last six recessions in the U.S, going back to 1972 have been preceded by an oil price spike that increased the percentage of consumer spending devoted to energy. The unsustainable use of resources responsible for these shocks has significant national security implications and environmental costs as well.
The worst possible outcome is that this tight balance of food and fuel could move beyond higher prices and weakened budgets to something with which U.S. society is currently unfamiliar: actual physical shortages. This would be a massive detriment to social wellbeing and economic productivity, but when armed with this realization we can view the possibility as a call to action. We must work together, in measures small and large, to break the connection between food and fuel.
Together we can shape the future. Short term goals for long term gains.
The big picture of the Food/Fuel Crisis can seem overwhelming, but with small steps we can foster great change. The challenges we face today will be overcome through increased awareness of the problem and encouraged innovation toward new solutions. Fortunately, the U.S. has the resources, both societally and technologically, to lead the world in developing ideas and infrastructure for sustainable systems. Sustainable America aims to reduce U.S. oil consumption while increasing U.S. food production.
Simple Steps Toward Sustainable Change
Food For Thought
- Reduce food waste at all levels
- Grow and eat more locally sourced food
- Foster more Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives
- Make more sustainable use of food resources and diversify supplies
Fuel For Change
- Develop and use oil substitutes like Solar Electricity (EV), Natural Gas (NGV), and advanced biofuels
- Encourage shorter commutes or increased rideshare and public transportation use
- Diversify fuel supplies and reduce consumption
Sustainable America Is Contributing Solutions In Two Ways
No idea is too small to make an impact, and there is no one right answer to the Food/Fuel Crisis. But there is a right direction forward to the future, toward a Sustainable America.
- Launch a comprehensive public education campaign on precarious state of food and fuel systems
- Communicate these possible solutions and motivate positive behavior changes for sustainable lifestyles
- Foster new entrepreneurs and investors in sustainable food and energy innovations
- Build human and financial capital in these new fields
- Create jobs through new industries
As we face these types of challenges, we hope you’ll support our efforts to create a more sustainable community in Jacksonville, NE Florida and throughout the US.