Commentary

So Cars Are Only So Bad?

An article in the NY Times Magazie a few weeks ago by Michael Pollan was letter to the incoming President about Food Policy. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12policy-t.html?emc=eta1 While I can not comment on the food policy issues, one paragraph stood out to me (and perhaps others in the transportation arena….since “we” are under attach for green house gases) “After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy ââ?¬â?? 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do ââ?¬â?? as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis ââ?¬â?? a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.” Assuming the facts are true, interesting isnt it???

Shirley Ybarra is a former senior transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.