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Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture Paperback – October 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 125 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865715653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865715653
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dale Allen Pfeiffer is a novelist, freelance journalist and geologist who has been writing about energy depletion for a decade, building a reputation as a detailed but accessible science journalist. The author of The End of the Oil Age, he is also widely known for his web project: www.survivingpeakoil.com.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Spoering on April 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a farmer, albeit part time, I am concerned about rising fuel prices, and other costs of production, nearly all energy related. In this book author Dale Allen Pfeiffer reviews possible consequences of the coming worldwide peaking of the production of conventional oil. These consequences may be dire and not limited to transportation, also affecting agriculture as we know it. Industrial agriculture with it's vast corporate interests tends to be very fuel inefficient, which includes all sorts of things such as tilling, fertilizer, perticides, harvesting, processing, transportation to markets, and more. When peak oil hits food may become much more expensive.

Do we have time to correct this, as a move to a sustainable food production system would allow? Pfeiffer writes to this question to some length, the jury is still out on it. He does write that most oil experts expect about a two percent decline per year of oil after peak oil hits, that would allow a transition, however rough, to a more energy efficient food production infrastructure. Pfeiffer gives the example of North Korea, where many have starved after their oil supply was mostly cut off after the Soviet Union collapsed, very poor planning there, then gives the example of Cuba, which also lost most of it's supply of Soviet oil, and how they successfully overcame that and converted to a sustainable agriculture system. North Korea and Cuba remain exceptions, Pfeiffer writes, as they abruptly lost most of their oil stream. The rest of the world will face a more gradual decline (my guess, sometime between now and 2025 peak oil will hit). Anyway, Pfeiffer writes that production and consumption need to be closer to each other, with local communities and individuals participating in food production.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By John G. Curington on April 25, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Eating Fossil Fuels," by David Allen Pfeiffer, is a fascinating review of the upcoming crisis in production of food for our population. He starts with a quick discussion of land degradation and water degradation, and then goes into the data behind the use of fossil fuels in modern agriculture. With the approaching decline in global oil production, our ability to produce food will be severely compromised.

For anyone who reads much about "peak oil" or modern agricultural policy, this will come as no surprise. Pfeiffer's book shines, though, in his discussions of the examples of South Korea and Cuba. It is fascinating to consider the different paths taken by each of these countries during their politically-imposed sudden drop in oil availability.

Pfeiffer goes finishes with a discussion of sustainable agriculture and some ideas for what a concerned activist might do.

On the whole, I learned much from the short, well-written book about an important topic.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Matthew I. Stein on November 17, 2007
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Concerned about food and how a world economy fueled by oil will continue to feed over 6 ˝ billion people when the oil squeeze comes? I suggest you read this book. Pfeiffer, a geologist and science journalist who has been intimately involved with peak oil issues for more than ten years, provides profound insight with his analysis of two parallel nations suffering from similar predicaments, but with radically different outcomes. He uses the powerful example of how Cuba and North Korea each dealt with nearly instantaneous loss of their supplies of oil after the Soviet Union dissolved. In the case of North Korea, their economy was shattered and millions of people died of starvation and disease. In the case of Cuba, people lost weight and made do with less, but a shift to sustainable agriculture and natural healing averted catastrophe. Cuba provides us with a glimpse of a possible future that avoids violent collapse and provides a good quality of life in spite of having to get by using less energy and buying less stuff.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Luis Mansilla M on July 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One good thing about this book is that the author does not need 300 pages to explain the Oil/Agriculture relation. What I liked most of this book is the explanation on the evolution of agriculture to these days, making clear that Oil is an important contributor to production performance, due to the use of fertilizers, pesticides and of course the energy derived from it in Industrial Agriculture. I agree with the author that we are beginning a transition to a new way of living, not pleasant, due to the fact that oil depletion will make difficult to attain a sustainable agriculture, even a sustainable civilization with the population numbers we have. The effects are visible, inflation and food crisis.
Most people think that technology will remedy the situation, but if you read more about energy you will realize the future's precarious situation. Governments in the world need to put an eye on it and start doing energy projects, particularly Nuclear. India must control its population growth also. I have my opinion on Cuba but considering all this is a very informative book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MartaJan on February 27, 2008
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I wish I had read this book last year, I would already have prepared a vegetable garden to plant this spring. I know about Peak Oil, etc. but this book really got my attention. It provides a clear explanation of how dependent our food supply is on fossil fuels. Higher and higher food prices are in store for us, soon. And that's before we start to see food shortages. The agricultural land in the U.S. can only support about 200 million people, and we have almost 300 million. Plus this agriculture is heavily dependent on oil (to run the irrigation pumps, harvest, process and transport the products), and natural gas (to make fertilizer..who knew?). In a politically unstable world of rising fuel prices, not to mention a future without those fuels, do we really want to rely on imported food to feed our nation? Or go to war over food? This book outlines the problems and has an action plan and extensive list of resources to help solve the problems. Yes! There are things you can do to avert this crisis, whether you live in the city, suburbs, or country.
Spade up those (organic) Victory Gardens, folks, and learn how to provide and preserve at least some of your own food. Support your local food producers. This year. You'll be glad you did.
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