In Conversation: Food After Fossil Fuels

July 26, 2016

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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While its slice of the overall energy pie may seem relatively low, the modern American food system is figuratively awash in fossil fuels. On average, roughly 12 calories of (mostly fossil fuel) energy go into producing just one calorie of the food that we consume. The use of fossil fuels in every phase of the food system—from fertilization, treatment, and harvesting to manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and preparation—has utterly transformed what we eat, how we eat, where we eat, and how our food is grown.

Since our current food system is so heavily dependent on fossil fuels, major changes to agriculture, farm labor, food processing, food transport, and food packaging are likely as we move toward the renewable future. The transition to 100% renewable energy thus raises some profound questions for the future of our food system. For instance:

  • What would a future farm without fossil fuels look like?
  • How might the rest of the food system—transport, packaging, processing, food choices—evolve as we eliminate fossil fuels?
  • What are the realistic opportunities for renewable energy in biomass-to-electricity or biofuels?
  • What are the opportunities for capturing and storing carbon in soils, forests, and grazing land?
  • Do GMOs have relevance for the food-energy transition, either as positive tools for change or as problems and threats?
  • Where can we look for a useful example of either a complete post-fossil food system, or a system that has at least dealt already with some of the major issues?

Live Discussion: Food After Fossil Fuels

On July 20, 2016, Asher Miller from Post Carbon Institute was joined by Michael Bomford (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) and Tom Philpott (Mother Jones) for an engaging, expansive conversation about what the future of the food system and agriculture might look like in a 100% renewable energy future. The recording can be viewed below.

Click here to view the chat transcript.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be hosting discussions with experts in various sectors to explore what the post fossil-fuel future. You can sign up for upcoming discussions by visiting



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Photo credit: amenic181/

Tags: building resilient food systems, industrial food system