Why aren’t policy-makers talking about fertiliser?

Simply: to make food the agri industry needs synthetic fertilisers. Without synthetic fertilisers, as the agri-industry is the first to tell you, we would all starve!

We need fertiliser, especially nitrogen fertiliser. To make this, you burn natural gas or coal, thereby emitting CO2. A typical fertiliser plant might emit a million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Today the agri-industry has no way of making nitrogen fertiliser on an industrial scale without substantial CO2 emissions. It is not doing anything serious about finding alternatives. So much for the effect of CO2 price signals.

When CO2 prices shoot up, the price of fertiliser will shoot up and that will force up food prices.

When natural gas actually runs out (or when we have to make choices about what to use it for), we might not be even able to make fertiliser on an industrial scale irrespective of its cost.

This has huge implications for the food and farming industry. Implications which could come to roost within 20 years, less time than needed to find an alternative large scale technology.

So we should expect the end of the large scale fertiliser industry and instead a restructuring of fertiliser supply around local sources of composts probably not constituting an industry.

Given that such momentous change is afoot you wonder why Brussels doesn’t talk more about it. Where’s the fertiliser policy? They rattle on about renewable electricity as if … Well I guess if there’s a choice between food and Eastenders it’s a no-brainer.

This entry was posted in Environment, society, politics and economics. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Fertiliser

  1. Rumour says:

    James, thank you for your inside on the fertilizer industry. Just from the point of a green-minded person, I would rather prefer an organic fertilizer industry based on some kind of recycle processes from the waste we are producing anyways, while relying on industrial fertilizer products. I just fertilized my tomato crops with some smelly things from animal waste, works quite fine.

    What about the impact of N2O emission reductions on the CER/ERU price with low cost reduction but high yield in CERs/ERUs? Would you vote against limiting the GWP of industrial gases in a Post 2012 CDM world to limit the impact of low cost reduction credits on the worldwide Kyoto regime?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.