The well-known scripture in Genesis 1:26-28 contains a divine mandate from the Creator relating to humanity’s well-being in several spheres of experience. The twice-used term dominion implies man’s intelligent control over divinely created animals. God extended the discussion to human food supply. By extension, we may include food supply (verse 29) as it relates to agricultural practices, both then and now. In the past several years, world food supply has become an important concern.
In studying our current energy crisis, we discovered several relevant quotes relating to the speed at which governments are forcing our society to move toward renewable energy sources: “A rapid, large-scale energy transition creates extra demands for energy services. This demand will compete with other economic activity…..This new modeling suggests a significant decline in availability of energy services during the transition phase…..(the) economy is significantly impacted during the transition to the massive renewables roll-out.” (energypost article) Energy crises can result from many other causes in the chain of cause/effect, including artificially constricted fuel supplies, abnormal weather events, unusual depletion or overproduction of fuel supplies, and lack of energy infrastructure.
We cite two recent phenomena which at least partially resulted from the rapid transition to renewables from non-renewable fossil fuels. February 2021 provided an unusual, but not unprecedented severe cold spell in Texas. Many thermal power plants failed during the storm. Fossil fuel supply was inadequate to meet the unusual demand. Wind turbines froze or were unreliable. This served to illustrate the unpredictability of wind and solar power, since the wind does not always blow predictably and the sun does not always shine. An enlightened policy must continue to rely on plentiful fossil fuels, unencumbered by politically driven restrictions on drilling and delivery systems. Over 200 people died from the lack of adequate heat, water, food, and electricity during the severe 2021 cold event.
The other case we cite involves the production of inorganic fertilizers. Nitrogen fertilizer production is necessary for high levels of food production demanded from our world’s agricultural sector by our burgeoning world population. The vital element nitrogen must be combined with other elements to manufacture inorganic fertilizer. In the early 20th century several brilliant scientists developed a means of combining unreactive atmospheric nitrogen gas with hydrogen gas to form ammonia gas—NH3. From ammonia, several other chemical steps are necessary to form, ultimately, ammonium nitrate fertilizer and other valuable end products. The level of food production from world agriculture would be impossible today without inorganic fertilizers. Some sources claim that without crop yields made possible by ammonia-based fertilizers and chemicals, the global population would be at least two to three billion less than it is today. If this startling fact is true, we may all agree on the desirability of inorganic fertilizers which have increased agricultural production levels several times since mid-20th century.
Some world nations are also pressing forward with their requirement to reduce nitrogen fertilizer use, because it requires burning fossil fuels which produce CO2 when they are ignited. In addition, inorganic fertilizers containing nitrogen compounds release nitrous oxide, also a greenhouse gas. By phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in renewable energy, nations are able to achieve their ultimate ‘carbon free’ goal. But those leaders should contemplate the risk of going ‘carbon free’ in terms of generating national hunger and devastating inflation.
A few nations (Netherlands is the prime example) may be heading for environmental and political turmoil. The Netherlands is the second largest agricultural food exporter in the world, second only to the United States. With the Russian/Ukrainian war in progress, agricultural food is already compromised in terms of world supply. The Dutch government has dictated that nitrogen emissions be cut up to 70%. Much nitrogen fertilizer must be phased out. This will result in a severe loss in agricultural production. Dutch government authorities, in an effort to maintain high ESG scores (Environmental, Social and Governance scores) are tasked with dictating which farmers must discontinue their farming operations to maintain elevated ESG scores. Food shortages and inflation are in prospect. Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, is experiencing runaway inflation and other political woes, because they have focused on phasing out synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. A similar dilemma is playing out in African Ghana.
In our contemporary time frame, many governments may mandate the transition to renewable fuels too quickly. Some transitions to renewable energy sources may be desirable, but not at the cost of causing hunger, chaos, and turmoil among our world’s nations. Society’s shift to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels is not feasible in terms of many projections that fossil fuel energy will still be necessary for the next few decades by our societies.
Elements related to fossil fuel consumption—carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and other less common elements combine with each other in thousands of ways to form both useful and harmful compounds. Our Creator has gifted humanity with applied science skills. We offer our prayers to the chemical technicians who discover ways to handle both useful and harmful byproducts of fossil fuel consumption. This includes the prudent use of nitrogen fertilizers. Perhaps the sudden, expensive transition to renewable fuels and electric vehicles would be unnecessary!
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright…..” Proverbs 2:6-7 ESV