The energy embedded in the production of food that ends up being wasted in the U.S. could save the equivalent of about 350 million barrels of oil a year, according to Water Rhapsody.
The mechanization of agriculture, pesticides and improved fertilizers has resulted in productivity improvements, but all demand high fossil fuel consumption. In fact, it takes the equivalent of about 1.4 billion barrels of oil to produce, package, prepare, preserve and distribute a year’s worth of food in the U.S.
A scientific study, reported in Environmental Science & Technology estimates that food production required 15.7% of yearly energy consumption in the U.S. in 2007.
One key to saving massive amounts of energy lies in the simple principle of ‘waste not, want not.’ The USDA reports that a large amount (about 27% in 1995) of available food is wasted and this estimate does not include food wasted on farms, in fisheries, or during processing. The analysis concludes that the U.S. wasted the equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil, or 2030 trillion BTU of energy in 2007. The food category that requires the greatest energy to produce is that of meat, poultry, fish, and dairy, while the categories with the greatest embedded energy in their waste are dairy, vegetables, fruit, fats and oils.
The energy lost in wasted food is enormous and represents a huge objective for decreasing energy consumption in the U.S.