Energy Conservation / Renewable Resources and Life and Peak Oil01 Mar 2008 08:55 pm

While cooking tonight’s dinner, I cracked open a 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans (I was making whole wheat pasta, topped with onion sauteed in olive oil, garbanzos, salt, pepper, and sage — yum!).

The price that I paid to have those garbanzos grown (planted, watered, and otherwise tended), harvested, canned, and transported to my neighborhood store, was about 70 cents. 350 calories for 70 cents. That’s only $4 for a day’s worth of (garbanzo) calories.

Roughly speaking (within a factor of 2 or so), every 5 minutes I earn enough to buy a day’s worth of calories. Of course the cost per calorie varies considerably for different foods, but you get the idea. Amazing…

There seems to me to be something fundamentally unreal about that fact. I won’t call it wrong, but it certainly is unique (both for our species and in our time) and probably not something that can be sustained in the long term.

That surreal cheapness — which surrounds us, and to the significance of which we’ve become blinded — is due to the present (and temporary) availability of nearly free energy in the form of fossil fuels.

While renewable sources of energy can replace some of the function of fossil fuels, and in some cases are free, I’m not convinced that we as a society will get our collective !@#$ together soon enough to replace fossil fuels. Nor should we, given the environmental implications. In any case, we will certainly lose significant carrying capacity as the fossil fuel inputs to agriculture become increasingly expensive.

As fossil fuel become increasingly unavailable, I’m prepared to spend far more than 5 minutes a day securing a day’s worth of calories.

2 Responses to “A Day’s Worth of Calories”


  1. [...] whole effort certainly confirms my earlier notion that obtaining food in ‘the real world’ (that is, without the benefit of ultra-cheap [...]

  2. on 21 Aug 2009 at 2:26 pm The Unwoven Rainbow » Food Security

    [...] talked before about how amazingly cheap and easy it is in our society to buy your day’s worth of calories. [...]

Trackback this Post | Feed on comments to this Post

Leave a Reply