"…high fuel prices threaten the availability and affordability of nearly all goods used in modern life, save those produced locally and without the use of petroleum, and will particularly impact the price and availability of essentials like food."*
An increase in the price of fuel directly impacts the price of goods – including food and food products. Many of the food products that line the shelves of grocery stores have been transported hundreds or thousands of miles and require significant amounts of energy to get from producer to consumer. An increase in fuel prices will translate into higher food prices, particularly for perishable goods that need to be shipped within a certain time frame via refrigerated trucks – namely milk, meat, and vegetables.
Regardless of transportation costs, the price of food will increase because industrial agriculture relies heavily on oil and oil by-products for food production and harvesting. Processed foods account for three-quarters of global food sales by price, adding dramatically to food production energy costs. The production of processed food is a highly inefficient process, as much more energy is expended manufacturing the product than the product provides via food energy. The modern food system consumes roughly ten calories of fossil-fuel energy for every calorie of food energy produced.
An increase in the price of oil will also have serious implications for modern agricultural practices. Conventional industrial agriculture is entirely dependent on fossil fuels. Artificial fertilizers and chemical pesticides are made out of oil by-products, and oil-dependent farm machinery has replaced human and animal labour, leading to the annihilation of many small-scale family farms in favour of large, industrial, energy-intensive farms.
An increase in and overuse of chemical fertilizers has resulted in much of the world’s cropland soils becoming so depleted that crops cannot be produced in the volume required by the world’s population without the use of artificial fertilizers. Soil erosion is becoming more and more prevalent, and the amount of soil available to farmers is now decreasing at an alarming rate.
*Source: The Oil Depletion Protocol: A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism, and Economic Collapse, by Richard Heinberg.