F.A. Farm

  (Ferndale, Washington)
Postmodern Agriculture - Food With Full Attention
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Feedback on the Rob Hopkins Video

One of the comments on my last post asked if Rob Hopkins really meant to use the word "gallon" and also asked if anyone else is using this calculation. I typed in a reply, but the Local Harvest spam watch thwarted me, so here is my reply to the poster's question. 

If you watch the video, you will see that Rob is using the words "liter of petrol." In the British Isles, "petrol" usually means gasoline, but it could also be used as a generic term for both gasoline and diesel. Since Rob has been using this comparison for several years now, I doubt he is making the simple mistake of saying "liter" and meaning "gallon." There is also the conundrum of the imperial gallon (i.e. "Rob's" gallon) being 1.2 times the US gallon, so his original use of "liter" would render his comparison more meaningful internationally. In other words, looking at his statement from a speechwriter's point of view, it seems he intended to use "liter of petrol" for a specific purpose. He is just misinformed on the true value.

I sent an email to Rob, via the UK Transition Culture site, asking him to comment, but I haven't heard anything from him yet.

At this point, I seem to be the only one using this metric. I tried it out on a university economist in a public meeting in 2008, but he was quick to see that he couldn't make his statement about the huge energy cost of local food (which is unbelievable if you think about it) if he actually signed off on a system where you can parse a farmers market load going 150 miles one way vs. one going 15 miles one way. He declined to accept "calories as a metric that crosses all platforms," so I seem to be the only voice crying in the wilderness. You probably know that Sweden is doing something similar, but with the macro measure of kilos of carbon. Calories are a localized, decentralized micro measure that anyone can use. It just takes a pencil and paper - you don't even have to have a calculator.

As an interesting side note, I brought up this calculation method at a university guest lecture I did in January and I got only one question and the question was off point. In other words, what I see as a simple method of comparison is either off-putting or incomprehensible to most people. Oh, well. As I have been saying quite a lot lately, "The laws of physics are on my side." We can just weather the coming storm or spend a little bit of intellectual effort understanding what the real energy costs are. Either way, industrial agriculture is doomed and growing food with the efficient human engine is the wave of the future.

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