Agriculture Chemicals Are Derived From Fossil Fuels

Many products used by the agricultural industry are based on chemicals derived from hydrocarbons. DDT and chlordane are examples of pesticides produced from hydrocarbon chemicals in the past. During the height of their use, they made enormous increases in the yield of crops by reducing insect damage. Their use was discontinued because of their damage to other parts of the environment.

Today, more modern and less harmful pesticides, such as Malathion and Cyfluthrin, are produced from similar hydrocarbon chemicals. These pesticides reduce insect damage to crops and thus contribute to both the quantity and quality of food and reduce its cost. Growth regulating herbicides such as 2,4,D (2,4,-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid) are hydrocarbon-derived chemicals used to increase crop production by the control of competition from weeds. Hydrocarbon derived chemicals contribute heavily to the productivity of modern farming methods.

The largest impact of hydrocarbon chemicals on agriculture is in the production of hydrogen for the synthetic manufacture of ammonia. Natural gas (methane) and other light hydrocarbons such as ethane, propane, butane, etc. are reacted with water at high temperature to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide and hydrogen are separated and the hydrogen is reacted with nitrogen extracted from the atmosphere. This is the Haber-Bosch process used to produce ammonia. In 1990 fifteen billion kilograms of ammonia (about 60 kilograms for each person in the United States) was utilized as agricultural fertilizer. In this use, it greatly increases the crop yield per plant and the plant yield per acre. 59 The production of food is heavily dependent on products derived from hydrocarbons.

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