Fertiliser feeds half of the world’s population

Increasing global agricultural output by mid-century should be a priority. Strangling the supply of natural gas, ammonia, and fertiliser is certainly disadvantageous toward that end.

Naturally generated fixed nitrogen last year and every year supports a population of approximately 3.8 billion people.

Yet there are over 7.5 billion of us, giving rise to one of the most astounding facts. Half of the nitrogen compounds in the DNA of the chromosomes of all thirty trillion cells in our bodies – half, of it – is artificial, cooked up in ammonia factories around the world, meaning that half of us wouldn’t be here without the Haber process.

Half a billion tons of fertiliser

Some half a billion tons of fertiliser is produced via the Haber process every year, requiring 2% of the world’s energy to apply the heat and pressure demanded to force nitrogen pumped from the air to bond with hydrogen to form ammonia.

To acquire that hydrogen an astonishing 5% of the world’s natural gas production, methane — 2/3 of which in the U.S. is extracted by hydraulic fracturing of subterranean rock layers with pressurized fluids — is fed into chambers and mixed with steam where both compounds react to give up their hydrogen components.

Those calling for an end to everything — no cars, no meat, no oil, no aviation, no coal, no gasoline, no steel, no plastic, no methane, no fracking — are naively appealing for no people as well

That’s how the world is fed, so those calling for an end to everything — no cars, no meat, no oil, no aviation, no coal, no gasoline, no steel, no plastic, no methane, no fracking — are naively appealing for no people as well, or at least fewer than are currently walking the Earth now.

Half would have to go, if not you than me, since not all of us can survive a return to the epochs when our food ceiling was at levels imposed back in the Stone Age and before, when it was rhizobia bacteria and lightning that held sway over humanity and not the other way around.

Increasing global agricultural output

The world’s population, fast approaching the 10 billion mark, is a milestone to be reached around 2050, so increasing global agricultural output by mid-century should be a priority if such a population is to be fed. Strangling the supply of natural gas, ammonia, and fertiliser is certainly disadvantageous toward that end.

Want to learn more? Then read the full article by David Nabhan, called Half the World Would Starve Without Natural Gas — Much of It Fracked on Newsmax.com, in which the Haber process is explained and why that discovery was a seminal event in feeding the planet over the last century.

Sources

 

  • Concerning the fact that only 3.8 billion people of the 7.5 billion people on Earth could be fed but for synthetic fertilisers, see: ”How Many People Does Synthetic Fertilizer Feed?“, Author, Hannah Richie. Published in conjunction with the University of Oxford, “Our World in Data,” November, 2017
  • Concerning the fact that half of the nitrogenous bases in the DNA of humanity is artificially produced, originating in ammonia factories around the world, see: ”Nitrogen Fixation,” in Scientific American, Author, Christina Agapakis, January, 2012
  • Concerning the fact that 3-5% of the world’s natural gas production is used to make ammonia in the Haber-Bosch process, see: ”Haber-Bosch Process Information,” Author, Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine, February, 2019, and excerpts from US Environmental Protection Agency, “Human Alteration of the Global Nitrogen Cycle,“
  • Concerning the fact that 2/3 of US natural gas production comes from hydraulic fracking, see, ”Hydraulically Fractured Wells Provide Two-Thirds of US Natural Gas Production,” May, 2016, Authors, Jack Perrin & Troy Cook, US Energy Information Administration, US Department of Energy.

 

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