FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, December 05, 2005

Down on the Energy Farm

Could a future of higher energy costs and strained supplies lead to a rebirth of the family farm? It's possible... if that farm is devoted to producing renewable energy.

A type of elephant grass, Miscanthus, can yield as much as 27 tons per acre per year (though 4-5 tons is more typical). When processed properly into fuel, a high yield can produce up to 213 million BTUs per half-acre. Considering that the typical home uses about 65 million BTUs per year, the productive and frugal grower (especially one who uses solar and other technology to reduce fuel consumption) can be energy self-sufficient, and can generate surpluses to sell on the open market.

The problem, of course, is a lack of land. An "energy farm" is going to require acreage, and especially on the East Coast, more land is being gobbled up by developers every day. Could we ever see a future in which suburban homes are demolished to create farm land -- reversing a century-long trend? If the value of energy yielding crops becomes high enough, the construction crews of suburbia could one day be replaced by demolition crews and plows.

RELATED: A colder-than-usual winter, combined with spot shortages of natural gas, could combine to give us an unwelcome preview of coming attractions. The Christian Science Monitor reports that natural gas service interruptions and rolling electric blackouts could be the result, especially in the Northeast. Such as situation would surely accelerate demand for alternative energy sources of all types, including nuclear power.

Source: WorldChanging