I spent a lot of time in 2008 espousing the theory of relocalizing vegetable production in conjunction with the manufacture of renewable ammonia. I've paid a lot of attention to the grain production side, as the credit mess and natural gas depletion have gotten into our typical fertilization regime and the results in 2009 may very well be disaster. Last week I saw an article that indicates climate change has got loose in our national vegetable production strategy.
I'm right. I've known for a year that renewable ammonia production could solve many problems with a single capital investment. My fear now is that politics and receding horizons are going to put the solutions out of reach. But when potential investors are hunting me up and cold calling me at my day job that is a very promising sign....
Details on this concept are below the fold.
I announced my concerns regarding wheat production in a Thanksgiving Day diary that spent an amazing twenty three hours on the recommend list. I backed it up with a diary entitled Food Without Fossil Fuel and then went on to publish a National Renewable Ammonia Architecture a month later.
If you're making ammonia using electrolysis, and we'd damned well better be able to do it here in the U.S. given that they've managed to keep one of these setups running in Kwe Kwe, Zimbabwe, you're going to get a good bit of waste heat out of it. This is low quality heat so it can't be used to regenerate electricity but it's a fine thing for operating Chemical Free Hydroponic Greenhouses. The original diary had the word organic in the title and that's not quite correct as there would be a culture medium, but the need for pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide can be eliminated, producing a much healthier crop.
While food security and the geological and geopolitical issues associated with it are of concern another aspect to the plan I espouse is job creation. There are lots of ways to create jobs in all sorts of places based on renewable ammonia manufacture.
Some folks here are dead set against grain production – they equate it with confined animal feed lots and high fructose corn syrup. I don't care for either of those to tell the truth but I'm from the corn belt and politically savvy enough to know that I can take a stab at big oil because it's on its last legs, but big agriculture isn't going anywhere. Luckily there are plenty of other uses for ammonia besides fertilization – it makes a fine liquid fuel as the men and women of the Ammonia Fuel Network discussed in depth in the annual conference last fall. There is a nice dynamic between wind energy, rail right of way and the electrification thereof, and ammonia production which I've touched on repeatedly. Making ammonia renewably is a winner all around, except for the oil and coal companies.
So what got me writing today was this diary by FlipperWaves and the mainstream media catching up to the bogggers just about a month later. A quick back of the napkin calculation – 12,000 acres of lettuce gone could be grown in 1,200 acres of hydroponic greenhouses. The heat to drive that would be generated by sixty renewable ammonia plants producing fifty thousand tons of ammonia each annually. That much ammonia would fertilize a quarter of the nation's eighty five million acres of corn, employ tens of thousands both directly and via follow on support business, and it would be a giant step forward to avoiding the consequences of natural gas depletion on the island of Trinidad, the source of a fifth of our national ammonia supply. Rest assured, natural gas depletion is happening everywhere, Trinidad is just a nice tidy example I refer to often.
When we published the National Renewable Ammonia Architecture we had a lot of statistical backing regarding ammonia production and consumption but far less work (read: NONE) was done regarding the volume of direct human food production associated with the use of the waste heat. I can see now that this is going to become a hot (no pun intended) topic.
We're probably going to do the human food production calculations in conjunction with the expansion of the National Renewable Ammonia Architecture to encompass all of the grain production in North America. Canadian Matt Zipchen, $DEITY bless him, does not care to write all that much but he is a crackerjack researcher and a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in the heart of Canada's breadbasket. We're grinding on that study a bit as time allows and I figure it might just come out in March. Yes, of 2009
I'm having a ball with stranded wind and renewable ammonia, but this thing is at a point where it really needs some juice from the outside. Now I have to thank Kossack smellybeast who hooked the Stranded Wind Initiative up with free legal services intended to get it to non-profit status, but what I really need is something like the deal Alan Drake got. The Associated for the Study of Peak Oil shelled out the purchase price of a Threshold 21 model of the effects of rail electrification. Somewhere, out there, given all the change in the air, there just has to be a forward looking individual or foundation that would come up with the estimated $250,000 to take our theories and put the discipline of the Millennium Institute behind them.