by Dr. David Pimentel
Dr Gary Gardner: I’d like to introduce Dr Mary Meyer, who is the newest faculty member in the department of Horticultural Science. She is an Environmental Horticulturalist, with extension research appointment based at the Arboretum. Mary.
Dr. Mary Meyer: Thank you Gary. It is my plessure to introduce our guest lecturer today, for the Kermit Olson memorial lecture. Dr. David Pimentel received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Masssechusets, snd his Ph D. from Comell University. He has since studied at the University of Chicago, Oxford University, and the Massachusets Institute of Technology. He is currently a professor at Cornell University in 3 departments. Entomology, Ecology, and Natural Resources. Dr. Pimentel has been the recipient of many honors and awards and he has received national recognition for his work with food production, population and natural resources. He is currently a member of the National Board of Directors Carrying Capacity Network, The committee for research and exploration of the National Geographic Society, and the international advisory committee 2020 vision for food, agriculture and the environment. Now, you may wonder what the connection is between the department of entomology, and world population and food supply. There’s really probably no more connection with that department than there is with the department of Horticulture or the Department of Plant Pathology, or the Department of Animal Science, or the Department of Agronomy. And yet few of us in the scientific community have chosen to face these major issues such as food supply and world population. Few of us have come to grips with them, and very few of us bring them to the attention of the general public. So I am sure that you join me with great admiration for the work that Dr. Pimentel has done. He’s gone far beyond the scope of his current department, to address issues that are not only important to our scientific community, but to our world as a whole. Please join me in welcoming Dr. David Pimentel
Dr. Pimentel: Thank You very much, Dr. Meyer for your kind introduction. I am honored to be delivering the Kermit Olson Memorial Lecture. And Before I start, I would like to congratulate all the scholarship awardees that we’ve seen here.
I am just going to keep this, based on the instruction I have received to 45 minutes and leave 15 minutes or so for questions at the end. And I am going to speak from slides, and so if they can turn that projector on, and dim the lights.
There are seats down in front here for anybody, if you’d like one.
I’ve put the first slide and the second slide only to visually indicate to you we’ve got too many people. And, I think all of you realize that. We already have 6 billion humans on earth today. And we add a quarter of a million net gain every 24 hours. A quarter of a million additional people to feed. Already in the world there is 1.5 billion that are malnourished. 40,000 children die each day because of malnourishment and disease. And about 2 billion people live in poverty. All three of these numbers are the largest we’ve ever had in the history of the earth.
Now, few of you, I think. appreciate that we have a problem in the U.S.. Or at least from my perspective that we do. In 1850, the United States had 23 million people. Or less than the population of New York and California, and perhaps Minnesota, but I arn not positive on the population of Minnesota . In 1994 we had 260,000,000. Tt’s actually, you can never keep your slides up to date, It is now 261,000,000. And the rate of growth of the U.S. Population is 1.1% per year. Or a doubling time of just over 60 years. So in approximately 60 years, we will have a half a billion or over 500,000,000 people in the United States. Now this does include the regular births, and uh the number of immigrants that we are, legal immigrants. I’m not talking about illegal immigrants, that we have in the United States.
And I did receive 2 letters last week of people saying that’s not so. Well I must admit, it’s not my data. It’s U.S. bureau of Census data. And so if you doubt a U.S. bureau of Census, then these people said the population of the U. S. is not growing. They gave me no data, but that was their view.
Now in the U.S. we’re extremely fortunate in having an abundance of food, high quality food and a good diverse food supply. And I think provostly, few of you appreciate the fact that the average American consumes 2200 lb. of food per year. Over a ton. Actually, we’re eating a little bit too much. And this is where some of the excess is ending up. Now also the U.S., We’ve had an enormous change in technology in what we’ve been doing. In 1850, when I just told you that the U.S. population was 23,000,000, we were 90%, 91%, to be exact 91% dependent on wood. Today, we are 96% dependent on fossil energy. And also, to illustrate how & out of focus we are relative to our use of resources. The bar on your left indicates the quantity of fossil energy that is used annually in the United States. And the bar to the right of that one is the total solar energy that is captured by all the plant biomass in the United States annually. That includes forests, agriculture, lawns and what have you.
We are in fact burning 40% more fossil energy than the total solar energy captured by all the plant biomass in the United States. Europe is worse, but that is because they are denser. Although, we are dependent on fossil energy in the United States, in Europe, Japan, and Australia, and a few other developed nations, the majority of the world’s population that’s about 75% are still dependent on wood and other types of biomass resources. That was a woman in Nepal, this is a shot in Africa, and so forth. And crop residues are being burned and dung and so forth. And obviously, one of the reasons our forests in the United States are being protected is we are burning fossil energy, and did not have to turn to cutting our forests quite extensively as some in the world.
This is what remains of a tropical rain forest in Haiti. But it is being duplicated in other parts of the world. World wide, agriculture accounts for 80% of the deforestation that is taking place, in large part due to the fact we are degrading our soils through erosion, salinization and to replace these soils and to illustrate that, during the last 40 years world wide, we have been forced to abandon nearly 1/3 of our arable land. Where does that land come from? The torests to replace that lost land. Now to get back to the United States again, We import 60% of our oil. At a cost of $70 billion dollars ($70,000,000,000) annually. And the U.S. Department of Energy has indicated Alaska is our greatest source of oil. And we peaked out in the use of oil or the pumping of oil in 1988, and it is projected by 2015 we will be down to the bottom of the barrel. And in fact generally in the United States we will be out in the year 2015 or 2020 related to oil, and natural gas comes soon after that. And we have good coal reserves that will last us approximately 100 years. But in 2015 or 2020, we will be importing 100% of our oil at a cost of $ 150 billion or possibly $200 billion dollars annually. Now, we are paying part of our oil imports today with about $40 billion dollars in food that we are exporting. To pay for that $70 billion in oil. Oil imports is the primary cause of our balance of payments debt in the U.S. And looking also to the future, we’re going to need oil obviously to produce food and all of the other services that we depend on.
Now, also in agriculture for example, we do use large quantities of various inputs, but to show you that you can produce com by hand. I’m not going to go through all these numbers, I just want to pick out a couple.
First of all the only thing you need to raise corn by hand is an ax, a hoe and some seeds and a good strong back. It takes approximately 500 hours, 1200 hours per hectare or 500 hours per acre to raise corn by hand. Today, in the United States, we raise an acre of corn with an input of only 4 hours, in contrast of doing it by hand of 500. Now our yields since 1945 have increased dramatically. Nearly a 3 fold increase in corn yields since 1945. There have been some blips there, but in a large part this has been achieved through fertilizers, hybrid corns, pesticides and what have you. You’ll note that our move to fertilizers is a relatively recent event. In 1945 we were applying an average of 7 K. per hectar or 7 lb. per acre of fertilizer. There’s been a 20 fold increase in the use of Nitrogen fertilizer in corn production in the U.S. In fact, today the energy just to produce the nitrogen fertilizer is more than all of the inputs that we used in 1945, to show you how rapidly this technology is changing. Now phosphorus and potassium have also increased, but not as dramatically as nitrogen.
Now, another big input in agricultural production is mechanization. That is the reason we have been able to reduce the inputs of 500 hours per acre to 4 hours is mechanization. Now it takes about 3000 gallons of oil equivalents to produce a piece of machinery such as you see here. And they burn about 12 gallons of diesel fuel an hour while in operation. To raise an acre of corn in the U.S. requires about 140 gallons of oil equivalents to produce anywhere from 110 to 115 bu. of corn per acre. A little over a gallon of oil per bushel of corn that is produced. Now, that 140 gallons per acre represents only 10% of the energy that goes into raising corn. And that is the portion we’re concerned about, because we’re rapidly running out of that resource. Most of the energy, in fact about 90% of the energy to raise corn is solar energy. That’s the reason we can get 2 calories out for every calorie we invest.
Now China is actually uses more fertilizer, more pesticides, more irrigation water than we do per hectare, or per acre. But they still have an input of 1200 hours per hectare in production. The one surplus China does have is people.
Now just to show you just where some of the energy goes in producing our food, I’ve taken a can of sweet corn. 455 grams, or a one pound can. And if you ate all the corn that is in the can it is 375 Kcal. of food energy. Now to produce the corn that is in that one pound can requires 450 Kcal.. and then to process it and to put it into a steel can requires about 1300 Kcal.. . or almost 3 times as much energy tor the processing and the packaging as it took to produce the corn that is in the can. I’m not going to go through all these numbers, but just to pick out one more. Shopping. To get that one pound can of corn home from a grocery store. This is based on the average distance we travel, the amount of groceries we bring home and the size automobile and all that information. It takes 311 Kcal.. to get the one pound can of com home from the grocery store. Or almost as much energy to get the can of corn home as there is food energy in the corn itself that there is in the can. Anyway, so you can eat 370 Kcal., that requires over 3000 Kcal. or approximately 8 Kcal. of fossil energy per Kcal. of corn you consume. The average for our total food system is about 10 Kcal. of fossil energy per Kcal. that you consume.
Now, another big energy input in our food system is animal protein. And it is because we eat so much meat, milk and eggs. The energy is relatively high. Incidentally, the livestock population in the united states outweighs the human population by more than 4 times. This is where half of our grain goes to feeding these livestock plus a lot of forage. Now you don’t see too much here on this Texas range, but in other places there is forage. Now one trend that is a concern, world wide, food production has been declining on a per capita basis since 1980, despite the green revolution and biotechnology and all the rest of it as measured by grains. Grains make up 80% of the worlds foods. Now land is an essential resource in agricultural production world wide, as well as the United States. And few people appreciate the fact that more than 99% of the food in the world including the U.S. comes from the land. Less than 1% is from the oceans and aquatic systems. And that portion has been declining due to over fishing, pollution and so forth. And so it is the land on which we are going to depend in the future.
Now most of the arable land is already in production. This is a shot I took in Guatemala a few years back showing you the steepness of the slope in which they are raising corn and some vegetables in the lower part that actually is terraced. And you get a better appreciation of the steepness of the slope on which that farmer is tilling the soil with his mule. And you can also appreciate the erosion problem that would exist when growing corn on a slope like this. Now one aspect we’re blessed in the United States, still with a relatively abundant land area. But we’re treating this not very effectively. I’m sure you’ve got some of these around. This happens to be Los Angeles, but I’m sure around here in St. Paul, you’ve got similar uses of land. And in a 30 year period from 1945 to 1975 in the U.S. we’ve blacktopped over and I’m talking agricultural land now, we’ve blacktopped over an area larger than the state of Ohio in 30 years. If you take all the land that was blacktopped over during that 30 year period it would be Ohio plus Pennsylvania. And we’re still doing it. Not as rapidly as in that period, but we’re still removing. And for every person we add in the United States requires one acre of land in urbanization in highways and parking lots or whatever. So that relates to our doubling of the U. S. population.
Now it’s nice to see wheat growing against the blue sky. But if you look onto the land, things aren’t quite so pretty. This happens to be in Kansas where they do have serious soil erosion and Professor Meyer was teiling me, you have some here too. And they sometimes… after you, at least in Kansas, use snow plows to get the soil off of the highway. But more important than wind erosion in soil erosion is water erosion. Here is a severe case of erosion. Nearly 6′ of soil has been eroded from this location. Here is another shot of severe erosion. You all’ve seen this. Now the seriousness of this problem is that we’re losing this soil year by year. Iowa, for example in l981 reported they’d lost one half of their topsoil. Iowa has some of the best soils in the world, next to Minnesota. In any case their losing soil 30 times faster than the sustainable soil formation rate. The average in the U.S. is 17 times faster than the sustainable soil formation. The concern is, it takes five hundred (500) years to form an inch of soil under agricultural conditions and you need a minimum of 6″ for production. So it’s an environmental problem that once you have lost that resource, you can’t sit around and wait for it. Now you do have techniques and technologies today to prevent soil erosion and control it. Crop rotations, contour planting, terracing, grass strips, no till and what have you. But we’re still losing this soil. And then relative to the U.S. population growth we graph here, currently we have 1.8 acres per capita today, and when our population doubles to 500 million or half a billion in the next 60 years, we’ll then have .6 hectares, I’m sorry, acres per person. And our agronomists tell us we need a minimum of 1.2 acres per person so that you can have a diverse, abundant food resource.
Now, some people say, don’t worry about the loss of our land to erosion or population growth and so forth. We can convert the deserts into productive areas. That’s true with 2 big if s. First of all, that you have water, secondly that you have a lot of energy.
First of all crops require an enormous amount of water. Just for transpiration alone, a corn crop, during the growing season will transpire 4.2 million liters per hectare or 500,000 gallons of water just during the growing season, that’s per acre. This is the reason, that, to produce 1 kg. of food requires 1400 Kg of water, or 1400 liters of water. If you want to translate that into lb., it’s 1500 lb. of water to produce 1 lb. of corn and so forth and other foods for that matter.
Now the energy use in irrigation is enormous. This is data from Nebraska. To produce rain fed corn for example requires about 6 million Kcal.. To produce irrigated corn, the same yield, but under irrigation requires more than 3 times as much energy. So it’s not only water demanding, but it’s energy demanding. In the U.S. and I’m talking now irrigation, Agriculture consumes 85% ofthe water. The average for the world is 87%. So, we’re very close to that average. The thing is agriculture takes the water out, but through transpiration and so forth it doesn’t go back. The public and industry takes the water out, they use it, sometimes they pollute it, but at least we’re very close to that average. The thing is agriculture takes the water out, but through transpiration and so forth it doesn’t go back. The public and industry takes the water out, they use it, sometimes they pollute it, but at least they put it back. But in agriculture, we don’t and that’s why we get this, these data on consumption.
Now this is a shot in Africa. And, I don’t care how much genetic engineering you have you are not going to produce a crop of corn or any other food in a situation like that.
Now another group of organisms that share our food with us are insects, diseases, weeds, rodents, and so forth. And we do use an enormous amount of pesticides world wide and in the U.S. too to protect our crops. The U. S. for example uses I billion pounds of pesticides annually. Whereas the world appiication of pesticides is about 5 billion pounds. In other words, the U. S. uses about 20% of the total world ‘s pesticides in control. Now despite the use of all these pesticides world wide, and other controls, we loose 35% of all potential production to again insects, diseases and weeds. After we harvest that 65% we lose another 20% to another group of pests, insects, microbes, rodents and so forth. So that the total loss of food world wide due to pests, and despite our efforts to prevent these losses is nearly one half. Clearly this needs some improvement here.
Now, I talk about improvements in science and technology, and I am a great believer in science and technology. However, I am also a realist on what science and technology can do for us. There are too many people who believe, “don’t worry about energy, don’t worry about land, don’t worry about water, or food. Science and technology will solve all these problems for you.” To a degree it can help, but there are limits. Fish production in the world, we’ve built more ships faster ships larger nets. Fish populations are declining. And on a per capita basis the amount of food we’re getting from the oceans and the aquatic systems are declining, despite all of our knowledge and all of our technology. And certainly building larger and faster ships is not solving that problem. As far as forest production is concerned, larger and more chain saws is not helping the production of forests. And as far as water resources, to illustrate that one, the Colorado river that is shared by California, Nevada, and Arizona and Colorado and so forth, by the time it reaches Mexico it is neariy dry. I’d appreciate knowing from anyone here what science and technology you know that will double the flow of the Colorado river.
Another one, on arable land, I told you we lose 12 million acres due to erosion and salinization annually. We have a shortage of arable land generally in the world, what technology do you know that will double the arable land of the world? And biodiversity and pollination and to give you one illustration here, in New York State for example, I’m going to give you that, my estimate. I made a calculation on what honey bees and wild bees and the number of blossoms they pollinate on a bright sunny day in New York State. The number is I trillion blossoms. And what technology do you know of that would allow us to pollinate one trillion blossoms in New York State or Minnesota for that matter. Well I could go on about this, but. I believe in science and Technology, but I also recognize there are limits.
Now I was in Uganda earlier this year. This still shook.. has shaken me, there was a large article in the newspaper, that the farmers in Uganda could not afford $5 to buy a hoe to till their soil this year. The annual income per capita is $170.00 so the $5 is a large number. So there are people that are really, sincerely desperate today. Now over the last 10 years, what’s happened to some of our resources as shown here, land per capita has declined 21%, irrigation has declined 12%. This is all on a per capita basis. Fish production has declined 10%, and fossil energy 7%. Now we made a study a year or two ago on what would be the optimum population of the world and the U.S. Based on a standard of living like Europe . That means cutting consumption if you want to know the relative to the United States, cutting our consumption of energy and foods and water by 1/2. So if you use a standard of living like the Europeans, that would be like cutting consumption and also making the assumption that we stop soil erosion, we stop mining the ground water and conserving our other resources, we estimate we could support a world population of 2 billion and the U.S. could support a population of 200,000,000. Now I think all of us realize, now obviously you can have more people than this, we’ve got more in the world today, but they’re not living a very good standard of living And we won’t have as high a standard of living if we double or quadruple our population in the U.S. There is no question that we humans are going to have to stop reproducing, or growing some time in the future. Either we ourselves with our wisdom or knowledge control our numbers or nature is going to do it for us. We’ve got two choices. Because if we let nature, it is through starvation, violence, disease, and so forth and not a very pleasant . In fact you can see this already in many parts of the world if you travel to some of the developing countries. Now, I’ve given you some I suppose of not terribly encouraging information about population growth, the environment, living standards for many people of the world. But I am optimistic at least from this point of view. That if humans will make up their mind on what we want, I think we can achieve a better life for everyone in the U.S. and the world.
Dr. Meyer: We have time for questions. If we can have the lights back on in the back, thank you.
Dr. Pimentel: Well they don’t, The great majority, I agree with you, do say that probably 95%. There is a small percentage that is growing. Herman Daily, John Chapman, and there are several others that are taking, and Carl Folk in Sweden and so forth that are taking a different view. They call themselves ecological economists. And in fact there is a society that Herman Daily is contributing toward. Now, yes I received some letters making the statement, don’t worry, if you get the price up they’ll find oil anywhere, or everywhere. And I just wish they were correct. Now I ‘ve been talking to geologists and so forth and their statement when you say ” well look at the oil we were discovering, isn’t there a lot under the ground that you can discover or find for us.” And they say that statement would have been true in the 1930’s or possibly early 40’s . But they said our knowledge of what exists in the ground is very good, and maybe we’re a 1% or 2% off, but when it takes more than a gallon of oil to get that gallon of oil out of the ground, it’s time to quit. Now we can use some of the new technology of steam and so forth to recover and their estimate is that perhaps we can get another 10%. But there’s no question we’re getting down to the bottom of the barrel and world wide I say, we peaked out 2 years ago, or maybe 3 years ago in the per capita use of fossil energy world wide. Remember 80% of the fossil energy today is being utilized by 25% of the worlds population. And the majority of the poor people in developing countries are only getting 20% of that share. I just wish the economists were correct, but I must admit I don’t agree with them. And I had one come up also who wanted to make a bet with me, if I could name 5 resources, this was in a letter to me, that in 5 increasing.<?> And I did write him a letter offering to bet him the $1000. But then I never received a reply from him after that.
Q: From a world wide viewpoint, should we not be putting more of our resources into nuclear fusion for so energy would be a non issue. And wouldn’t that be a good Manhattan project rather than these other things we are talking about.
Dr. Pimentel: The question is shouldn’t we invest in fusion. I ..my.. the lady here says no, but I think we should, and I was a member of the advisory, science advisory staff of the Department of Energy a few years back and I think a majority of the members supported this. However, it’s not a panacea. And that’s where I agree with you. There are radio activity problems, not as much as fission, but there are problems. Number 2 and the major factor as to where we would have problems with supplying all of our needs with fusion, and I don’t believe we ever will, is that there is a heat pollution problem. To illustrate that with fission, a physicist, in fact a Nobel physicist at MIT made the calculation if we supplied all of our needs, that is electrical needs in the U.S. today, which accounts for about 30% of our energy consumption with fission, the water temperatures of our lakes and streams would increase 15, I think 12 or 15 degrees. Now, we can cool these units with air, now they’re not as efficient, but even then of course you’d be adding quite a bit of heat to the atmosphere. But again you get back to, how many people do we want to have. It is still going to take land to produce food. It is still going to take water to produce that food. And we still want water for drinking and other purposes and we cannot eliminate all of our species on earth, and we be the only species or with our crops, that’s not going to work either. Agriculture depends on these other organisms. Yes. and then?
Q: You know in China, you are only allowed to have one baby. If everyone on earth were only allowed to have one baby, per couple, how long does it take us to get to where you want us to be?
Dr. Pimentel: It would take us a little over 100. The question here is if you allowed everybody, or made I mean everybody agreed to have one child per couple, how long it would take us to get down to 2 billion from 6 billion. A little over a hundred years. Now for the first. What’s that? No, I agree with you…. you know, the first 50 years, there would be very little change, because of the age structure. just to illustrate, lets use China. If they had fully implemented this I child per couple, their population in the next 20 years they would have added a population equivalent to the United States. A little over 200 million, and it is because of the young age structure. The number of teenagers and twenties that would be reproducing for example, would just totally overwhelm the system, even with one child per couple. To illustrate that with Mexico, if they adopted ZPG tomorrow as 2.1 children per couple, the Mexican population would more than double in the next 60 years. It’s that young age. We’ve got a tremendous momentum built into the world population. So, even with going to one child per couple, we would slightly increase during that period, but eventually when you get a lot of elderiy like myself,. there would be a dip, a very rapid dip in the world population.
Q: One of the big problems it seems to me is that that a great number of individuals in legislatures that make policy decisions, that allocate funds etc. . are abysmally ignorant about environmental education about biology, about energy transactions and the whole business. And so, one of the major issues it seems to me is to get those characters well educated, and I think one of the things that could have been done would have been to have him on public radio and it’s too bad it did not happen at this point. And so, how do you go about that and get to talking to legislators.
Dr. Pimentel: You are correct, I think most of you heard. You are correct, politicians, incidentally, I am an elected official in the mayor’s council, are generally, well, not well educated in the terms of environmental issues and certainly not in the terms of population issues and they do not want to touch it. In fact, it is a political no no. They are wimps! Right! But, I can assure you that you can’t,– incidentally politicians are followers, they are not leaders. They wait to hear from you and me, that is the voting public, and make sure that there is a great majority out there before they will make any decision. And so, it’s you and I to speak and write, I mean it’s … up to us.
(Tape change missed end of answer and beginning of next question)
Q: population growth by the United Nations is not 2 billion in 100 years, it’s 12. And so does that imply since you’re optimistic that you have more faith in technology than you indicated in your remarks here today?
Dr. Pimentel: I’m optimistic only from this point of view. The question related to population growth is we’re going to have about 12 billion in the next 40 to 50 years. And I must admit I think that’s probably an accurate number and that’s probably where we’re going to end up. My, why I am optimistic, it’s not relative to science and technology, although it would be nice if we could put something in the water throughout the world to stop this reproduction, but uh, what I am optimistic about is once humans make up their mind on what we should do and have the will, we’ve really been able to accomplish great things and this is what I am counting on that there will be, and I must admit it is an awful thing to say, is there are going to be some spots in the world we’re going to have some real serious disasters. And it appears that it takes disasters, for the, now, blame the public now, not only politicians, it takes disasters to get public opinion going and then eventually to get politicians moving to try to do something about these issues. Now, I hope we don’t get in the similar disastrous situation that China is in, that Africa is in, India is in, Bangladesh is in before we make a decision that we ought to do something about our population. Now hardly anybody talks about the U.S. as having a population problem. They do recognize China’s got a problem, India’s got a problem, and we invest money and we give advice to them. We in the United States do not have a population policy. I was asked to testify before a Senate Committee a while back on what our immigration rate should be. They wanted to know what resources we have and how many people this would support. And I told them, tell me what your population policy is. How many people, and what standard of living do you want to have in the United States, and then I’ll comment about your immigration rate. I’m not quite as optimistic as I said.
Q: I was curious about the, your commentary about topsoil. You said it takes about 500 years to develop 1″ of topsoil under agricultural conditions. I was wondering if that could be increased by different policies of composting or applications of more crop residues back onto fields, and also what in your views are the best techniques for preventing more erosion.
Dr. Pimentel: Well, on increasing topsoil, you can get it. I remember one stage, I was trying to improve a soil that was heavy clay, that had been eroded quite a bit. And I put on 500 tons of manure per acre and 500 tons of sludge per acre. That is a lot. And it did improve the soil. The question is where can we get all this organic matter to incorporate into the soil. Now your second question is what soil conservation techniques do I favor? I favor all of them! And we ought to! It depends on the particular land. You know, crop rotation, strip crops, contour planting, even though no till uses a lot more pesticides, I favor no till, even with, or despite the pesticides. Because, that is a problem we can deal with– over,– in a relatively few years. But you can’t sit around and wait 500 years for one inch of top soil. And there are mulchers, there’s ridge till, there’s a whole array of technologies that we’ve got available today that we could produce crops and lose a minimum of only 1 ton per hectare per year, which is the soil formation rate. But we ought to get at it, and do it.
Q: Recently, last week at the University of Minnesota here, in a test in the College of Natural Resources, there was a question on how soon will the human population double, and the answers were 60, 80, 90, 100. And the answer that the professor had was 100. And when a student went up there and said adamantly opposed that and said it was 60, he said well we’ll get back to you. And they were a little red faced about that. And when they graded the test and handed it out the next day, or the following week, they said, we’ll throw out that question and everyone will get credit for it. The question is how can we expect people to be educated when our educators are ignorant?
Dr. Pimentel: You are correct. Don’t believe everything I said, or anybody else that you hear or read. Go and check it out on your own. No, there’s no question, perhaps that, I’ll try and defend that faculty member. Perhaps what he was looking at is that the population reference bureau states that the rate of growth of the U.S. population is either . 7 or .8% per year. They’re ignoring immigrants. But if you include the immigrants, they account for about half that population growth. And so, again the statistic from the U. S. Bureau of Census is 1 .1% per year. And if you calculate that out it’s a doubling time of 60, to be exact, 63 years.
<Look(?)> for the Department of Energy on this question. Because there was so damn much misinforrnation on this subject. They didn’t know what or who to believe. And we did produce a report in 1980. And it did, I must admit we should have been blunter than we were, but we knew that we were up against a lot of politics. And so we did point out all the numbers. It takes 72% more energy to produce one gallon of ethanol, as the actual energy that you get out. It costs 3 or 4 times, what it does, depending on what state you’re in and the subsidies, it costs 3 or 4 times dollar wise to produce that. The environmental impacts are enormous. There’s erosion, use of pesticides, and even the pollution issue is a boondoggle. The only thing that burning ethanol in an automobile helps you, it reduces the carbon monoxide, but it produces just as much nitrous oxides, and it also produces aldehydes that are carcinogenic and so forth and so on. The only reason, and let me comment on our little study, it cost only three thousand dollars to produce. There were no consulting fees or anything like that to me or the committee. Just for travel, to produce this report, we’ve got 22 pages length, or something like that. And, But it disturbed, it did make Washington Post and Wall Street lournal and whatever, only because some people started accusing us of being in the pockets of big oil. This then prompted some congressmen from the corn growing region to invest .. they then asked G.A.O. to investigate me and the committee, which they did. I asked the investigators what the study was costing. It was over $60,000. They produced a report of about 10 times the length of ours, and totally supported our findings. But it was a form of harassment. The only reason we’re producing ethanol in the United States is, and ADM <Archer Daniels Midland>I think is in your back yard isn’t it? Is that, and they produce 65% of the ethanol, is that they, he gives big bucks to the presid, to Bush, to Clinton, to congressmen, and also the congressmen from the corn producing states get votes by saying, look we’re producing ethanol, it’s a renewable energy and all that jaz. But no, it is one of the big losers that we have.
Do you want to quit?
Dr. Meyer: I’m sorry but our time is up. We will have a reception and more people can ask Dr. Pimentel questions, and lets thank him again. (Applause)