Asian Age, Jan 27th, 2016 – The pulse of life

The pulse of life

Dr Vandana Shiva

Synthetic nitrogen fertilisers are based on fossil fuels and use the same process that also made explosives and ammunitions for Hitler during World War II. Synthetic nitrogen fertilisers started being promoted in agriculture when large stocks of ammonium nitrate munitions, left over from World War II, were marketed for agricultural use. The energy intensive Haber-Bosch process is used to make ammonia — the feedstock for all synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, as well as for explosives. It uses natural gas to artificially fix nitrogen from the air at a high temperature to produce ammonia. To make 1kg of nitrogen fertiliser, the energy equivalent to two litres of diesel is used. Energy used during fertiliser manufacture in 2000 was equivalent to 191 billion litres of diesel and is projected to rise to 277 billion litres in 2030. This is a major contributor to climate change, yet largely swept under the rug.

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