Friday, December 10, 2021

The Fertilizer Shortage is Part of Something Bigger

I would say bigger and more malevolent.  It's a direct consequence of the war on fossil fuels.  There are those in the environmental movement who want to kill off the vast majority of humanity, from 95% of humans on the planet to almost completely depopulating the planet.  Even if they don't intend to harm a single person, if they slash natural gas or crude oil production they inevitably will create shortages of the many products that come from those two fields from simple compounds like urea fertilizers to complex drugs.  The world is far more complicated than the simple visions they have, far more interconnected in vast webs of production than the "net zero carbon" people can possibly understand.  

To explain this could take a lot of detours and explanations, but the topic showed up on Watts Up With That today in a short post, “How the War on Fossil Fuels Will Kill People… Urea Edition.”  Urea, yes the same compound in urine, is at the bottom of this story.  While the urea we excrete is produced in our livers, not our kidneys, the urea that's used to create fertilizer is produced through a century old process that turns natural gas into ammonia which is then used to synthesize urea.  A hundred years ago,  German chemists Fritz Haber and Otto Bosch developed a way to produce ammonia from nitrogen (80% of the atmosphere and in billions of chemical compounds so available in virtually any quantity needed) with natural gas (methane, CH4), stripping the hydrogen from the methane to bond with the nitrogen. 

To say this is an important achievement is massive understatement.  Both Haber and Bosch were awarded Nobel prizes in chemistry for the process.  The first was given in 1918, to Fritz Haber, who developed the process in the laboratory.  The second was given to Carl Bosch over a decade later, 1931, for his brilliant engineering skills that made the process viable on a massive scale.  

It has been said that Haber-Bosch has fed half the world.  Compare the solid black line at the top of this plot to the dashed dark red line, an estimate of the population that could be fed without Haber Bosch nitrogen.  The world with that fertilizer has almost twice the population.

Trends in human population and nitrogen use throughout the twentieth century. Of the total world population (solid line), an estimate is made of the number of people that could be sustained without reactive nitrogen from the Haber–Bosch process (long dashed line), also expressed as a percentage of the global population (short dashed line). The recorded increase in average fertilizer use per hectare of agricultural land (blue symbols) and the increase in per capita meat production (green symbols) is also shown.  From "How a Century of Ammonia Synthesis Changed the World", Nature Geoscience, 2008.

The War on Fossil Fuels has largely been fought by attempting to deprive fossil fuel producers of capital and force the replacement of fossil fuels with unreliable renewable resources (wind & solar). This strategy was best summed up by Saule Omarova, whose nomination as Comptroller of the Currency was scuttled by at least five Senate Democrats.

Her nomination was withdrawn but the important quote from my earlier post was:

In the clip, Omarova, who was born in the Soviet Union and is not a native English speaker, is seen discussing “troubled industries and firms that are in transitioning.” She continues: “And here what I’m thinking about is primarily coal industry and oil and gas industry. A lot of the smaller players in that industry are, uh, going to probably, uh, go bankrupt in, in, in short order, at least we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change, right?” 

Combine the pushing of the anti-carbon activists with pressure from the investment sector’s demands “to cut back investment in favor of dividends” have caused the inability to ramp up production fast enough to keep up with surging demand. And this is why we suddenly have a synthetic fertilizer crisis.  They're blaming this on Covid, but reality is that it's only coincidence.   

Final words to Watts Up With That author David Middleton:

The wholesale destruction of our coal-fired power plant infrastructure and an unjustified fear of nuclear power, coupled with the low capacity factors of wind and solar power has made the world increasingly reliant on natural gas for power generations. Efforts to defund the oil & gas industry and the investment community’s demands that we focus on investor returns rather than growth, while also reducing the carbon intensity of our operations have driven natural gas prices through the roof in areas of the world dependent on imported LNG. This has left us in a situation where many nations will have to choose between freezing in the dark this winter or facing food shortages come spring.




  1. Well, somewhat annoying for countries like America, Argentina, most of Europe, who were mostly doing okay for both beef and food in general before the boon of nitrogen fertilizer. Most of the increase has served to feed other places.

    But the Turd World, who can't cope with price hikes nor shortages?
    The die-off there could become biblical.

    1. Ah, but would Our Betters let any such thing happen without enforcing the equivalent on us??? I think you know the answer to that, even if you won't admit it.

    2. "Enforcing" is where that whole cunning plan goes all to shit.
      They're outnumbered 100:1, and even their stupid ones can do math.
      We aren't serfs, and we won't be kulaked.
      That's where the wheels always come off the Wile E. Coyote soopergenius plots, and they end up as a puff of dust at the bottom of the cliff.

    3. But who will the Only Ones obey when the time comes? Understand that THEY will be paid to protect their Masters, and when money is worthless, they will be authorized to "requisition" whatever they need from Mere Citizens.

  2. I suspect that the fuel/fertilizer/food relationship is too complex for most on the Left, or they don't care because they always expect to get fed.

  3. We watched the enlightened Seattle Hippies dig up a few square meters of public lawn in the annexed territory of Chop. They hoped to raise crops, but that didn't work out for them. Apparently feeding yourself is more complicated than that.

    1. Bloomberg says farmers are stupid, and he is wealthy, so he SHOULD know, eh???

  4. Since CO2 is such a bad thing, or, so they Say,and me not being a mathematical whiz ,I'm wondering how beneficial it would be if some people who seem to want Me Dead could be convinced to stop exhaling.

  5. Welp, yeah, duh. And before modern fertilizer the bat guano trade was big money, one of the things that made several South American nations rich and powerful.

    Now, the real kicker? The thing that would make the world better (for reduction of CO2 output and for production of oxygen and for cooling the world) for 'climate change' would be... burn all the rainforests and turn them into farmland.


    Well, (cracks fingers, laughs maniacally) see, tropical rainforests don't produce net oxygen. Actually, due to all the critters and all the decomposition (especially the decomposition) tropical rainforests are net CO2 and CO and CH4 producers, along with other 'global warming chemicals.' By reducing the forests (best done by fire, beautiful fire, all that carbon being sequestered as ash and stuff, good for the earth because most tropical rainforest land is actually pretty crappy for farm land because of all the depletion of needed chemicals) or just bulldoze it or blow it all up and let it rot and turn to mulch, in a few years you'll be able to raise crops and animals and harvestable trees and all will do a better job of net-producing O2 and sequestering CO2.

    But that's... heresay to the Church of Global Climate Change Environmentalism.

    Which is a subsidy of The Elitist Movement to Restore Feudalism and make most People Peasants, Serfs and Slaves.

  6. Vast numbers of greenie morons simply are too stupid and ignorant to understand just how many products we get from oil. Say 'oil' to one of these people and ALL they think of is gasoline/diesel and "ERMAGOD POLLUTION!!!". The source of our problem is we don't limit voting nearly enough. It shouldn't be just should ONLY be allowed for people who can pass a test showing they understand the fundamentals of how the world works. That would eliminate at least two thirds of society from the ranks of qualified voters. And the same standards would apply to holding office.

    1. First, start with limiting WHO can run for office. Trust fund babies have a poor track record, plus a high ego.

  7. China deliberately restricting fertilizer exports, I wonder why:

  8. And the fertilizer (made primarily from natural gas) is used to make corn which is used to make ethanol . . . which is used in cars. (shakes head)