Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Peak Phosphate?

Over the past decade or so awareness of peak oil has grown and a significant number of websites devoted to the issue have developed, including (among many others) The Association for the Study of Oil and Gas, the Peak Oil News and Message Board, The Postcarbon Institute's Energy Bulletin, The Oil Drum, Life After the Oil Crash and Hubbert's Peak.

A recent article in the Guardian draws attention to another, potentially equally problematic, issue -- the peaking of phosphate production.
Phosphate production is predicted to peak around 2030 as the global population expands to a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050. And unlike oil, where there are renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, there is no substitute for phosphorus, according to the US Geological Survey. ...

"Our primary source – rock phosphate – is mined for use in fertilisers and that's expected to peak around 2030. It means that right at the time we need to be doubling our food-growing capacity to feed the rising global population, we'll be starting to run out of phosphorus. It's a nightmare scenario."

The article goes on to suggest policies aimed at recovering phosphate from organic waste currently sent to landfills as a way to augment rock phosphate.

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