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Power the American nation with waste food!

A new study shows that the energy used to produce the food wasted by Americans is greater than the energy stored in the oil and gas reserves around US shores.

The situation is probably worse than the study suggests, since the only data available on wasted food was from 1995, when 27% of all food was wasted.  Since then, food prices have fallen, and waste has probably increased.

Michael Webber and Amanda Cuellar at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin calculate that this is the equivalent of about 2150 trillion kilojoules lost each year.

That's more than could be gained from many popular strategies to improve energy efficiency. It is also more than projections for how much energy the US could produce by making ethanol biofuel from grains.


Obviously, Americans (and every other similarly-wasteful society - we're just as guilty in the UK) should be doing their level best to reduce their wasted food, but it also strikes me; there is gold in them thar bins.

Rather than persuade hundreds of millions of lazy "Westerners" to change their ways, why not exploit them?  Why not make money off them (or at least, save your own energy costs)?

We already have a bus driving around for free, and a car running on garbage.  Can you come up with a house-hold scale scheme?

Could you cut your energy bills to zero, just by collecting other people's garbage for them?

Could you set yourself up as a supplier of motor fuels (gasoline or diesel replacements?  methane?)

Come on, iblers, do your thing!





New Scientist article


Oil data

The study itself.

(I have attached a PDF of the study, if you're interested.

Picture of Power the American nation with waste food!
waste food report.pdf(608x801) 100 KB
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Dudely6 years ago
It's a little known fact that the carbon released and energy used to move around and process recyclables plus the carbon and energy you save from recycling something instead of making/smelting a new one leaves you with an equal or negative number in all but the case of aluminum cans and a couple others; I think paper was one, but only when you included/excluded certain numbers. I suspect (especially if done on too large a scale) food-into-energy would be the same. Food is a relatively poor store of energy since it contains more water than anything else. The energy cost to truck the food very well might exceed the energy contents of the food itself, depending on distance traveled and the efficiency of the process by which you extract the energy. After all, converting it into methane simply converts it into an easy-to-transport version, and the process by which that occurs is fairly inefficient. You'd get a much more efficient energy release by, say, burning it and using the heat to turn water to steam to turn a turbine (currently our most efficient carbon-neutral-or-better process). Or you could just use it to heat the place directly. Malls and restaurants would be the obvious choices for this kind of model, but it wouldn't really work anywhere else, like in a private home, since they don't produce enough wasted food to make a complex machine and system like that feasible. Just making the thing would mean your energy deficit for years! Suffice it to say that quoting a bare number like energy contents in wasted food hides both the true cost of the process to harness it and the true potential. I think we should continue doing exactly what we're doing. The food goes somewhere, right? A landfill. So just subsidize (or, hell, mandate) caps that trap the gases released by a landfill and burn them for energy. Many landfills already do this, as it's very cost-effective. After all, people really do waste a lot of food, and there are other things that get thrown out that rot too; basically anything made out of a plant. So good idea, but if it were that easy someone would already be making obscene amounts of money off of it ;).
CameronSS6 years ago
I think it was in National Geographic a few years back...someone determined that the amount of food wasted in the US was enough to end world hunger.
Of course, the real problem is distribution and imbalanced production. Much of that food is wasted because no one buys it.
Wasn't it that 10% of the population controlled 90% of it's wealth?
Is that mutually exclusive?
Kiteman (author)  CameronSS6 years ago
Nope .
EmmettO6 years ago
The food wasted in the US is baffling! My friend worked for a doughnut shop. At the end of the day they threw out all the doughnuts that were not sold. This was a small shop and they threw out several large garbage bags full every day. Mind you they're perfectly good. I asked that they give the doughnuts to a shelter or food pantry and they said it had something to do with "food safety law" and that they were not allowed to give them away. That's just one tiny example of the food that is wasted.
rimar20006 years ago
Someone said: "there are three sorts of lies: little lies, big lies, and statistics". I am too concerned with the prodigal uses of the so-called "first world" (not only USA!), but I think they are rapidly changing, thereby demonstrating its adaptability. That's very healthy, and gives hope that it will not need a global catastrophe for humanity begins to work with a little more respect for the environment. Conspiracy theories are very captivating, often malicious, but they sometimes have a positive side: they instill fear, and we know that "Fear is not stupid". Pardon if some parts of my text are not understandable, remember I speak Spanish...
"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is the phrase you were looking for, in English, at least. :-)
Thanks, but the phrase I wanted to write in this case was precisely the one that I wrote. Perhaps the original has not been in English.
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