No phosphates, no farms, no food
A recent study reports that the federal helium reserve is running toward empty. Helium is a relatively rare naturally occurring gas with many important industrial uses, which cannot be substituted or produced in a factory. Recognizing this, the federal government established a strategic reserve for helium. This reserve, and other private sources of helium could reach critical levels in as little as 25 years.
Substitute “phosphorus” for “helium” and you have another critical element about to run out in the United States.
Phosphorus like helium, occurs only naturally in the environment, and cannot be manufactured or substituted for any other element.
A major difference is that phosphorus in the form of phosphate is not being held in any strategic reserve. When economically recoverable phosphate is gone in 35 years, the United State will have to turn to some not-so-friendly foreign countries to sell it to us, much as we depend on imported oil today.
So, what’s the big deal about phosphorus? Dug out of the ground as phosphate, it is critical as fertilizer for growing plants, including food and bio-fuel crops like corn.
One of the world’s largest phosphate mining operations in the world is in Tampa’s backyard; Bone Valley along the Polk-Hillsborough county line. When the last of the easy-to-get phosphate is removed through surface mining in about 35 years, the alternative will to either scrape off Plant City to get at those deposits or pay more for it somewhere else.
The operative phrase is “economically recoverable”.
Without a federal strategic reserve of phosphates, the United States will be faced with higher food production costs and having to go hat-in-hand to Morocco and China for enough phosphate in order to feed ourselves.
If we are feeling the pinch now, depending on foreign sources of oil, just wait until we depend on a volatile world market for phosphates.
We still have some time, but as a nation, we need to plan for a strategic phosphate reserve now.
<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen
- Letters: Farmers tackling phosphate runoff (guardian.co.uk)
- A Greener Way To Get Into Space: The Bloon (treehugger.com)
- Morocco says protests over phosphate jobs are over (moroccotomorrow.org)
- Farmers Running Out of Fertilizer May Turn to Odd Gel (friendseat.com)
- Europe Busts 30-Year-Old Cartel For Manipulating Phosphate Prices (businessinsider.com)
- Hidden Byproduct: Tons of Molten Slag From Making Herbicide | DISCOVER (discovermagazine.com)
- Growth of GFAJ-1 under phosphate limitation (rrresearch.blogspot.com)
- Phosphate: An Essential Part of the Food Equation (businessinsider.com)