The local industrial complex? Questioning the link between local foods and energy use
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Local food has become the rising star of the sustainable agriculture movement, in part because of the energy efficiencies thought to be gained when food travels shorter distances. In this essay I critique four key assumptions that underlie this connection between local foods and energy. I then describe two competing conclusions implied by the critique. On the one hand, local food systems may need a more extensive and integrated transportation infrastructure to achieve sustainability. On the other hand, the production, transportation, and consumption of local foods are fundamentally as reliant on fossil fuels as are long distance foods. A more holistic approach to energy use in the food system is needed to determine which particular sociotechnical factors optimize energetic sustainability.
KeywordsEnergy Fossil fuels Industrialism Local food systems Sustainability
I appreciate the input of Jay Martin early in this paper’s life, and the later comments by Jill Harrison, Steve Wolf, and two anonymous referees.
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