Wasted Food Equals Wasted Energy?

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The amount of food wasted each year by Americans represents the energy equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil, or about 2 percent of the nation’s annual energy consumption, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Texas say it takes the equivalent of about 1.4 billion barrels of oil to produce, process, package, and transport a year’s worth of food in the United States — between 8 and 16 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption.

And, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, about 27 percent of food is wasted in the U.S. each year, including 33 percent of fats and oils, 32 percent of dairy products, 31 percent of eggs, and 25 percent of vegetables, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. “The energy embedded in wasted food represents a substantial target for decreasing energy consumption in the U.S.,” the researchers said.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

3 Comments

  1. Those are really incredible numbers… Anyway it could be expected as we all know how much food is wasted across whole North America. No wonder then, we are running out of natural energy sources. I think it is time to start discovering advanced technologies to obtain sustainable (solar, wind, water) energy sources…

  2. Wasted food is to me the most horrible and least sustainable thing around as there are still hundred of million people who are still starving.

    On top of this it is also contributing to climate change. As I noted on my blog :

    We know it, biofuels aren’t a sustainable solution as they take food from a billion hungry people. Now here is another fact that literally infuriates me : “(the) food wasted by the US and Europe could feed the world three times over.”

    This isn’t entirely new as I already tackled the issue. What is new is the importance of this phenomenon on climate change as producing this food produces carbon dioxide and as the waste produces methane.

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