Agriculture’s Essential Ingredient: Natural Gas
Modern agriculture cannot exist without natural gas. As an essential ingredient in nitrogenous fertilizer production, the availability of low-cost natural gas has brought down the cost of nearly every food found on grocery store shelves.
Moreover, as global instability threatens food and fuel markets, American natural gas is an increasingly important to U.S. and global food security. As we explored in a previous post, the conflict in Ukraine sent shockwaves through worldwide markets due to significant dependence on Russian fertilizer.
A new report by the American Gas Association does an excellent job in breaking down the impact domestic natural gas production has on the nation’s agriculture industry. As one of the largest consumers of natural gas, the industry utilizes all most 15% of all commercial and industrial gas produced, while in six states – Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, and Kansas – over 30% of commercial and industrial gas utilization comes from agriculture.
Meanwhile, natural gas is essential to the nation’s agrochemical production centers, particularly in Texas, Louisiana, Iowa, California, Ohio, Indiana, Alabama, Illinois, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Mississippi. Ironically, some of the states where natural gas is under attack, including California, New York, and Illinois, also have some of the highest number of jobs supported by agrochemicals produced from natural gas.
While America’s agriculture sector provides 5 million direct jobs and contributes more than $437 billion to the nation’s GDP, the agrochemical industry that supports it provides about 344,000 jobs and adds an additional $51 billion to the nation’s GDP.
The need for natural gas is not diminishing anytime soon, and the continued demand can be met on America’s shores. Lawmakers looking to help their constituents afford food over the long term should examine ALEC model policy that would enable their states to return federal lands to state control.