Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America from the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels

By Jerry McNerney; Martin Cheek | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Energy and Agriculture

On May 11, 1934, a monster began an attack on America’s heartland. That day, a massive windstorm raged across the Great Plains and picked up the topsoil of millions of acres of farmland that had been turned into a virtual desert after three years of intense drought conditions. For two days, more than 300 million tons of dirt lifted into the dust storm to blot out the sun and turn noon into night. This calamity was the last blow for many hardworking farm families in the Midwest after years of futile struggle to make a living from the land. They packed up their jalopies and old trucks and began a mass migration westward with the hope they might find work that would help them survive their painful ordeal. Thousands of these hardhit Americans came to California’s San Joaquin Valley, where, if they were lucky enough to find a job, they picked fruits and vegetables for low wages. Some of these people stayed on in the region. They and their descendents saw the valley become one of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States.

California today produces as much as 13 percent of America’s farm goods, and a vast quantity of this output comes from the eight counties making up the San Joaquin Valley. The energy of fossil fuels makes much of this agricultural bounty possible. But once fossil fuels start to run out, the farming industry in California and the rest of the United States could face a rapid decline in food quantity and quality. Our extraordinary dependence on fossil fuels

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