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An energy analysis of the Australian food system

Watt, Muriel (1982) An energy analysis of the Australian food system. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The world situation with regard to food production and energy supply is examined. Links between energy use and food production are identified and assessed in light of energy and environmental constraints already being experienced while attempting to feed the growing world population.

The methodology of energy analysis is defined and an analytical sequence derived which enables:

i) determination of energy use in a food system
ii) identification of the potential for energy conservation and substitution of renewable energy sources for depleting fossil fuels
iii) examination of future energy requirements of the system under a number of possible food-energy scenarios.

The history of energy analysis of food systems is reviewed with the most widely known analyses examined in light of the sequence which was determined above to be the most appropriate and comprehensive means of analysis.

Finally a detailed energy analysis of the Australian food system is carried out following the previously determined sequence. Ratios of food energy output to fuel energy input are determined for each food group and for each sector of the food system. It was found that food consumed in Australia requires more than seven times the energy to produce, process, distribute and cook than is finally available in the food itself.

The food system energy requirements are then expressed as primary, delivered and useful energy. Conservation and renewable energy potential are examined as means of providing the same useful energy to the food system with less primary fossil fuels. Various food system options for conservation and renewable energy use are examined and their impact on the food-energy ratio assessed.

The history of energy modelling is reviewed and the adequacy of existing models for making meaningful food-energy projections is assessed. A simple computer model which begins to show the desired links between food and energy is presented and used to estimate future food system energy ratios under various possible technological, energy source and lifestyle changes.

As an appendix, work is included that gives an analysis of future prospects for energy supply in Western Australia based on energy conservation and renewable energy. This work includes an approximate use of the method based on real energy needs and useful energy and leads to several policy suggestions which are examined.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental and Life Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Roby, Keith and Newman, Peter
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