Past Speakers of the: LANDON LECTURES

Landon Lecture by Sen. Charles H. Percy,

U.S. Senator, Illinois
March 4, 1977

by Sen. Charles H. Percy

Governor Landon, President Acker, Dr. Flinchbaugh, Terry Matlack, students and faculty of Kansas State and guests:

It is a pleasure to be here today to participate in the prestigious Alfred Landon series. I am very honored to be with you.

As an Illinoisan, I have always been awed while flying over the Midwest, as I did today coming from Washington, and seeing below the checkered fields of some of the finest farmland in the world. It is a beautiful sight. Viewing those fields makes it hard to believe that we face a world food crisis.

World population growth is increasing the demand on farmers to produce enough food for the 200,000 human beings born daily. The National Research Council estimates that 12 million people have already starved to death in the 20th century. This has occurred at a time when we are supposed to be more civilized and are producing more food per acre than ever before.

Food is mankind's sustenance. Hunger and starvation have plagued the world since Eve picked the apple from the tree in the Garden of Eden.

During the seventies, we have witnessed a sharp increase in the number of food importing countries. Throughout this period, food production has lagged behind demand in virtually every geographic region except North America. There are only seven nations, comprising one-twelfth of the world's population, which are net exporters of food.

The U.S. has the largest contingent land mass for fertile soil, good growing climate and adequate rainfall of any place on earth. Because of our agricultural productivity, we can feed our own population and still export 60 per cent of our wheat and rice, 50 per cent of our soybeans, 25 per cent of our grain sorghum and 20 per cent of our corn.

The world is becoming increasingly dependent on U.S. food supplies. So a major question persists: Do we use the dependence of other countries to our own political advantage?

There is no doubt that U.S. agriculture and food policies have enormous impact on the availability, quality and price of food throughout the world.

Spurred by the political manipulations of "petropower" some have suggested that the U.S. should make similar use of its "agripower." This means that the U.S. could unleash a "food weapon" against other nations.

I do not believe in this approach. Feeding people is a life and death matter, too serious to be left to political manipulation. Our power should be used to help other countries improve their own food production and become more secure against famines.

There is an old adage that can guide us as we seek to set a sensible and compassionate food policy: "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man how to fish and he can eat for a lifetime."

To meet the increasing world demand for food, we have modernized and improved our technology to produce the maximum amount of crops per acre. In the last decade we have increased the production of corn by 12 bushels per acre from 74.1 bushels to 86.2 bushels.

To help solve the world food problem, our primary concern should be to increase our food output to help meet growing demand.

The basic resources required to expand food output land, water and energy are no longer abundant.

Acreage for crop production is limited. Industrial growth which reduces acreage for farming claims more than one million acres a year.

Most of the world's rivers are located where the need for water for farming is least. About one-third of the earth's rivers flow through South America, which only covers one-eighth of the total land in the world.

Energy is the third basic resource which is no longer plentiful enough to increase our food output. About 60 to 80 per cent of the increase in our agricultural production since the 1940s is solely the result of increased use of energy in the production process. The principal raw material of modern U.S. agriculture is fossil fuel.

Technological advances that have led to greater use of farm machinery and fertilizers have consumed ever-increasing amounts of energy. In U.S. corn production, gasoline consumed by farm machinery rose from 15 gallons an acre in 1945 to 22 gallons an acre in 1970. We are currently using a total equivalent of 80 gallons of gasoline to produce an acre of corn. Obviously this trend cannot continue.

Given our current rate of energy use in food production, it will be impossible in the next decade to produce enough food to meet world demand. Better use of existing energy supplies and development of alternative energy sources are keys to adequate food production and the very survival of millions.

We need to help developing countries help themselves produce the food they need. But it will be a futile effort if a shortage of energy makes sufficient food production impossible.

There is no doubt that the U.S. has been an energy glutton compared to other nations. West Germany for example, has flourished without using nearly the energy consumed and wasted in America. West Germans enjoy a standard of living comparable to ours, but they use energy 50 per cent more effectively than we do.

We must face the world food crisis squarely. But we will never solve the world's hunger problem until we solve the world's energy problem.

The best solution to our energy dilemma today and in the long run is conservation. We can tap a new energy source "conservation energy" that can reduce our dependence on expensive foreign oil and dwindling domestic supplies.

"Conservation energy" is the energy derived by replacement of wasteful habits and technology with more efficient ones in our daily lives. I believe that the equivalent of about 16 million barrels of oil a day can be "produced" through "conservation energy" by 1985.

The need for a national effort to save energy is so compelling that we all must do our part. Last month Senator Hubert Humphrey and I launched a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization called the Alliance to Save Energy. Its purpose is to develop a broadly-based constituency and to set quantitative goals for energy conservation in every sector of our society, including building construction, transportation, electrical power generation and industrial processes.

A number of groups and institutions are already working in the area of energy conservation, but the Alliance to Save Energy is the first organization created solely for this purpose. It will not compete with existing groups, but will seek to supplement and strengthen the efforts.

President Carter has strongly endorsed the goals of the Alliance. Former President Ford and Vice President Mondale are honorary chairmen of the organization.

We welcome suggestions from all of you about the types of activities this umbrella organization should emphasize. The following facts suggest the kinds of activities the Alliance can usefully pursue.

The American Institute of Architects estimates that a national commitment to upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings would, by 1990, save the equivalent of 12.5 million barrels of oil per day.

By adopting technologies now widely employed in other countries, the steel industry can reduce its huge fuel demands by about 50 per cent by 1995, according to a 1974 Ford Foundation study.

Recycled scrap aluminum requires only five per cent as much energy as aluminum refined from virgin ore.

Eric Hirst, a research engineer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, reported in the December 1976 issue of Science magazine that a vigorous conservation program in the residential sector could reduce energy use growth to almost zero by the year 2000 with no change in life-style and even with no increased use of solar energy.

Forty-five per cent of all industrial fuel, or about 20 per cent of the nation's fuel consumption, is used to generate process steam. If this steam were first used to generate electricity and then used as process steam, more electricity would be produced than the entire industrial sector now buys from utilities. This process known as "cogeneration" produces much cheaper electricity than centralized power plants.

The transportation sector is one of the most rapidly growing areas of our society, yet there is tremendous scope for reducing energy consumption. Former Secretary of Transportation William Coleman, concluded, before he left office, that more efficient use of energy would actually reduce the total requirement for energy in transportation over the next decade. Conservation is crucial to solving our energy problem which has a direct effect on producing enough food to meet the demand. That is why energy conservation should be our nation's top priority.

The appeal of conservation is non-partisan and non-ideological. Conservatives and liberals, oil companies and environmentalists, Israelis and Arab OPEC countries are attracted equally by the prospect of strong economic growth and energy self-reliance for America. Few Americans are attracted by the prospect of having our foreign policy mortgaged to foreign suppliers and our domestic life controlled by vast regulatory bureaucracies.

The concept of conservation is not revolutionary. It makes no radical or unfair demands on any sector of our society. It is not a prescription for a "no-growth" economy. Conservation means doing better, not doing without.

The world's food-energy problem is a vicious circle. Food demand is directly related to population growth, which requires more production and increases the use of diminishing energy supplies.

As the ranking member of the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, I initiated a review of U.S. participation in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The report revealed that we do not have a coherent agriculture and food policy. It recommended reform of our policy-setting mechanism so the Agriculture, State and Treasury Departments, and various interests within the executive branch, can be coordinated to speak with one voice on U.S. agriculture and food policy.

America is the richest, most abundant nation on earth. We are the breadbasket of the world; but we are also the energy guzzlers of the world. If we forge a sensible national energy policy, with conservation as the guiding principle, we will lead the way toward a world free of the fear of hunger.

The transcription of this Landon Lecture was accomplished through the cooperation of the Kansas State University Libraries and the Office of Mediated Education.

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