Eating Oil? What We Can Do to Protect Our Kids

07/06/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Every 24 hours, the U.S. spends $1 billion on imported oil, with food production accounting for 10-17% of our energy consumption.

As oil continues to pour across the Gulf and into our oceans, it is more poignant than ever to remember that our industrialized agricultural system in the U.S. is dependent on fossil fuel.

Conventional food production and distribution requires a tremendous amount of energy. One study conducted in 2000 estimated that ten percent of the energy used annually in the United States was consumed by the food industry. As highlighted by the Department of Energy, more recent studies suggest that this number is now closer to 17 percent.

• Most pesticides are petroleum-(oil) based.
• Increasing numbers of food additives and colorants are petroleum-(oil) based.
• All commercial fertilizers are ammonia-based. Ammonia is produced from natural gas.
• Oil allowed for farming implements such as tractors, food storage systems such as refrigerators, and food transport systems such as trucks.
• In the US, the average piece of food is transported almost 1,500 miles before it gets to your plate.
• Commercial food production is oil powered.

But despite the fact that Richard Heinberg, a "peak oil" scholar and author of The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, said: "How dependent on oil is our food system? Enormously dependent. Fatally dependent, I would say," perhaps we should hold fast to the knowledge that we are a country of enormous creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and 30 million children.

And we are all at this table together.

So what can we do in our kitchens?
• Eat foods you can pronounce (chances are they contain fewer artificial colors, additive and dyes)
• Think like your grandmother (did she have a jar of Yellow #5 on her kitchen counter?)
• Plant something (just one thing...remember those lima beans in school? Don't be intimidated!)
• Cook it once, eat it twice (recycle those noodles for salad or that chicken in a stir fry)
• Don't make "the perfect" the enemy of "the good" (every little step makes a difference!)

And if you think that doing one small thing can't make a difference, remember that we are, each of us, a ripple of hope. And that together, we can affect remarkable change.