Problems resulting from overuse of nitrogen is the subject of a brief article in Grist, called “The Dark Side of Nitrogen.”

The article summarizes much of this “dark side,” not the least of which is the fact that the Haber process, for producing ammonia from nitrogen in the air, consumes

About one percent of the world’s annual energy consumption is used to produce ammonia, most of which becomes nitrogen fertilizer. That’s about 80 million metric tons (or roughly one percent) of annual global CO2 emissions—a significant carbon footprint.

In addition, a lot of nitrogen is used to grow feed for animals, whose urine and feces then cycle nitrogen into waterways, contributing to eutrophication, of the Chesapeake Bay and many other areas; as well as oxygen depletion in waterways.

We ought not lose site of the fact that nitrogen as fertilizer does help feed a lot of people. However, we sure ought to think more about our means of agricultural production.


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