Alberta tar sands, Wyoming shale oil, deep ocean drilling (and spilling), mountaintop removal coal mining and hydraulic fracking. These are our desperate, last-ditch attempts to extract hard to reach, lower-quality fossil energy sources. 2012 was the hottest year in recorded history, and the heat had devastating impacts for agriculture over most of the U.S. I hope we are all getting primed for some serious action toward investing in renewable energy sources.
My fear is that 2013 will be a continuation of the drought that affected two-thirds of the United States last year, and so far, this winter is warm and dry like last year. Last summer we sold 25 percent of our cows. Our hay crop was only about 15 percent of normal. We had to buy hay from Havre, an area less affected by drought than south central Montana. Shipping hay from the Hi-Line does not really pencil. Lots of ranches in our area saw long-term water sources dry up. The cottonwood bottoms are very stressed, and I'm sure we'll see lots of cottonwood mortality when the trees begin to leaf out in the spring.
We are pouring carbon into the sky by burning fossil fuels. We appear to be trading short-term jobs and energy from oil, gas and coal for the long-term food production and sustained income of farms and ranches.
We just had a huge wake-up call in our nation's heartland last year. Continued global warming threatens our ability to grow abundant food. There are alternatives to our developing heat and drought problem. The price of home installed solar power is now nearly competitive with fossil fuel energy sources. Energy conservation works, too, although it is seldom discussed these days. We can even drive a bit slower. Here's hoping we get a little more rain this spring.