As you prepare to sit down for your Thanksgiving meal this week, you’re no doubt running to the grocery store to get the ingredients you’ll need for dinner. But you probably won’t even think about the most important ingredient of them all: energy.
The definition of energy is the ability to do work. Without energy, no work gets done. This makes energy the invisible ingredient in everything, including your Thanksgiving dinner.
Think about the pumpkin pie that will probably be sitting on your table in a few days. You need sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, a few eggs, evaporated milk, and a can of pumpkin. You will also need to bake the pie at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
It is the energy in the form of heat that transforms the goopy mixture into a pie. This heat causes a complex series of physical and chemical changes to occur in the food that changes its texture and taste.
Now, zoom out from the dinner table and think about how the ingredients in your pie got to the grocery store. They were almost certainly shipped there via a semi-truck powered by diesel fuel. Zoom out again, and you’ll see large machines, powered by electricity, running the canning equipment at the factory, as the pumpkin filling is sealed for later use.
The inescapable reality of our modern lives is that everything we are accustomed to uses a lot of energy. When we make energy more expensive, everything becomes more expensive. When energy becomes more scarce or less reliable, everything becomes more scarce and less available.
Europe is currently learning this lesson the hard way. Natural gas prices are so high that it has caused two major fertilizer factories in the United Kingdom to shut down because they can’t afford to purchase the natural gas they need. Fertilizer prices are skyrocketing in response to less production, which will lead to rising food prices in the future.
Energy won’t show up on your grocery list, but it is the invisible ingredient in everything. That’s why it is so vitally important to make our energy supply as reliable and affordable as possible. Otherwise, we are making life unnecessarily difficult and expensive for everyone.