On the whole, the agriculture industry tends to be more optimistic than pessimistic. Opponents of modern production agriculture, however, tend to use fear mongering and dramatic, often overblown, examples to try to shame the industry. Groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States are notorious for their over-the-top fear mongering. These groups use extremism to garner the public’s attention.

Most in the ag industry consider these groups and similar ones to be the “enemy.” I hear many in the industry refer to these groups as “nutjobs,” “wackos” and “eco-terrorists.” Their views are extreme. However, sometimes extreme views are needed to engender change. Now, before you stop reading and write me off as a “nutjob” sympathizer, let me present a case.

Yesterday, I caught a program on the National Geographic Channel titled “Aftermath: World Without Oil.” The name intrigued me, so I continued to watch. The show aimed to predict what would happen in the United States and the world if supplies of crude oil suddenly were gone and wells suddenly ran dry all at once all over the world. Although the scenario is highly unlikely, the point raises questions we as a society need to face in the future.

The show went on to show how gradually world governments would be forced to choose between critical functions that needed oil and ones that would not. Police, fire trucks and ambulances would be allowed to continue as the U.S. would run through its strategic national reserves. People with individual cars would quickly be forced to abandon them.

The demand for the use of alternative fuels would skyrocket. Ethanol and biodiesel would be highly sought. Diesel trucks would survive longer without oil as “homemade” biodiesel would be available. The show demonstrated men raiding restaurants for cooking oil to put in their trucks. It was also suggested that food shipments would slow as trucks would no longer be able to transport food across long distances without fuel. Food shortages would ensue. People would resort to staple food products like rice and beans.

Within six months of oil wells going dry, governments would be faced with whether to plant crops for food or fuel, which would be desperately needed a year from planting. The program suggested more corn and soybeans would be planted, but it assumed more corn and soybeans could be planted in some areas of the country and successfully grow.

However, places like Brazil appeared to be nearly unfazed, according to the show. The show touted Brazil’s switch to ethanol use from sugar cane and sugar beets.

Many reading this will say this program was a thinly veiled attempt at pushing the “Green” agenda. Perhaps it is. However, it raises, albeit in extreme ways, issues our world and our country need to confront.

Consider over the next few weeks that the U.S. lame duck Congress is looking to extend tax incentives for ethanol production. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) last week proposed to extend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) for ethanol use for one year at a rate of 36 cents per gallon.

So, my point is that not all extremism is good, but once in a while, if it makes people stop and think about the consequences—something our society seems adverse to—then perhaps it’s a good thing. Sometimes we need to see the extreme views to bring our ideas into a clearer perspective.

By Colleen Scherer, managing editor, AgProfessional