Cision PR Newswire

Fossils, Fertilizers, and False Solutions: Agrochemicals Are Propping up the Fossil Economy

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Chemical fertilizers derived from fossil fuels ("fossil fertilizers") are an underrecognized driver of climate change, biodiversity loss, and toxic pollution, yet the fertilizer industry increasingly portrays itself as part of the solution to these converging planetary crises. Together with oil and gas companies, agrochemical producers are promoting carbon capture and storage (CCS) and fossil fuel-derived hydrogen and ammonia to secure additional revenue streams for business-as-usual production.

A new report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) reveals how these trends risk deepening reliance on fossil fuels and industrial agriculture precisely when they need to be phased out. This new business model extends the fossil economy in the midst of a climate emergency pushing the world further past planetary boundaries to the detriment of ecosystems and human rights.

The report finds:

  • Fossil fertilizers have significant climate impacts along their life entire cycle.
  • Rather than reduce reliance on these chemicals and transition away from the fossil economy, fertilizer companies are promoting the use of CCS to make fossil gas-based hydrogen and ammonia as inputs for industrial agriculture and combustible fuels.
  • These risky technologies prolong reliance on fossil fuels on the myth that they can be made "low carbon," entrenching dependence on oil and gas and propping up polluting industries, increasing harm to people and the planet.
  • Efforts to remake fertilizer businesses as "clean energy companies" greenwash polluting operations, cash in on generous government subsidies, and expand market access.
  • Companies are operating or actively exploring dozens of production facilities in at least nine countries, including eight US states already affected by polluting industries.
  • Connections and ties between the two industries, including shared board members, overlapping corporate ownership structures, or agrochemical companies' direct engagement in fossil fuel production dangerously tethers food systems to the fossil economy.

Steven Feit, report co-author, said "Fossil fertilizers are both a key target for oil production and the leading edge of the fossil fuel-enabling schemes. The combination of CCS, blue hydrogen, and blue ammonia at the heart of expansion plans threaten to impede climate action while entrenching polluting industries and undermining food sovereignty. Governments and the public should see through the greenwashing and take action to close these escape hatches. Anything else will prolong the inevitable and necessary transition from the fossil economy."

Lili Fuhr, report co-author said, "Fossil fertilizers enable a corporate-controlled model for industrial agriculture that pushes monocultures and high-yields while sending humanity hurtling toward dangerously risky territory. Like carbon in the atmosphere and microplastics in our soils and waters: fossil fertilizers and pesticides are fossil fuel pollution. Untethering food production from them is essential for advancing climate justice and food sovereignty. We need to close the oil and gas tab for the agrochemical industry if we truly want to scale up resilient, regenerative models of food production so ecosystems and communities can thrive."

Read the report and executive summary.

Media contact: 
Cate Bonacini:, +1-202-742-5847

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SOURCE Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)