Peak Jerusalem Artichokes

Rossler spiritsI’ve been picking up and putting down Daniel Yergin’s The Prize for the last few months. It’s both a delight and infuriating, for the same reason. Yergin clearly loves what he’s writing about, so he writes about it a lot. I keep wishing he’d get on with things, but his side trips are not without merit.

Given the current global situation, I was fascinated by his discussion of the situation in the 1920s:

A fear of imminent depletion of oil resources – indeed, a virtual obsession – gripped the American oil industry and many in government at the end of World War I and well into the early 1920s.

There was, at the time, much discussion of the promise of oil shales in Colorado (has it ever been thus, right around the corner?) And then there is this:

[T]he British government had given over two acres in Dorset to the cultivation of Jerusalem artichokes in the hope that this plant could produce alcohol in commercial quantities to be used as automobile fuel.

Apparently the Jerusalem artichoke has extremely high carbohydrate content, which makes it a good for making ethanol.


  1. John,

    I love to see that people are reading “The Prize.” It’s an enthralling book and helped me connect a lot of dots that were until then, well, unconnected dots. I found that The Prize helped place oil in its proper context in the modern world. It also made decipherable a part of the world that frankly I had viewed as esoteric prior to reading the book.
    The author has a NM connection, too — sort of. He apparently is one of Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s go-to guys and he testifies periodically before the U.S. Senate energy committee.
    Keep up the great blog.


  2. Jerusalem artichokes are an interesting conversation piece in the garden, too. Put them near the Helianthus max. so everything doesn’t get out of control in that particular yard of yours, John.



  3. “Apparently the Jerusalem artichoke has extremely high carbohydrate content, which makes it a good for making ethanol.”

    I find they convert to methane readily 🙂

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