Towards Sustainable Energy: The current Fossil Fuel problem
Energy is essential to life. Without it, many billions of people would be left cold and hungry. The major source of energy comes from fossil fuels, and the dominant fossil fuels used today by most industrialized and developing countries are oil, coal, and natural gas. Among these fossil fuels, oil is the most consumed for energy conversion, followed by coal, then natural gas. In 1997, the world produced approximately 130 quadrillion Btu of energy from oil, 80 quadrillion Btu from coal, and 70 quadrillion Btu from natural gas.
Production of these fossil fuels is expected to rise, approximately doubling the amount of use of each fossil fuel. As world population continues to grow and the limited amount of fossil fuels begin to diminish, it may not be possible to provide the amount of energy demanded by the world by only using fossil fuels to convert energy. There are plenty of ways to convert energy without fossil fuels, and many of are being used, but not nearly to their full potential. Countries must take action to promote a greater use of renewable energy resources, such as geothermal energy or nuclear power, so that we can be well prepared when the supplies of fossil fuels are not as plentiful as they seem today.
The fairly low cost of converting natural resources to energy causes most countries to use fossil fuels as their main source of energy, but there is a major problem that arises out of this: natural resources are limited and non-renewable. There is only so much oil, coal, and natural gas that the earth can hold, and we can not use these resources as if there is an unlimited amount for much longer. Some estimates say that there may only be as few as 20 years of oil left if the world keeps with the increasing consumption trend before oil prices sharply increase resulting in a possible international economic crisis (EIA). Prices would go up because of the simple economic model of supply and demand. There has been an increasing demand for fossil fuels in the past thirty years, and this can be seen by the growing trend of energy produced by all three of the fossil fuels.
The total production of energy from fossil fuels is expected to increase even more sharply in the next 20 years than in has in the past 30 years. As the production increases due to a growing trend in consumption of energy, the supply of these fossil fuels will start to diminish. As, supply goes down and demand goes up, prices will increase dramatically.
The increasing trend in world energy use can be attributed to two main reasons: a growing world population and developing countries. The world population has been increasing at a more dramatic rate than it ever has been. More people means more energy consumption, and more energy consumption, if we stick to fossil fuels as the major resource, means less time until we run out of fossil fuels. The other contributor to the increasing amount of production of energy is the developing countries. Because they are in the process of becoming industrialized, they are consuming more energy than industrialized countries; they may have not yet mastered efficiency, resulting in both more consumption and more waste.
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