The entire world must soon make a combined effort to resort to an alternative source of energy, in all aspects of energy consumption, to prevent a severe global economic, health, and environmental crisis within the current and next generations. If a transition to more renewable alternative energy sources is not implemented soon then we will severely pollute our planet, destroy environments, and set ourselves up for an economic disaster when our current energy sources run out.
There are too many misconceptions when it comes to fuel and energy. Non-renewable energy sources are often very polluting, hazardous to health, costly in the long term, and will eventually run out (much sooner than many people expect!). The three most common forms of usable non-renewable energy are petroleum (crude oil), natural gas, and coal. (BP)
According to certain variables such as daily consumption of each source and the amount of reserves, each of these three non-renewable energy sources will be soon depleted and will have left a terrible effect on the environment, our health, and our quality of living.
We Will Soon Run Out!
Petroleum is estimated to completely run out in the next 39.5 years! These numbers are not based on ‘junk science’ as some might put it. It is based on a very careful calculation determined by the measured amounts of current oil reserves, global consumption, and predicted undiscovered reserves. Oil will last another 39.5 years assuming we happen to find MORE oil in recently undiscovered areas AND that our current rate of consumption doesn’t vastly increase. (EIA)
Coal, although possibly the most health hazardous source of energy, has a considerably longer ‘life span’. Based on the same calculation, coal will likely be available for another 265 years, assuming the rate of consumption doesn’t change. Still, this estimate is not the least bit comforting, considering that oil and natural gas will run out much quicker, forcing coal to become the primary and only source of non-renewable energy. (EIA)
Natural gas is believed to be the safest of these non-renewable energy sources. It burns relatively clean, is not too expensive, and is somewhat more abundant than oil. However, there is an extreme danger in the process of extracting natural gas (primarily in the form of shale gas or coal seam gas). This process is called fracking (hydraulic fracturing), and causes natural gas to leak into underground water sources that lead to wells and reservoirs. The natural gas in the water poses health risks and potentially more immediate dangers due to the flammability of the mixed solution of natural gas and water. Homes that have been exposed to water wells contaminated with natural gas have literally
exploded or caught fire through the actual pipelines. (Charlez) Another problem is that there is still only enough natural gas to last for an estimated 60 years. (EIA)
Regardless of the many negative consequences of these non-renewable energy sources such as pollution, destruction of the environment, and serious health risks during the production process, these sources will run out and we will be forced to move on anyway! Why are we delaying the inevitable? Yes, the alternative is complicated, but still more simple than one might think.
The Reality of Non-renewable Energy Sources
Imagine living in a society which did not yet use energy for things like fueling our cars, heating and cooling our homes, running electrical appliances and so on. Then someone presented the idea of harvesting non-renewable energy sources. This process would consist of developing an incredibly large, expensive, and dangerous oil rig, constantly locating feasible and quickly decreasing drill sites, recruiting vast amounts of physically fit laborers who are willing to not only get severely injured or sick, but also die, and spend billions and billions of dollars and start wars that cost millions of lives over the rights to some additional oil sites. This process would also pollute our own environment which would cause significant long term health problems and destroy other environments completely.
*ADDITION UPDATE!: (3/28/13) - " The problem is actually worse than you've described. Not only is the rate of use for oil/gas/coal going up exponentially thanks to both population growth and the desires of developing nations to share our middle-class lifestyles, but also you begin to have problems when production of a resource flattens out, NOT when it is all gone! It's called peak theory, and will happen with oil/gas/coal significantly sooner than when it runs out. Who wants oil that costs $500/barrel? "
-Christopher de Vidal
The Better Alternative
OR, what if someone presented a different idea? This idea would consist of slightly changing the design of our homes that only cost an average of 5% more than a traditional design which is more than made up for in energy cost savings very quickly. (Lundin) It would also consist of developing self sustaining, safe, and relatively easy to build energy farms that depended on the location. For example, in Arizona, solar fields are an extremely practical implementation. On the coast, tidal energy can power entire cities. Areas of high wind can create a tremendous amount of power, and geothermal energy can be harvested practically anywhere to stabilize room temperatures of every structure without dramatic heating and air conditioning costs. This would allow the solar, wind, and tidal energy to be used for less consuming purposes such as running appliances, lighting, and heating water. Simple bio fuels like wood can be used sparingly in accordance to the design of the home with an outdoor or indoor woodstove. Non-renewable energy sources can be reserved for large-scale operations such as military applications, space exploration, and mass transit.
Developing these ‘energy farms’ is rather simple. Keep in mind,
practically anybody is capable of creating a small scale version of a solar field, wind farm and tidal/hydro powered generator. Applying these techniques on a larges scale is not significantly more difficult, especially compared to the complexities of the oil industry. (Wulfinghoff)
The steps to converting to using renewable energy sources is a slow and steady process. It involves not just individuals, but corporations and government agencies making both small and big changes steadily over time. The design of energy consuming structures such as houses and vehicles must be required to meet certain standards that increase the efficiency of energy consumption. Using thermal mass and passive solar to cool and heat housing should be a standard. Vehicles can be engineered more dynamically efficient, run from multiple fuel sources such as hydrogen, electric and even solar. Government and public funding (even in small amounts) can help develop the energy farms that, once built, not only power themselves and our communities, but can power the production of even more energy farms.
If our society can someday make a transformation to safe renewable energy to fuel our everyday lives, the economy, our health, and our environment will flourish and thrive to optimal levels. This transformation is highly feasible, but too many people are disinterested or ignorant to the facts. Knowledge is the first step in implementing this change, but unfortunately, that may be the most difficult step of all.
BP. "Consumption By Fuel." Energy Consumption (2006). EBSCO. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
Charlez, Philippe A. Rock Mechanics: Petroleum Applications. Vol. 2. Editions
TECHNIP, 1997. Print.
Lundin, Cody. "Energy Efficient Housing." Personal interview. 20 Jan. 2012.
U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Independent Statistics and Analysis." U.S.
Energy Information Administration (EIA). Web. Mar.-Apr. 2012.
Wulfinghoff, Donald R. "How to Build and Operate a Super Efficient House."
Www.EnergyBooks.com. Wulfinghoff Energy Services, 2003. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.
Christopher de VidalDate 3/25/2013
The problem is actually worse than you've described. Not only is the rate of use for oil/gas/coal going up exponentially thanks to both population growth and the desires of developing nations to share our middle-class lifestyles, but also you begin to have problems when production of a resource flattens out, NOT when it is all gone! It's called peak theory, and will happen with oil/gas/coal significantly sooner than when it runs out. Who wants oil that costs $500/barrel?