There is an increasing enthusiasm in the expanding needs of global energy from traditional and alternative energy sources. In reality, there are very few new methods available to harness energy. Solar, wind or water power are all traditional sources but in a rapid progress. Interestingly, the shared passion everyone has for the development of clean energy has built a sense of complacency in believing that the future energy demand will easily be met. However, it is still a battle not yet won.
The term alternative energy is commonly used. It does in our global society simply refer to the use of other sources of energy other than primary energy sources like fossil fuel. When we talk about fossil fuels coal, natural gas and oil are the main elements. They are used to generate electricity, heating and to power our massive transport sector.
The drawback with fossil fuels is that they are non-renewable. Their supply is finite, and will one day cease to exist. The depletion of fossil fuel cannot be escaped. It would take million of years to reform oil and other natural resources. Moreover, fossil fuel is generated from animals and plants that have been buried under the Earth’s surface for hundreds of millions of years. These elements undergo a decomposition process that transforms the materials to what we do today call fossil fuel; natural gas and oil.
History of Fossil Fuel
The first Fossil fuel is known to come from the Cambrian Period which was around 500 million years ago. In other words, even well before the dinosaurs existed on earth. In that era, most of the animals appeared for the first time on earth. However, the fossil fuel that is more widely used nowadays (lignite coal or peat) began to form in the Pliocene Period only some five million years ago. Unfortunately, at our devastating rate of consumption of these fuels, we will be unable to meet our future demands.
Overview on Energy
The promising proclamation on the growth of alternative energy, is yet not paving its way through. Only around 7 percent of the world’s total energy is provided via renewable energy. This does controversially mean that non-renewable energy sources like nuclear or fossil fuel represent 93 percent of the global supply of energy.
Moreover, nuclear energy represents around 6 percent of the world’s energy supply. This source produces energy, mainly by splitting atoms. However, it is not likely to experience any radical growth due to the high risk associated with managing atoms. Yet, United State is pressing nuclear energy forward despite its controversial history.
Facts of World Energy Supply
The US Department of Energy estimates the total world’s energy demand to be around 400 quadrillions BTU (British Thermal Units) per annum. A BTU is roughly tantamount to the heat and energy released from a match. Nowadays, fossil fuels (Oil, Natural gas and Coal) stands for nearly 350 quadrillions BTUs or 88% of the total supply of energy. Besides, oil is the key source of energy supplying around 41 percent of world’s energy (164 quadrillion BTUs) demand. Coal stands for 24 percent of the total global energy supply which is the same as 96 quadrillions BTUs. Last, natural gas provides around 22 percent of the world’s energy requirements which is equivalent to 88 quadrillions BTUs.
Problems of Fossil Fuel
Currently, fossil fuel is in abundance and offers us a valuable service. It is not the fact that we use fossil fuel for the production of energy that renders it usage problematic. The shortcomings are derived through the process of converting and using fossil fuel. It raises a dilemma of whether it is wise to use fossil fuel at all. The very fact that burning fossil fuel is responsible for the production of the most prominent gas associated with global warming makes it a large source of pollution. The composition of fossil fuel is the factor responsible for the release of greenhouse gases in earth’s atmosphere once burned.
The most radical increase in temperature was seen in the 20th century. The average temperature increased by a degree of Fahrenheit (1°F). Moreover, at this period population growth as well as industrial development was at a peak. This caused pressure on increasing energy demand and therefore, exponential rise in carbon dioxide emissions.
Global warming has negative effects on our natural environment. For instance, in Antarctica and Arctic higher temperature leads to the meltdown of ice and rise in sea level. A change in sea level can have various domino effects on fishing and agriculture industry as well as the weather on our planet.
Moreover, fossil fuel is also directly responsible for air pollution. This has a direct negative effect on human health as well as on plant growth. It even generates acid rains.
Danger of Collecting Fossil fuel
The potential danger of collecting fossil fuel is also extensive. For example, an oil spill would have terrible effects on our ecosystem. There are various governmental and non-governmental institutions oppose tapping into vast oil reserves. The most recent oil disaster is the “BP oil spill” that is and will affect our ecosystem for many years to come.
Yet, British Petroleum Company is reckoned for its urge towards alternative sources of energy as well. They have a BP Solar Division which is intent to replace oil production maybe in the future.
Use Now Or Later – Fossil fuel
Some experts are predicting that our fossil fuel reserves will be depleted in half a century while other are expecting it to last for another 100 to 120 years. Irrespective of which one is right, for the global community this is a challenge as fossil fuels are our basic needs. The fact is that we have no other choice but to prepare ourselves for a new era of energy production. It is clear, that the demand for energy will certainly not fall in the years to come. It will keep on increasing.
There is practically no one who knows when coal, natural gas and the last drop of oil will be consumed on earth. The depletion rate will depend on how well we manage our resources and how fast we introduce renewable energy sources.
A critical factor related to the depletion rate of fossil fuel is population growth. A larger population will have higher demand for energy. It is thus essential that renewable energy sources evolve quickly to cope with population growth and the effect of increasing world demand for energy.
In only a decade, the world energy consumption is expected to reach 600 quadrillions BTU (a rise with 50%). According to the US Department of energy, if renewable energy sources do not progress towards higher efficiency the world’s fossil fuel will be exploited before the 22nd century. It is visible that renewable energy is playing a growing role in sustaining the availability of our limited non-renewable sources of energy.
KEY: Renewable Energy Sources (Wind, Sun And Water)
The most appealing sources of energy are wind, sun and water. The best with these sources is that they are prevalent almost anywhere in the world. They are also renewable and non-polluting. The use of renewable energy sources will immediately help to decrease the emission of greenhouse gas. Additionally, a mixture of sources to produce electricity will also be made available to regions where fossil fuel is not obtainable.
Fundamentally, all renewable sources of energy create their own sources of energy. They are therefore, inexhaustible. A simple overlook; on earth, there is sufficient renewable energy available to supply our world with energy forever. The only predicament that we are faced with is how to develop appropriate technology to do so. A technology that is cost effective and efficient.
A simple example is solar energy. It is one of the ultimate sources of energy on earth. It provides the necessary conditions for plants to grow. To continue the cycle animals eat these plants to live. These animals and plants will afterward be the key components of decomposed materials generating fossil fuels in some million years. This implies that without the sun, there wouldn’t be life on earth..
There exists technology that would make it possible to store solar energy for later use after the sun has set or during cloudy periods. However, unfortunately, this type of technology is unaffordable at our actual state. It needs incredible improvement until it would be possible to use it as a substitute for our actual energy infrastructures. Moreover, the “European Photovoltaic Industry Association”, predicts that solar power will supply 26 percent of global energy requirements by 2040.
Traditional sources like hydroelectric and wind power has already been used for years. The back bone of these technologies is pressure; wind force and the water currents passing through a turbine causes it to spin and this mechanic movement is converted to electricity. There are several grand wind farms established across the world. However, the most reckoned region for wind farms is “California”.
However, hydroelectric power is derived from a multiple of approaches. One method is through dams like the Hoover Dam which is found on the Colorado River. Tidal power is another way to harness hydroelectric energy. It has been used for several decades already. It generates electricity through ebbs and odds of tides.
Biomass is also a very popular alternative source of energy. The energy is derived from burning plants, and it is one of man’s first sources of energy. Very recently, wood was still the primary sources for heat, and it can still be seen as being the main one in developing countries. However, in the developed countries wood is mostly used for aesthetic purposes. Nevertheless, there are still roughly around 2 billion people in developing nations that use wood for “heating and cooking”.
Moreover, biomass does also have some other derivates such as “bio-diesel and ethanol”. These are direct substitutes for oil in the automobile industry.
The solution to unravel the fear of fossil fuel depletion and global warming is definitely in the hands of scientists and politicians. Politicians need to promote investment in research and development for more competitive alternative sources of energy to emerge. The sole response is to use a combination of different sources of energy (fossil Fuel and Renewable energy) to meet our current and increasing world demand for energy.