Transition to Alternative Energy

The growing world concern for energy security is more than ever rampant with the looming possibilities of dwindling supplies of our fossil fuel reserves. This threat has developed two schools of thought, the pessimistic verses the optimistic view. The pessimistic (realistic and negative) view foresees the imminent peaking of world oil production and believes technology will just give us false hope in a finite world. While the optimistic (realistic and hopeful) view expects technological innovations and market forces will make declining petroleum reserves irrelevant. (Greene, et al., 2006)

Fossil fuels comprising oil, coal and natural gas are the key primary source of energy for human economies. Fossil fuels power our lives, facilitating travel whether by road, train, sea, or air; lighting our homes and offices; and powering our factories, industries, and equipment. (Heinberg, 2004). Therefore, the continual depletion of petroleum is an environmental limit to growth, as one factors in the reserves of finite fossil fuels, rate of production, global consumption rate, environmental impacts, and other existing conditions. As such:

  1. The proven remaining natural capital stock of world energy reserves, based on a number of factors between 2012 to 2014 was:

2. The Global primary energy consumption between 2012 to 2014 was:

Based on the world remaining reserves in relation to global energy consumption, oil and natural gas should last for approximately 50–55 years, while coal for approximately a 110 years. Therefore, it is not if oil will run out, it is just a matter of when. Thus, we need to be cognisant of this fact in order for the world economy to move forward. Since fossil fuel has been the engine of our societies ever since the Industrial Revolution.

Fossil fuel has propelled the growth of many nations and serves as the driving force in many sectors. However, with its continued production, use and many benefits over the years also came, hand in hand, various environmental impacts. Whereby, fossil fuels use is the cause of enhanced greenhouse effects; global warming; and anthropogenic climate change, by the accumulation of released CO2 into our atmosphere. This highlights the point that the growth in global CO2 emissions relates to increase energy use and economic growth (BP). In addition, other impacts involve increase levels of air pollution, disruption of the ecosystems (spills), environmental degradation, and seismic activity.

Therefore, technological advancement and transition to alternative energy is necessary, in order for societies to be less dependent on fossil fuels and support energy efficiency for production and everyday life. In the opinion of the author C.R. Bascom, this transition and substitution of petroleum needs to be more prominent through:

  1. Research and development to advance alternatives,
  2. Policy intervention to accelerate alternative energy technology, and dissuade use of fossil fuels through:

2.1. Tax breaks and/ subsidies for:

  • Investment into alternative energy,
  • Purchases of energy efficient cars and equipment,
  • Pollution abatement technologies

2.2. Environmental Tax on the:

  • Emission of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants above defined limits,
  • Depletion of the natural capital stock

3. Personal life changes at the Home/ Families/ Individual level through:

  • The use of energy efficient light bulbs, appliances and vehicles,
  • More use of the public transportation system, carpools, riding and walking. (Drive only when necessary),
  • Participating in the reduction, recycling, and reuse activities (3 R’s).

Based on the facts of declining natural capital reserves of petroleum, the best interest for the world economies is to take the step towards alternative energy sources. Instead of waiting for our petroleum reserves to be exhausted, which can plunge the world into chaos. Therefore, to avoid chaos, there needs to be continued smooth transition to alternative energy sources, removing our heavy dependence on a finite energy source. Additionally, in so doing, help to address the issue of carbon emissions.

References

[1] BP (2015), BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2015.

[2] BP (2014), BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2014.

[3] BP (2013), BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2013.

[4] Greene, D. L, et.al (2006), Have we Run out of Oil Yet? Oil Peaking Analysis from an Optimist’s Perspective. Energy Policy, volume 34, pp. 515–531.

[5] Heinberg, R (2004), Oil Depletion and the Fate of the World: A Synopsis. In: The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies. Oakland CA: Post Carbon Institute.

C.R.Bascom