The world depends on fuels such as gas, oil and petroleum and this is something that is a cause for concern, because these resources are not infinite.
There is a limited supply and some argue that we are using the reserves at an unsustainable rate. So are we looking at a future in which the world’s fossil fuel resources run completely dry
What rate are we using them up at?
The notion that we are at risk of running out of natural gas, coal and oil is disputed, with some pointing out that the discovery of fresh reserves of these fuels is now rarer than in the past and that these reserves are notably smaller than before. They cite figures that show that, across the world, crude oil is being used up at a rate of 4 billion tonnes per year, which could see the known reserves of oil gone in approximately half a century. Furthermore, if we opt to try to preserve the resources of oil by increasing coal and gas production, this will deplete our reserves of these fuels – leaving us without gas within around 50 years and coal in 150. Among the knock-on effects of a reduction in oil resources is that products like petrol become more expensive for those living in places where there are no oil resources left in close proximity.
Others argue that it is not so much a case of these fuels running out, but that we are close to exhausting the easily accessible reserves of oil and coal. This requires us to take greater risks – such as hydraulic fracking – to get to the hidden reserves and that puts the environment at risk as well as leaving us dependent on these fuels to grow the global economy.
What can we do to replace them?
If we conclude that the environmental risks from fracking and the destruction of our natural environment and oceans is not worth taking, there are alternatives to fossil fuels. Many environmentalists cite renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power as the best alternative, because the use of these does not lead to the pollution and damage to the ozone layer caused by fossil fuel use. However, the viability of such ‘green’ sources of energy is questioned by others, who argue that due to their high costs and low levels of output, they will never be an adequate replacement on their own. These observers suggest that it will be nuclear energy that governments around the world will turn to as an alternative, because it offers energy efficiency and is a low cost solution to the problem.
The chance of the world’s supply of these fuels running out during our lifetime is small, but the costs of uncovering fresh reserves could be very high and the global reliance on them is increasing. While green energy may provide some of the answers to these problems, nuclear energy will probably play a larger role.