Fossil Fuel Crisis and Hope for the Future
Over the last two hundred years, global society has become extremely reliant on fossil fuels. Among the many fossil fuels used, oil is by far the most prominent (Hopewood, 2006). In 2010, oil consumption in America reached seven billion barrels, which equates to nineteen million barrels per day (EIA). Consequently, because fossil fuels are not a renewable source of energy, there have been concerns about future global oil shortages.
If the global society fails to find reliable sources of alternative and renewable energy, the viability of worldwide travel and transportation systems could collapse when the oil runs out. Respectively, the world is in need of alternative sources of energy that are renewable, relatively inexpensive, and as efficient as fossil fuels.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration projected in their International Energy Outlook of 2011 that global society has enough fossil resources to sustain current demands for another 25 years (EIA). This projection is based on current consumption rates and could vary greatly if global usage fluctuates. The EIA also estimates that future projects and fossil fuel endeavors will likely extend the global supply past the projected 25-year bracket. Either way, global experts agree that the global oil supply will certainly run out in the next 75-100 years (EIA). Of major concern for the global population is what will happen when the oil runs out.
According to Research for the Future, ethanol, made from corn (and sometimes sugar cane), is a promising yet controversial candidate as a future oil replacement (RFF) alternative. Ethanol is a completely renewable resource that is currently being researched and tested to work in cars. In fact, many oil companies now produce an ethanol-petroleum blend that is intended to stretch the existing oil supply a little further (RFF). Many researchers view ethanol as an excellent fuel choice because, when burned, it emits fewer greenhouse gases than traditional fuel oil (Luft, 2012).
However, while ethanol is a promising fuel source alternative, it is also a controversial fuel source because of the way it is produced. Many researchers and farmers speculate that using ethanol as a primary fuel source would cause a massive food shortage around the world, due to the amount of corn needed to sustain the global fuel consumption rate (Pentland, 2012).
Aside from ethanol, there have not been many other major strides in oil replacement research. Scientists have worked with other renewable resources such as hydrogen, but have found them inappropriate due to safety issues with flammability and combustion (Pentland, 2012). This is unfortunate because hydrogen is easily accessible, inexpensive, and infinitely abundant. However, with advanced research, hydrogen could be safely harnessed and used as an alternative fuel source sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Even with some technological advancement in the field of alternative energy, the facts remain the same. In 25-50 years, global society will have a real fuel crisis on its hands. If scientists fail to find or invent an efficient renewable fuel source that is dependable and safe enough to replace oil soon, then the ability to fuel cars and heat homes will be compromised. If commuting becomes impossible (even temporarily), there could be widespread consequences for the already unstable global economy as a whole. The only solution to this impending crisis is finding or creating a safe and renewable fuel source alternative years before our current oil supply runs out.
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