In a period when the energy consumption of the entire world keeps growing astronomically, fossil fuels have emerged as a light at the end of a very dark tunnel by almost single-handedly providing the energy consumption needs of the world.
In a bid to look at how long fossil fuels last and what other energy source will replace them, it is very necessary to first acquaint ourselves with what these fossil fuels are and how they get formed.
What are fossil fuels?
Fossil fuel is a source of energy derived from decayed organic substances naturally through processes like the anaerobic decomposition of these organisms that have died long ago. The continuous decomposition of these dead organisms which has been in existence for over six hundred years, have given rise to the formation of an energy source popularly referred to as fossil fuel. This idea of fossilized remains being the major architect of fossil fuel formation was first brought up by Georg Agricola in the year 1956 and Mikhail Lomonosov later came out with the same idea during the 18th century.
The period during which these fossil fuels were formed has been referred to as the ‘’Carboniferous Period’’ which was an aspect of the Paleozoic era. Looking at the term Carboniferous, the first thing that comes to mind is carbon hence Carboniferous came about due to the higher concentration of carbon in fossil fuel.
Components of fossil fuels
The major component of fossil fuels is carbon as studies have shown that fossil fuels have a very high amount of carbon with the inclusion of natural gas, coal and petroleum.
How long will fossil fuels last?
Looking at the almost geometric rate at which energy is being consumed by the world year after year, it raises the question of how long fossil fuels will be able to sustain us. According to research done by the Energy Information Administration, it was estimated that in the year 2007, petroleum coal and natural gases provided over 84% of the energy consumed by the world with the rest being provided by the other sources of energy like hydroelectric, geothermal, nuclear, solar, wind, wood and waste. Fossil fuels will surely run out at a particular point in time.
Although fossil fuels have been in existence for over millions of years now, their wide-scale extraction during the Industrial Revolution era which began not so long ago has led to many being concerned about how long these fossil fuels can last. And the truth is, not very long. The amount of fossil fuel consumed within this very short period of time is so alarming that the fossil fuel reserves are all but finished. It is only a matter of when they do run out as opposed to if they will run out as we already know that fossil fuels will eventually run out with the passage of time.
Currently, the oil reserves are fast drying up due to the excessive extraction and usage by almost the entire world population. Researchers have been able to estimate the time at which crude oil deposits will be all gone by taking into consideration the total amount of crude oil left and the amount of crude oil consumed by people yearly. Reducing the pressure on crude oil and bridging the energy gap by increasing the production of gas will ensure the sustainability of fossil fuels to the year 2088. Putting in place such measures will ensure that fossil fuels do carry us through to the year 2088 and they will no longer be in existence. Though some new oil reserves will be found somewhere along the line, it does not guarantee that fossil fuels will be around forever.
Aside the fact that these fossil fuels are on a time bomb, their continuous worldwide use has lead to the incidence of global warming which is mainly caused by the CO2 that is discharged during their usage.
This begs the question, ‘’what energy source will replace fossil fuels when they are no longer in existence?” Well, all hope is not lost when it comes to the area of sources of energy to help provide for the world’s energy consumption needs. These forms of energy are referred to as renewable energy sources.
Alternative energy sources to fossil fuels
I. Solar Energy: This is the source of energy derived from the heat that emanates from the sun which is harvested through the use of solar panels. This energy can then be used in performing most energy-related tasks. The advantages of using solar energy are uncountable and some of them are;
- It adds some form of worth to your property at no extra cost.
- It also ensures that the global warming caused by pollution of the environment by the emissions of carbon dioxide that is always associated with the use of fossil fuels.
- Many states in the US have already started installing the campaign for solar energy by installing solar panels free of charge.
II. Hydroelectric Energy: This is the form of energy that is derived from water bodies. The energy created by flowing water bodies is harnessed through the use of turbines. Some countries now boast of their entire energy consumption are now being provided by hydroelectric energy. This form of energy is now emerging as a possible replacement for fossil fuels. This is largely due to the fact that the direction towards a more cleaner and sustainable energy source has turned towards hydroelectric energy. Hydroelectric energy use provides us with the following advantages;
- It provides a form of energy that does not negatively affect the environment.
- This form of energy can also be renewed and so there isn’t any fear of it running out like fossil fuels. This is to the fact that water bodies cover almost 70% of the total earth meaning this form of energy will always be around so far as water bodies continue to be in existence.
- Hydroelectric energy is now the major source of energy in most countries today.
III. Wind Energy: This is the form of energy gotten from the wind. From the olden days to date, wind has always served as a form of energy by providing the much needed energy used to pump water and also grind grains in farmhouses. These were done by using windmills to harvest the energy from the wind. Nowadays, the windmills have given way to more sophisticated equipment known as wind turbines. The wind turbines are erected about 30m above the ground in order to capture the energy within the wind. These wind turbines trap the wind and use its energy in the generation of electricity. The energy generated by these wind turbines are also very clean and do not cause any pollution to the environment and above all are also renewable due to the fact that wind will always be in existence.
IV. Ocean Energy: This is the energy derived from the oceans. There are two main energy types namely; thermal energy and mechanical energy. The thermal energy is derived from sun’s heat warming the surface of the sea whilst the temperature of the deep sea water remains low. This change in temperature of the surface and the deep sea water leads to the generation of thermal energy. Mechanical energy on the hand is derived from the waves and tides from the sea. This form of energy is also renewable and also clean to generate and use.
The various forms of energy discussed above are also termed as Green Power. This is the energy derived from the ocean, fresh water bodies, wind, solar and others which do not pollute the environment with their generation and usage.
With these energy sources available, all hope will not be lost when the fossil fuels run out for we will have Green Power which is a more cleaner and renewable energy source as compared to the fossil fuels.