6 Feb

Will we run out of fossil fuels?

For several years now, we have been informed of the harmful impact that fossil fuels have on the earth and its atmosphere.

Known as climate change, it’s an effect where carbon emissions impact on the natural climate, resulting in both occurrences of global warming and global cooling. For the most part, global warming is the most predominant effect, which is why scientists predict that sea levels will rise as a result of melting ice and average temperatures will increase across the entire world over time.

Even if you’re a skeptic, the carbon emissions caused by fossil fuels have been directly linked to causing health issues, especially among those with respiratory problems such as asthma. The simple fact is that the level to which we rely on fossil fuels is having a negative impact on us and the earth in one form or another.

But while we are in the stages of moving towards more environmentally friendly forms of energy (e.g. solar energy usage is growing in Queensland and cars such as hybrids and electrics are being more heavily considered), fossil fuel still remains. But unlike newer energies such as solar power, fossil fuels are not renewable. As the name suggests, fossil fuels is an energy source taken from fossils that have broken down over millions of years to become things such as coal, oil and gas.

With an ever-growing population and the need for greater energy outputs, just how long exactly will fossil fuels last us?

The life of fossil fuels

How long fossil fuels will last us depends on several factors. The first is just how much our population will grow over time. The second factor is just how much more fossil fuels we’ll be able to extract with new technologies. The third factor is whether or not our consumption of fossil fuels will increase or slowly decrease as we move towards cleaner, more renewable energies.

If we were basing fossil fuel life off current preserves but taking into account a steady population increase and, consequently, an increased reliance on these fuels, we could be reaching low levels by 2088 for all key fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – with coal being the final fossil fuel to become depleted. Of course, this is a worst case scenario. Chances are between now and then more deposits will be found and new technologies will extend this life.

However, it is this factor of new technologies to extract fossil fuels that could make such predictions somewhat premature. Fossil fuels are finite, absolutely, but if new extraction techniques and tech are developed, fossil fuels could survive for 100 years longer or even more. Ultimately, there will come a time when fossil fuels become so scarce that the only choice will be to utilise new energy sources, but by this point in time it’s more likely that energy sources that are considered alternatives now will become more dominant while fossil fuels become less common in Western countries.

The sources we use for energy are bound to change in the future, regardless of whether the change is slow or sudden. What is known is that we cannot rely on fossil fuels forever, both from the perspective of our overall well being and the simple fact that fossil fuels will not last. 

As it is now, fossil fuels could be scarce within the next 100 years, so we certainly need to consider all viable alternate options instead of delaying such changes.

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