A non-renewable resource is a natural resource which cannot be produced, re-grown, regenerated, or reused on a scale which can sustain its consumption rate. These resources often exist in a fixed amount, or are consumed much faster than nature can recreate them. Fossil fuel (such as coal, petroleum and natural gas) and nuclear power are examples. In contrast, resources such as timber (when harvested sustainably) or metals (which can be recycled) are considered renewable resources
A temporary oil drilling rig in Western Australia
Further information: Oil depletion
Natural resources such as coal, petroleum, oil and natural gas take thousands of years to form naturally and cannot be replaced as fast as they are being consumed. Eventually natural resources will become too costly to harvest and humanity will need to find other sources of energy. At present, the main energy sources used by humans are non-renewable as they are cheap to produce natural resources, called renewable resources, are replaced by natural processes given a reasonable amount of time. Soil, water, forests, plants, and animals are all renewable resources as long as they are properly conserved. Solar, wind, wave, and geothermal energies are based on renewable resources. Renewable resources such as the movement of water (hydropower, including tidal power; ocean surface waves used for wave power), wind (used for wind power), geothermal heat (used for geothermal power); and radiant energy (used for solar power) are practically infinite and cannot be depleted, unlike their non-renewable counterparts, which are likely to run out if not used wisely. Still, these technologies are not fully utilized.
Hotelling's rule is a 1931 economic model of non-renewable resource management by Harold Hotelling. It shows that efficient exploitation of a nonrenewable and nonaugmentable resource would, under otherwise stable economic conditions, lead to a depletion of the resource. The rule states that this would lead to a net price or "Hotelling rent" for it that rose annually at a rate equal to the rate of interest, reflecting the increasing scarcity of the resources. The Hartwick's rule provides an important result about the sustainability of welfare in an economy that uses non-renewable resources. COAL
Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in the world with an estimated reserve of one trillion metric tons. Most of the world's coal reserves exist in Eastern Europe and Asia, but the United States also has considerable reserves. Coal formed slowly over millions of years from the buried remains of ancient swamp plants. During the formation of coal, carbonaceous matter was first compressed into a spongy material called "peat," which is about 90% water. As the peat became more deeply buried, the increased pressure and temperature turned it into coal.
Different types of coal resulted from differences in the pressure and temperature that prevailed during formation. The softest coal (about 50% carbon), which also has the lowest energy output, is called lignite. Lignite has the highest water content (about 50%) and relatively low amounts of smog-causing sulfur. With increasing temperature and pressure, lignite is transformed into bituminous coal (about 85% carbon and 3% water). Anthracite (almost 100% carbon) is the hardest coal and also produces the greatest energy when burned. Less than 1% of the coal found in the United States is anthracite. Most of the coal found in the United States is bituminous. Unfortunately, bituminous coal has the highest sulfur content of all the coal types. When the coal is burned, the pollutant sulfur dioxide is released into the atmosphere.
Coal mining creates several environmental problems. Coal is most cheaply mined from near-surface deposits using strip mining techniques. Strip-mining causes considerable environmental damage in the forms of erosion and...