Dependency of Fossil Fuels
The flip of a switch, turn of a key, or the press of a button is all it takes to power up almost everything today. One simple motion holds the key to our future and unlocks our past, but at what price? With sources that were once thought to be endless, energy consumption and its byproducts has now become a front runner among debates. A far sight from the campfire and miles away from its full potential what does tomorrow hold for energy consumption and its effect on the planet? Energy is essential for all life. Over the past millennia mankind has found new ways to harness and exploit that energy, starting with the use of animals and later through inventions that tapped the power of wind and water. With industrialization came the flood of social and economic development in the modern world, accelerated by the use of fossil fuels. Unlocking the stores of coal, oil, and natural gas rapidly multiplied the rate of energy flowing into human economic development. What took centuries in the past now took only a few generations. In 1776, America was still reliant on muscle power and fuel wood with the deposits of coal and petroleum still left undiscovered. It did not take long for energy shortages to encourage industry to find other sources. In the early part of the 19th century coal had made a noticeable entry onto the economic stage. At the end of World War I coal accounted for seventy-five percent of the total energy use in the United States. Nowadays coal and other fossil fuels make up 85 percent of the energy used in the United States. Throughout most of its history, America was able to be self reliant when producing energy. Through the 1950s energy production and consumption were almost equal. However, the following decade energy use began to outpace production and in the early part of the 1970s the distance between energy use and domestic production began to become more prevalent, fueled by petroleum consumption. In 1973 petroleum imports totaled 6.3 million barrels per day and have had a steady rise through 2000 when imports reached a record level of 11 million barrels per day. With domestic production and imports the U.S. consumes 20.6 million barrels per day, twenty-four percent of the world’s total. Transportation consumes over half of the petroleum produced each day, sixty-eight percent. The proved reserves for the country are 21.8 million barrels, this means that if all supplies where shut off the U.S. would not have enough on hand to last more than a day. Although petroleum is the most dominant fuel, it is not the only fossil fuel that is used to produce energy on a daily basis. Natural gas is another energy giant in the U.S. that has been on the rise since the 1950s. In 1950 the U.S. consumed 5.8 tcf, billion cubic feet; this was less than produced leaving availability for storage and exportation. Today the U.S. consumes 21.9 tcf, requiring imports from around the globe to keep up with demand. Lastly, used to produce half of the electricity in the U.S., is coal. The consumption of coal has increased from 480 million tons in 1950 to 1.16 billion tons in 2006. Ninety-two percent of coal consumed in the U.S. is used to produce electricity. The growing demand over the past thirty years has demanded an evaluation of supply and demand under current trends. The EIA states in the IEO2007 reference case, “total world consumption of marketed energy is projected to increase by 57 percent from 2004 to 2030.” The report shows that trends and laws unchanged will see an increase of over double if left the way things are. Under current trends the report also lists that half of all the world’s oil supply will be depleted by 2025. The use and supply are not the only issues facing energy, there is also the environmental impact left behind by the consumption of fossil fuels. The most common impacts are global warming, oil spills, acid rain, and a...
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