We are currently facing one of the biggest threats to modern life that the industrialised world has ever had to deal with. Population levels have never been so high, and continue to increase every year. Demand for energy has risen with it, and we are now facing the inescapable fact that fossil fuel reserves are finite and rapidly declining. This is why renewable energy is vital for the next generation – although we may not see fossil fuels completely run out in our lifetime, we will certainly see worsening effects; demand will soar as the supplies dwindle and therefore prices will rocket. It will soon become prohibitively expensive to fill up your car and heat your home unless serious work is undertaken to bring alternative, renewable energy to the fore.
According to the International Energy Agency, at least 33.5% of the world’s total energy use is generated from oil, and 26.8% from coal, with only 12.9% from renewables. (The remaining amount is from nuclear and other sources). This illustrates the current dependence on fossil fuels and therefore the need to implement a renewable energy infrastructure urgently so that when fossil fuels run out, the world can instead turn to a clean and sustainable energy source.
It is not just a case of convenience either; it is a case of survival. Unless renewable sources of energy begin to be used more prevalently, more and more irreparable damage is being done to the environment every day. Wind, solar and tidal power do not release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere llike oil and coal which damages the ozone layer, contributing to climate change. They are also better for human health as they do not release pollutants into the air; some cities around the world in very heavily industrialised areas such as New York, London and Tokyo suffer from pollution which is suspected to contribute to lung diseases and other illness. Other forms of renewable energy such as biomass and wood pellets are increasingly being favoured over traditional methods, which is obviously progress.
If the world is to continue developing and humans wish to retain their modern lifestyles, it is vital that renewable energy is ready for the next generation. Research has been ongoing for a number of years and there are already solar panels and wind turbines in operation which are successfully generating power, but when the fossil fuel supplies run out, they will need to take over energy production completely, because there will be no other choice. The US and UK governments are intent on pursuing earth-damaging processes like drilling deeper for oil and ‘fracking’ to release shale gas but both of these can damage the habitats of humans and animals and the long term geological effects are unknown and could even result in more earthquakes and instability.
Therefore, there are many reasons why renewable energy is vital for the next generation. Not only is it a necessity because of the eventual lack of coal and oil, but it will be needed to protect human health as well as the future of the planet which can arguably no longer take the damage that fossil fuels cause. For the sake of the next generation, we can only hope that it is not already too late.
It is essential that we all make the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and soon. We have passed the time of peak oil, and our reserves are slowly dwindling. What is more, we are doing damage to our planet that we may already be too late to fix. What we can do, however, as individuals, is reduce our own carbon footprints, and put pressure on our governments to make the larger changes that really make a difference rather than wasting time on awful environmental mistakes like fracking and drilling for yet more oil as icecaps melt. Such things are like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Most of us are now familiar with the various renewable energy options: wind, solar, hydro, wave-power, biofuels and geothermal. They must come to replace the finite and polluting fossil fuels upon which we have all relied for far too long.
To make a brief examination of how we will make the transition from Fossil fuels to Renewables, we must first consider the carbon footprints of the various industries and how each one might reduce emissions and move towards sustainability and renewables.
– Energy Production
The future of energy production, for electricity, lighting, heating for businesses and homes, is clear. We must have a wholesale shift to electricity generation from renewable sources, on a householder and global scale. Meanwhile, we should continue to reduce our personal energy needs through insulation, solar gain, and other ecological methods.
Big business must rethink production methods. We can put pressure on for change by boycotting major manufacturers who do not make a swift enough transition, and also put pressure on them to reduce use of plastics and especially plastic wrappings. Plastics not only use fossil fuels to make but are also polluting the world’s oceans and permeating the entire food chain. Individuals can try to reduce their use of plastic items, and reuse and recycle as much as possible.
Large corporations can more towards less fossil-fuel reliant means of transportation of their goods. We can do our bit be trying to eat and buy local products that have not had to travel too far whenever possible. Air travel is highly polluting, and has higher impact because of being high in the sky. Individuals should limit flying, and the industry should work towards alternative fuelling methods. Road transport of course, is one area of major concern. We should put our hopes in companies who can improve non-fossil fuel cars, either electric or perhaps hydrogen fuelled. In the meantime, we can use public transport and drive only when necessary.
Meat production has, unfortunately, a huge carbon footprint. We will have to reduce meat eating to make a full transition to a carbon-neutral system. Farmers of crops rely heavily on machinery that runs on fossil fuels. Change in this sphere is likely to be slow, but a move towards permaculture principles, no-till systems and sustainable agri-forest principles could be one way to help make the necessary steps away from tractors and other fossil fuel run machines.
Waste creation and disposal is also a big problem in this transitionary period. We as individual consumers will have to reduce waste, but this will also be helped by large companies reducing waste and wasteful packaging. New generation, advanced biofuels made from waste of various kinds could be a part of any solutions.
This is a transition that will take time and effort, but one that will be essential for survival.