The global economy is built upon a foundation of fossil fuels. There isn’t any getting around that fact. Even with a concentrated effort to stop using fossil fuels, it is estimated that it would take nearly a century to make that happen. It may be an effort we need to take, especially since fossil fuels are a finite resource.
According the Environmental Protection Agency, the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for 79% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010.
Fossil Fuel Consumption
The gases that are produced from the consumption of fossil fuels may become trapped in the atmosphere, effectively insulating the planet and causing it to warm up. This could then create a cascade of weather changes that could be catastrophic to the economies of the world that are driving development. By knowing how much fossil fuel we’re actually consuming, it is easy to see why scientists and researchers moved the doomsday clock forward in January 2015.
- In 2013, the United States consumed a total of 6.89 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of 18.89 million barrels per day. This is in line with 2010 numbers, which averaged 19.2 million barrels of oil per day.
- About 70% of the crude oil that is consumed in the United States is used to meet transportation needs.
- Only 320 million barrels of bio-fuels were consumed in 2013 by Americans.
- The global supply of crude oil, other liquid hydrocarbons, and bio-fuels is expected to be adequate to meet the world’s demand for liquid fuels for at least the next 25 years.
- Burning coal is responsible for 42% of the electrical power that is generated in the United States. This is down 8 percentage points from 2007 figures.
- The United States produces around 14.1% of the world’s total production of coal, but China is the global leader in coal production, responsible for almost 50% of world supply.
- The combustion of coal is responsible for 36.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
- The US consumes 21.4% of the world’s natural gas supply annually, but supplies 19.5% of that total supply.
- Natural gas releases almost 30% less carbon dioxide than oil and 43% less than coal.
The problem that we have with the consumption of fossil fuels is that they really are an avenue to our own demise. Natural gas might produce less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels, but it is primarily composed as methane. Methane is estimated to be nearly 20x more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. If we burn the fuel, then we are reducing the amount of methane that can be released into the atmosphere and provide ourselves with heat, but we can’t burn all sources. The bottom line is this: we need to find ways to break the addiction of fossil fuel consumption.
How Much Do Americans Produce and Consume?
- In 2011, the United States produced 23.0 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the world’s largest natural gas producer.
- Conventional oil reserves worldwide more than doubled from 642 billion barrels in 1980 to more than 1.3 trillion barrels in 2009.
- Oil shale deposits in the United States are estimated to hold 1 trillion barrels of recoverable oil, or enough to meet current consumption needs for over 100 years.
- The United States produces nearly 1.1 billion short tons of coal a year.
- The federal government leases less than 3% of federal lands for oil and natural gas production.
- 700,000 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrates are estimated to be in the world’s reserves.
- In the continental United States, it is believed that there are enough coal reserves to meet US needs for nearly 500 years. Alaska isn’t included in this figure, which is believed to have more coal reserves than the entire continental 48 combined.
- The United States, with 5% of the world’s population, accounts for nearly a 25% of the total global emissions that come from fossil fuel burning.
- Between 1990 and 2003, U.S. energy-related emissions rose by 16%.
Do we have a lot of fossil fuels in reserve? We do. Are they making an impact on the environment? Many scientists believe that there are. Will we run out of fossil fuels one day? Yes. Does it matter if that date is 500 years into the future? Or 100 years into the future? Just because most of us who are reading this article today won’t be around when the expiration date arrives on fossil fuel resources doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility to stop over consuming the resources we are producing right now. Developing alternatives can help to supplement our fossil fuel reserves, create cleaner sources of fuel, and potentially begin to reduce the effects of global warming.
The Time to Change is Right Now
- 85.6%. That’s the percentage of all energy consumed in the US that comes from fossil fuels.
- Drilling can cost up to $100/ft so sites must be chosen carefully. Only 48% of the sites we drill actually produce natural gas.
- 60% of American homes use natural gas for heating.
- The average oil well produces 11 barrels of oil per day.
- Only 12% of the energy that the world is using today is coming from renewable resources, such as solar or hydropower.
Renewable resources of energy might be expensive to create, but they are very inexpensive to maintain. This is where the future of energy production and consumption needs to be if we’re going to give our world a shot at survival. We have free will. We can make the choices to change our habits so that we preserve the resources of the only planet we know of which supports human life. It is up to us to change our fossil fuel consumption habits. That change needs to start today.