Jay Bhargav Can We Survive The World Without Fossil Fuels? May 20, 2017

Coal has been used by men for over 3000 years now, but it was only on the verge of Industrial Revolution did this natural resource gain back its importance. Other natural and non-renewable resources too garnered some attention and within a matter of few centuries, this attention turned into exploitation.

The depletion of these natural resources and environmental setback that the use of these resources cause, has led futurists to promote renewable resources of energy. For a matter of thought, natural resources like coal, petroleum, natural gas, etc too can be renewed but they take a couple of million years to stalk up on earth. Mankind cannot wait for million years while the use of renewable resources is inevitable.

Some of the most prominently used sources of renewable energy are wind, water and solar. Although many scholars across the globe have suggested and written papers about how life can be sustained through eco-green mediums but it is still not much clear as to how efficiently can these sources serve the entire blue planet.

We need solar power plants, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams et al in great numbers to serve the cause. Electricity, one of the most important inventions, is also the most important present day amenity. By definition, an average onshore wind turbine can generate some 6 million kWh in a year and can fuel some 1250 homes. Similarly, a single rooftop solar panel can create up to 200 watts of energy a day, an average residential roof can accommodate 25+ panels generating enough to be treated as a substitute for natural resources.

Besides the natural resources like coal, petroleum and uranium which are ideally used to generate electricity, and renewable resources like wind, solar and hydro, we can go back to generating energy from biomass.

Before Industrial revolution, humans heavily relied on generating electricity through biomass, i.e. energy generated by burning of trees and plants. This is considered renewable as plants and trees can be grown back at a much faster pace than coal and other natural resources can ever be.

All in all, we do have enough options to substitute the core natural resources so we can survive the world without them, but the real questions that act as a hurdle are – how efficiently do we generate electricity using the renewable resources? What will help us fill the energy gap that arises when we run out of fossil fuel?

Energy generated from a nuclear power plant, which uses depleting resources heavily, is mammoth (ex- over 11 billion Kilowatt – the highest) as compared to what renewable sources can generate in a year. This creates a huge gap, which possibly might be only filled if one converts the majority of the land available into power grids. For this reason, many more technological advancements are needed that can help us increase the output of solar grids, hydroelectric power plants, wind turbines, etc.

If we ran out of fossil fuel at this very day, we might end up in a dystopian world, but knowing that this isn’t possible for we have enough resources to last a few centuries, we will take our chances and say we are prepared for that green world where there is enough carbon only for trees to breath.

I believe Technology will be the bellwether for mankind and I enjoy a good talk on Global Affairs. Some of my other indulgences - Motorcycles, New Words for my Vocabulary and Delicious Food Everyday.