Non-renewable to Renewable Energy—Easy or Difficult?
In one sense, the world “runs” on energy. In the US, the industrial and transportation sectors consume almost two-thirds of the energy produced. Could modern society live without industrial production and transportation? Energy is produced primarily from non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas. This means that natural geological processes are no longer producing these fuels. There is a limited supply of fossil fuels still remaining on Planet Earth. But even at the current rate of use, there are still enough fossil fuels to supply the US with its energy needs for many years.
In our present day, there is a major political movement urging transition to “clean energy.” Fossil fuels, when consumed in order to produce heat energy and subsequently electric energy and other energy forms, generate carbon dioxide (CO2). The element carbon, vital in ALL life processes, has acquired a bad reputation. According to a 5-4 Supreme Court decision handed down in 2007, the EPA was empowered to declare CO2 a pollutant, in order to enable the agency to regulate its release into the environment. But in June 2022 SCOTUS effectively reversed their 2007 decision (6-3), stating that the EPA must now be guided by the US congress to make such rulings.
We may ask—Who is opposed to the production of “clean energy?” This question entails much confusion and complexity in our time.There is a powerful movement in the US and throughout the world to eliminate fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas from our energy production practices and transition to alternate energy technologies such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power. Use of solar, wind, and hydropower does not produce CO2. Therefore, since no carbon from CO2 is generated, the energy is declared “clean.” Many politicians state we must completely wean ourselves of fossil fuels in our effort to become “carbon free”—an important catch phrase of our day. For many citizens the impetus to achieve carbon “net-zero” has become ideologically overpowering. Basically, the term signifies achievement of a balance between carbon emitted into the atmosphere and carbon removed. The concept has connotations involving every phase of modern life, including the home, transportation, agriculture, and industry.
A brief aside: The element carbon is one of the most vital and beneficial elements in human experience. Following is a paragraph from one of our many past posts involving the element carbon:
“Life on earth is carbon-based life. It comprises nearly half of all biomass. The human body is over 18% carbon. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, behind hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. While recognizing that CO2 is a greenhouse gas contributing to slight warming of our atmosphere in recent times, we have been researching the effects of increased CO2 and the results of atmospheric warming resulting from it. In general, we decry the fear engendered by the idea that CO2 is a pollutant. Concepts such as “carbon footprints” still dominate the journalistic landscape. The footprints are difficult to define, explain, and regulate.” (from 4-17-19 JAS post)
At present, 80% of our global energy production comes from coal, petroleum, and natural gas. These resources are known as fossil fuels, because they are residual remains of living things that existed on our planet millions of years ago. Burning of these fuels releases carbon in the form of CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 is a “greenhouse gas.” Scientists liken Earth’s atmosphere to a greenhouse which permits heat from the sun to pass through the greenhouse glass easily but prevents heat from easily returning back through the glass and into the air. Air inside the greenhouse becomes warm and remains warm. In a similar way, the atmosphere acts like greenhouse glass. It traps long wave infrared energy (heat) within the atmosphere. Some CO2 warming is clearly a benefit to mankind, but ongoing warming of the earth’s atmosphere could become excessive. Planet Earth’s temperature has been slowly rising since the end of the “Little Ice Age” in mid 19th century. Earth residents debate how much our current “climate change” (global warming) affects us adversely. Climate change has also achieved a negative reputation in some quarters, but historically, climate change is also beneficial. (Individual weather events may not always be beneficial—some may be tragic.)
Do most current Earth residents believe the God of Creation is responsible for the existence of fossil fuels for “such a time as this?” In divine wisdom, God foreknew the energy needs of humanity in the 20th and 21st century and created lignin and cellulose-rich forests which crashed to the ground in dense swamps during the carboniferous period. If these forests had appeared millions of years later during another geologic period, bacteria would have consumed the remains of these forests before they were buried under sediment and transformed chemically by enormous heat and pressure under earth’s surface. There would be no fossil fuels—coal, crude oil, and natural gas—to be extracted from today’s Planet Earth!
Today we recognize the reality that humanity must ultimately be forced to consider an alternate source of energy. A major question remains: How soon must this change be accomplished? This is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity. In the years following the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels have contributed mightily to a population explosion—from one billion in 1800 to 7.9 billion in 2022—a stunning explosion!
Will our current society be as patient transitioning to renewable energy and away fromnon-renewable energy as they were switching to fossil fuels following the Industrial Revolution? Many environmental activists advocate switching completely to renewables by 2030, or by 2050 at the latest. Personal research reveals that early moves in this direction are already causing near-catastrophic outcomes in terms of inflation and generating agricultural crises. May our God guide government officials during this energy transition. It is a topic for additional blog posts.