Oil, coal, and natural gas are non-renewable energy sources known as fossil fuels which are currently the world’s primary source of energy. These are formed by prehistoric plants and animals that died over a million years ago and were gradually buried by layers of rock. Today, fossil fuel industries drill or mine for these energy sources, then they are either burned to produce electricity, or refined to use as fuel for heating or transportation. Over the past twenty years, nearly a quarter of human-caused emissions came from the burning of fossil fuels.
Non-renewable energy sources are those which are destined to deplete in the near future. Fossil fuels do not qualify as renewable energy resources because their supply is limited. In fact, they are predicted to run out in the next 50 years. Also, formation of fossil fuels takes years, which means when they deplete, we may have to wait for another 60 years or so for new ones to form. Our global fossil fuel infrastructure and dependence has led to a vast, interconnected web of issues by undermining the stability of Earth’s climate, harming the health of countless people around the world, polluting and destroying marine and telluric habitats, corrupting politics with dirty energy money, leading to energy insecurity, debt and poverty, blocking a clean energy transition, using far more water to generate electricity, which is set to double by 2035, than clean energy technologies like solar and wind, and increasing human rights abuses, war and national security concerns.
Environmental pollution is one of the major disadvantages of fossil fuels. It is a known fact that carbon dioxide, gas released when fossil fuels are burnt, is one of the primary gases responsible for global warming. Rise in temperature of Earth has resulted in melting of polar ice caps, flooding of low lying areas and rise in sea levels. If such conditions continue, our planet Earth might face some serious consequences in the foreseeable future. Unlike renewable energy resources like solar and wind, accidents involving fossil fuels are highly dangerous and can cause massive damage. Oil spills have occurred in the past, especially in the United States. Oil spills lead to pollution of water bodies and death of aquatic animals including those living offshore.
Also, the environment around the shore is severely damaged. It can also have serious effects on human health; emissions of greenhouse gases and other toxic elements as a result of fossil fuel combustion can cause serious health complications such as chronic asthma, low lung functioning, chronic bronchitis and cardiovascular diseases. Fossil fuels are highly liable to price fluctuations and market manipulation. This aspect is greatly felt by developing countries that heavily rely on importation of fossil fuels. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, massive price fluctuations and price manipulations by oil producing countries in the middle east cost the economy about 1.9 trillion between 2004 and 2008 alone. Advances in renewable energy technologies have minimized these price fluctuations and manipulations to a greater degree.
Talking on national level fossil fuel consumption in Pakistan has fairly increased in the past twenty years. In 2014, fossil fuel energy consumption for Pakistan was 59.7%. Fossil fuel energy consumption of Pakistan increased from 55.8% in 1995 to 59.7% in 2014 growing at an average annual rate of 0.36%. The natural resources of Pakistan consist of extensive natural gas reserves, low grade coal and even limited petroleum reserves. Pakistan is among the most gas dependent economies of the world. Natural gas was first discovered in 1952 at Sui in Balochistan province which proved a most significant and largest gas reservoir. After successful exploration and extraction, it was brought to service in 1955. This major discovery at Sui followed a number of medium and small size gas fields in other part of the country.
Pakistan’s started Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as a transport fuel programme through establishment of research and demonstration CNG refuelling stations by Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP) at Karachi in 1982 and at Islamabad 1989. CNG is now fast emerging as an acceptable vehicular fuel in place of oil. Pakistan is third largest user of CNG in the world after Argentina and Brazil. Large diesel vehicles (buses and trucks) are now the next target for substitution by CNG for economic and environmental reasons.
Personally I have the opinion that fossil fuels indeed are a very hazardous source of energy and that usage of them should be limited to a safer level so that their reserves last longer and global warming is at least slowed down. They are extremely harmful to the environment and could turn out to be the reason that different species of wildlife go extinct. For example oil spills are very dangerous to the marine ecosystem; causing many animals, not only those in the water, but also those offshore, to lose their lives. Also the outflow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is equally as harmful to the animals as it is to the humans. Many countries in the world are too dependent on fossil fuels and need to start developing renewable sources of energy. Fossil fuels are also very costly to a country’s economy for example countries like the US and Pakistan, which are dependent on foreign oil, spend billions of dollars importing it. This can all be improved by switching to more sources of energy that are renewable like solar and wind energy.
Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy technologies are clean sources of energy that have a much lower environmental impact than standard energy technologies. Renewable energy sources will never run out. Other sources of energy are limited and will someday be diminished. Sun, wind and water are perfect energy sources. They are non-polluting, renewable and efficient. Not only does the use of renewable energy sources help reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, but they also add some much-needed flexibility to the energy resource mix by reducing our dependence on finite reserves of fossil fuels.
Essentially, these renewable energy sources create their own energy. The object is to capture and harness their mechanical power and convert it to electricity in the most effective and productive manner possible. There’s more than enough renewable energy sources to supply all of the world’s energy needs forever; however, the challenge is to develop the capability to effectively and economically capture, store and use the energy when needed. Solar power is arguably the cleanest, most reliable form of renewable energy available. Solar panels can be used to convert the sun’s rays into electricity to power your home or business. Secondly there is hydroelectric power which is most commonly put into effect through dams. It can also be collected as kinetic energy produced by the tides” movement in the ocean. Thirdly there is wind energy which can be harnessed with the use of wind turbines. For this method wind farms are usually built with several hundred turbines in an area. Globally there are many examples of renewable energy projects that pave the way to a cleaner future. An example of this is the Ivanpah solar electric generating system which is located in the Mojave Desert 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas. It is an operational solar thermal power project. The facility deploys 173,500 heliostat mirrors spread over 3,500 acres, focusing solar energy on boilers located atop three solar power towers. The project is currently the largest solar thermal plant in operation in the world. Also there are these cooling towers for a geothermal power plant run by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). The power company managed to produce all of the electricity for the nation from renewable energy sources for more than 80 days straight in 2015, with the use of hydroelectric power plants and a combination of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. Then we have Europe which is the world’s leader in building wind farms close to its shores. The London Array is the world’s largest offshore wind farm, and it started operating on April 8, 2013, about 12 miles off the coast of Kent and Essex, England. It has a maximum generating power of 630 megawatts (MW) provided by 175 turbines, enough to supply up to 500,000 homes.
Pakistan has high potential to exploit all three of these sources and reduce fossil fuel usage with ease. Solar energy makes much sense for Pakistan for several reasons: firstly, 70% of the population lives in 50,000 villages that are very far away from the national grid. Connecting these villages to the national grid would be very costly, thus giving each house a solar panel would be cost efficient and would empower people both economically and socially. Also since Pakistan is exceptionally sunny country if only 0.25% of Balochistan was covered with solar panels with an efficiency of 20%, enough electricity would be generated to cover all of Pakistani demand. In many Pakistani villages, wood and animal dung is used for cooking fuel and this is causing widespread deforestation. The Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) completed a project whereby villagers that received solar panels were also given solar cookers. During the project, deforestation decreased by 80% near the villages and the cookers were also made in Pakistan, which generated local economic growth. This not only shows how destructive fossil fuels are to the ecosystem of Pakistan but also how the problems caused by them can easily be solved by switching to renewable sources of energy. Also since only 2.2% of Pakistan remains a forest it is more important than ever to preserve it. The other viable source of clean energy in Pakistan is wind power. Pakistan is fortunate to have something many other countries do not, which are high wind speeds near major centres. Islamabad and Karachi have very high wind speeds that are well suited to the use of wind turbines. Pakistan is also fortunate that in neighboring India, the company Suzlon manufactures wind turbines, thus decreasing transportation costs. Its turbines start to turn at a speed of 3 metres per second. Pakistan is also very fortunate to have many rivers and lakes. Wind turbines that are situated in or near water enjoy an uninterrupted flow of wind, which virtually guarantees that power will be available all the time. There is so much potential in Pakistan for clean energy but it is not being exploited the main reason being no incentives. People are free to develop their own small projects but there is no incentive so they are not really motivated to do so.
Overall, the use of renewable sources of energy over fossil fuels is extremely important as it means the difference between maintaining our ecosystem and destroying it. Yes, the technology required to harness the renewable sources can be quite expensive but it is better in the long run. Using these God given gifts could help humanity have a much better and cleaner future and make our mother Earth last much longer.