When President George W. Bush proclaimed that “America is addicted to oil” during his 2006 State of the Union address, he prompted a new national discussion of one of the country’s most critical issues. Although Americans represent only 5 percent of the world’s population, they consume 25 per-cent of the worlds oil production, mostly in the form of vehicle fuel. This consumption shows no sign off letting up; each year Americans use even more oil than the year before.
Although Americans are the leaders in global energy use, the rest of the world is showing signs of catching up. Growth in the populations and economies of China and India put them on course to rival the United States’ energy use in the future. The global rate of oil consumption, some 84 million barrels a day and growing-will not be sustainable forever. Although experts debate how much oil remains, all agree that it will eventually run out.
Kicking the Fossil Fuel Habit
As Americans become aware of the need to find alternatives to oil to provide energy for all the activities of daily life, there are fears that this awareness may be too late. Even with a new call to action, many industry experts believe there may not be time to ramp up technology quickly enough to support energy alternatives by the time fossil fuels begin to run dry.
Despite fears that alternatives have been slow to catch on, many new energy technologies are gaining momentum, slowly eating away at fossil fuels’ energy dominance. These renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal power, are growing at rates of from 20 to 60 percent each year. If this growth continues, optimistic estimates show that it may be possible for renewable energy to account for half of the world’s energy use by 2040.
Expanding the use of renewable energy is also considered critical for the long-term health of the plant. Fossil fuels have been responsible for a host of environmental ills from acid rain to global warming. Many environmentalists believe that kicking the fossil fuel habit before damage to the planet is irreversible should be a global priority.
The quest to develop affordable, effective alternatives to fossil fuels may be one of the most challenging technological tasks in human history. Fortunately, scientists all over the world are up to the challenge, working to uncover the next alternative energy breakthroughs. Supporting their efforts are individuals everywhere who do their part to conserve energy and limit their own use of nonrenewable fossil fuels.