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Energy sources

Fossil fuels

It is only since the start of the industrial revolution (ca 1750) that there has been ever increasing use of fossil fuels as these are more concentrated that renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal are characterised as non-renewable because they were created over very long time periods compared with our current rate of use. In creating useful energy from the combustion of these fuels, a colourless gas called carbon dioxide is created which, being lighter than air, rises and congregates in the upper atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is one of the six greenhouse gases whose characteristic is that they are able to absorb the heat radiated from the earth’s surface so creating global warming. The world has become very dependent upon fossil fuels as they are easy to extract, transport and utilise and are not dependent upon sunlight, directly or indirectly. However, our increasing use of energy and growing population worldwide has created another global concern which is the finite size of these resources.

Peak oil and gas

All the major models of oil production predict that the world’s oil supply will peak by 2025 and some models predict that the supply has already peaked (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Oil and gas profiles

(Source Colin Campbell)

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