Consumers are familiar and comfortable with conventional power sources. Power generated by fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, or petroleum (oil) is widely used across the world and many countries rely on these finite resources as the primary sources of power production. According to the latest report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (2011a), fossil fuels are expected to continue supplying much of the energy used worldwide, with petroleum based fuels remaining the largest source of energy.However, there are significant problems with relying on this type of energy.
Firstly, fossil fuels are not considered a renewable energy. The formation of coal, natural gas and oil takes millions to billions of years; consequently these resources will be consumed well before they are renewed. Experts have suggested that the world is currently at the peak of oil production, with only another forty years of oil reserves available and sixty five years of gas remaining. With population growth continuing to rise and the nature of economic growth and consumption, undoubtedly these fossil fuels will become very scarce and eventually unavailable. It is reasonable to expect that as these resources become further reduced, the cost of power will increase and it will become less affordable for many people.
This is a scary prospect, especially for future generations.Whilst there are very legitimate concerns about the future availability of fossil fuels, another problem is the environment impacts of using fossil fuels for our principle energy source. Fossil fueled power stations are major emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas considered one of the major contributors to global warming within the last century. For example, the burning of brown coal emits three times as much CO2 as natural gas, and black coal emits twice as much CO2 per unit of electric energy generated. Unless new technology can be developed to make energy production ‘greener’, regulations to reduce CO2 emission will certainly impact the consumer, whether this is by higher prices due to carbon taxes or a limitation to the amount of energy available.