a well-known expression. So knowing about where our energy comes from, the types of sources we have at our disposal -i.e. renewable versus non-renewable – is commonplace. As is of course the realisation that we need to alter our energy mix. Because of a limited stock non-renewable sources of energy, on which we rely very heavily, we need to transition to other forms of energy to ensure our future. Today, according to the Central Intelligence Agency, the world generates more than 66% of its electricity from fossil fuels, and another 8% from nuclear energy¹. So naturally, there is a lot of discussion about the “dirty” forms of non-renewable energy, mainly fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. But how much do we really know about them? Here are 10 interesting facts about non-renewable energy that just may come in handy next time you are discussing about our energy future:
- Carbon is the main element in fossil fuels. It is for this reason that the time period during which fossil fuels formed, about 360-300 million years ago, is called the Carboniferous Period.
To put this in perspective, it would take the natural process of decomposition of materials 422 years to replace what we currently consume in a year in fossil fuels².
- Coal, the black or brownish rock we burn coal to create energy, is ranked according to how much “carbonisation” is has gone through.
- Natural gas is a form of methane. It gets trapped in pockets where plant decomposition has occurred.
- The extraction and use of fossil fuels is responsible for the majority of environmental challenges we are facing today: from climate change and global warming to acid rain, air and water pollution.
- Fossil fuels are made up of hydrocarbons which store energy in the form of atomic bonds. To release energy, you just need to burn them.
- It is during the last 80-100 years that our consumption of fossil fuels has grown unbelievably to the detriment of our environment and leading to the rapid depletion of those non-renewable resources.
- Just under 50% of each barrel of crude oil ends up as petrol once refined with the bulk of the remainder used as diesel, heating oil, jet fuels, Liquefied Petroleum Gas and heavy fuel oils.
- While it is undisputable that fossil fuels are finite resources that are being rapidly depleted, there is no wide scientific consensus on when they will actually run out.
- The fossil fuel industry has a very high net worth. There are 1,469 oil and gas firms listed on stock exchanges worth a combined $4.65 trillion.
- Despite its high value, the fossil industry continues to benefit from a lot of public subsidies.