fossil fuels and this dependence on coal, oil and natural gas is one of the largest causes to arguably the biggest problem facing earth today: climate change. It leads to problems such as sea level rise, desertification, and stronger or unpredictable weather events¹. A major contributor to climate change is the large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that are being released into the atmosphere from the transportation, commercial, residential, electrical power, and industrial sectors. One of the most effective strategies to reduce the impact of climate change is by employing cleaner energy alternatives that have lower greenhouse gas emissions while making sure that these alternative sources are actually environmentally friendly. There are a wide array of renewable energy options available and these include, but are not limited to, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, bioenergy, hydropower, and ocean energy².
Many people know the hazards to humans and the environment of continued fossil fuel consumption, but yet, few people have made the switch. In fact, a majority (over 80 percent) of the energy consumed in the United States is derived from fossil fuels³. This begs the question, why do we insist on continuing to use fossil fuels instead of switching to other kinds of energy? The answer is rather complicated and can vary from person to person, although there are a few common reasons for why we continue to use fossil fuels. These include:
- Ease and familiarity of fossil fuels
- Lack of knowledge
- Accessibility and Cost
The first, ease and familiarity of fossil fuels is probably the biggest reason for not switching to other kinds of fuels. Many people simply do not want to make the switch due to the ease of keeping the status quo. Like the saying goes, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. For example, many people choose not to buy electric cars because they do not want the hassle of remembering to charge their car. It’s much easier to stop at the gas station in the morning on the way to the office because that is what people have been doing for decades.
The second reason can simply be described as a lack of knowledge. This can be a lack of knowledge about their renewable energy options and possibilities or even a lack of knowledge about the dangers of fossil fuels. There are few people who have gone to a coal-fired power plant, have been to an oil rig or seen the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and visibly seen the pollution and environmental degradation first-hand.
Finally, the third reason is accessibility. In some areas of the world, renewable energy can be quite inaccessible. For example, people living remotely or for people living in an apartment building might have logistical problems for obtaining and installing solar photovoltaic panels. Accessibility can refer to locational availability, but it can also include cost. Many people have not made the switch due to the cost of renewable energy. Costs of renewable energy options vary dramatically from place to place, but using renewable energy can be cost-prohibitive in many cases due to factors such as lack of government support or low income.
Overall, there are many reasons why we use fossil fuels instead of other fuels. Of course, every situation is different and there are many people using fossil fuels instead of other fuels because they simply do not believe in climate change or protecting the environment. However, one thing is for sure, fossil fuels are a finite resource, and there will come a time when everyone will have to make the switch.