Is Our Reliance on Fossil Fuels Dangerous?
If you listen to the news today you may believe the disadvantages of fossil fuels are too great to continue their use.
While its true coal, oil and natural gas are known to produce greenhouse gases when they are burned and contribute to global warming, that's not the whole story.
Where would we be without fossil fuels? How would our societies have developed and grown into the civilized centers they are today if there had not been a dependence on fossil fuels?
For the most part, for centuries fossil fuels had only good results for the human population. Mining and drilling for coal and oil are responsible for tens of thousands of good paying jobs.
Pipelines, storage facilities, refineries, transportation networks, roads and highways, power grids - none of these would be possible without fossil fuels.
When you think of the industries that were developed as a result of mining for coal and drilling for oil it almost boggles the mind.
In your home, there are electric lights, electrical laundry appliances, dishwashers, heat and air conditioning, televisions and home theaters and computers. All of these were developed using the power provided by fossil fuels.
When you consider the everyday items we depend on for adding quality to our lives and how many of them would not exist without the energy provided by fossil fuels it is amazing.
While it's true there are problems and dangers associated with burning fossil fuels, it's equally true there are many positive aspects of these energy sources.
We are able live in harsh climates due to the heat provided by fossil fuels. We developed automobiles, trucks, trains, ships and planes al powered by energy from fossil fuels.
When wondering if fossil fuels are good or bad you need to take into account the very positive strides that have been possible due to mining fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels not only provide the power to run our appliances and vehicles - those same fuels provided the power to produce the products in manufacturing plants.
A Crisis for Fossil Fuels
The problem we face today with fossil fuels is the limited reserves of this energy source. The fossil fuels were formed over 300 million years ago by natural processes on the earth.
When we began using these natural resources the supply seemed almost unlimited. We knew there were specific amounts of each fossil fuel available but couldn't imagine demand would exceed supply for many generations to come.
Whether fossil fuels are good or bad, they are limited in quantity. In the past 100 years the use of fossil fuels has doubled every 20 years. This is not sustainable.
It is due to developing nations with a new reliance on electricity and to increases in population around the world. In the U.S., increased demand may indicate changes in lifestyle.
Our Grandmothers used a manual can opener and we use electric gadgets to open cans. Few homes were air conditioned two generations ago but today central air conditioning is common even in regions with short, mild summer seasons.
Perhaps the greatest change, however, is in our driving habits. One hundred years ago there were no superhighways through the countryside or massive traffic jams in major cities.
Just fifty years ago a Sunday drive was a standard family outing for many people. Today a drive is not considered a treat as we drive our cars almost everywhere we go. Our cities are spread out and many who work in town and cities live in suburban settings.
These bedroom communities provide safe and comfortable family living but are possible only due to the multiple cars residing in the garage or driveway.
For many years our cars and trucks were heavier and bigger and more powerful every year. By the 1960's, the standard family sedan was a huge vehicle that required a lot of gasoline. It was not a problem as gas was cheap and always available.
Perhaps it was the oil crisis of the 1970s that first led us to wonder if fossil fuels are good or bad. Without warning, gasoline was in short supply.
Cars waited in long lines to buy fuel at service stations. Some gas stations limited the amount of gas customers could buy in an attempt to supply as many customers as possible. Prices began to rise and tempers flared.
During World War II there was rationing of gasoline but most people didn't mind as they felt they were participating in an effort to help the military and protect the nation. That view was not part of the 1970s crisis.
For the first time, we realized how deep our dependence on forum oil had become. It was that gas crisis that began the national conversation about finding alternatives energy resources for fossil fuels.
It was not until scientific evidence began to point to fossil fuels as a thread to the atmosphere of the earth that we once more began to wonder if fossil fuels were good or bad.