It can be difficult to defend fossil fuels because they continue to be more and more villainized, not just by the scientific community but by pretty much everyone except the profiting companies. But the truth is that fossil fuels have a lot of advantages we rarely discuss, and the fact remains that if the world population was 100 million instead of 7 billion, we would not be having the problems we’re dealing with today.
A number of authentic advantages of fossil fuels are detailed below, but it’s always good to round out your education and now you can learn the keys behind energy efficient protocols, too, with this LEED green associate prep course.
1. Safe And Stable
This probably seems counter-intuitive, but fossil fuels are actually extremely safe and stable to handle. As many people know, fossil fuels are primarily composed of carbon, which of course is a very stable element. There is also a good bit of hydrogen in fossil fuels. Certain isotopes of hydrogen are stable while others tend to be very reactive and, subsequently, unstable. But carbon exists so plentifully that fossil fuels remain both stable and productive. This means they can be handled, stored, transported, etc. without significant risk or side-effect.
Comparison: Yes, wind, solar and geothermal energy are even more safe and stable, but they don’t pack the punch that fossil fuels do. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, is the most efficient source of energy we have yet discovered, but it is produced specifically because its radioactive elements are unstable. For a complete guide to the trade-offs of energy sources, check out this Energy Economics and the Environment class taught by former White House economist, Ben Ho.
There’s a whole lot of fossil fuels left, which is good to know (at least in terms of powering the world). They also happen to be available pretty much anywhere in the world, although to varying degrees of excess, of course. It’s hard to find a consensus concerning how much longer fossil fuels will be available, but it is believed there is a 300 year supply of coal. That’s a nice buffer to have, but oil is far less generous. We can only continue to use oil at our current rate for another 40-50 years before worldwide production is abruptly cut in half.
You might curse when you fill your car up with gas, but fossil fuels are still one of the cheapest energies available, and you even get a lot for what you pay for. And believe it or not, drilling into the Earth’s crust isn’t as expensive as you might think. Even the refinement process is relatively cost effective. Fossil fuels also maintain the advantage of “pre-existing,” if you will. In other words, they are waiting to be harvested. They don’t need turbines or heat pumps or nuclear power plants to extract the energy. Even though wind and solar energy quickly pays for itself, the initial investment is nonetheless a powerful deterrent. Your electric bill is never fun to pay, but think about what it gets you: a more or less perfect living temperature, running water, ideal lighting, fresh and frozen foods, energy for all electronic devices, etc. etc. etc.
Still, a fair outlook considers all options. Read this post on the 5 advantages of wind energy that everyone should know and sleep well knowing you have a well-balanced perspective on energy sources.
4. Part Of The Routine
We’ve been burning fossil fuels for many, many decades. Technology used to harness fossil fuel energy has been refined continuously and is now incredibly efficient and safe. We are comfortable with fossil fuels; we know everything about them; they are familiar to us and there is no doubt that if they were not detrimental to the environment or non-renewable, we would use them indefinitely.
5. Economic Benefits
The economic benefits of fossil fuels are undeniable, although this doesn’t come without its vices. Government subsidies to oil companies number in the billions of dollars, and campaign contributions from oil companies are convincing, to say the least. But fossil fuels do employ a vast workforce directly, and indirectly the impact is truly of a global scale. If you consider how much of the world runs on fossil fuels, and how many companies are dependent upon them, and how many products would not exist without them, you start to realize just how much fossil fuels have infiltrated life as we know it.
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6. The Cost Of Change
I’ve been stressing this point a lot already, but let’s keep in mind how much of the world runs on fossil fuels. Almost all vehicles, all major (and minor) facilities and factories, all large equipment, the vast majority of heating and cooling systems, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Even things that are run on electricity are technically still run on fossil fuels; how do you think the electricity is generated? Odds are, by burning coal.
But the point is this: If we, as a country or global community, were to make a major transition to another energy source, we would have to perform a complete makeover of an unfathomable portion of our lives, our livelihoods, our economy, etc. The amount of energy and resources required to make this transition is dubious, at best. Unfortunately, due to the undeniable evidence now supporting global warming, this transition is going to have to happen sooner or later.
I mentioned this briefly at the beginning of the post, but because fossil fuels are relatively safe and stable, they are similarly safe and stable to transport. This is certainly not the case for nuclear energy, which is nerve-racking in every stage of its development. Oil, coal and even gas are stable enough to transport in a number of efficient ways. They can carried on large trucks or pumped through piping above or below ground. And again, these are all materials and methods we are familiar with and which do not have significant costs.
This incredibly informative article by The Energy Collective does an excellent job of detailing the costs and processes of harvesting nuclear energy, which I, for one, found to help me put things in perspective. You might also consider this post on 10 advantages of nuclear energy to help keep your opinion on fossil fuels unbiased.
Normally the byproducts of fossil fuels are nothing to write home about, but a lot of people don’t realize that plastics are a direct, useful byproduct of fossil fuels. They might not be alleviating the strain we place on the environment, but they are undoubtedly useful and inexpensive. If you consider the truly important uses of plastics, from medical equipment to computers, you realize the benefits are substantiated.
Yes, calorific is a word, and it refers to the effectiveness of energy sources. Fossil fuels, by certain measurements, have the highest calorific value. They are definitely more effective than wind or solar energy, although if we can discover more efficient ways to harness geothermal energy, that might give fossil fuels a run for their money. But for the moment, fossil fuels are king in terms of literally being worth their weight.
But just because fossil fuels have their benefits doesn’t mean you have to get on board with them. You can start spreading the word on green energy and make a living while you’re at it with this five-star entrepreneurship course on how to break into the $2 billion solar market.