What Everyone Should Know About Non Renewable Energy Resources
The topic of non renewable energy resources is extremely polemic in current society. Pollution, habitat destruction and global climate change are all factors in the discussion, as most of the energy sources we use commonly are detrimental to the environment. As the price of energy skyrockets, driving prices for every other commodity with it, the demand for cheaper and cleaner energy increases every day.
What is a Non Renewable Resource?
Non renewable resources are energy sources that have a finite quantity are not able to be replenished. This definition includes petroleum and shale oils, uranium, coal, and natural gas, the main sources of energy for human technology. Some limited resources, such as metals and timber, are not considered non renewable, because trees can be re-harvested with proper management and metals can be recycled for further use. It is possible to run out of these things, they do not remain permanently unavailable, and require responsible resource management.
The use of non renewable energy resources first became common during the Industrial Revolution. The invention of the internal combustion engine in the 17th century transformed the Western world and led to eventual dependence on fossil fuels. Today, it is almost impossible to own an item that has been produced without the use of gasoline, oil byproducts, or electricity generated by coal and nuclear power plants. Although nuclear power is often touted as an alternative energy source, it is also a limited resource, in addition to being quite hazardous for human use.
Many non renewable energy resources have detrimental consequences upon the environment. Most people are aware of the greenhouse effect created by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are released by gasoline-powered vehicles, but this is only one of many serious consequences. Coal plants alone generate hundreds of millions of tons of harmful byproducts, including flue gas, desulfurization sludge, fly ash, and bottom ash. These materials can poison waterways and leach harmful toxins such as arsenic, mercury, uranium, and thorium into the ground and water.
Will We Run Out?
This question is often glossed over by politicians and lobbyists, but the concrete, realistic answer is that yes, we will run out of non renewable energy resources eventually. It will be a slow dwindling rather than a sudden shortage, but the truth is nonetheless daunting. New sources of petroleum, for example, do exist, but they are difficult to access due to their depth in the earth or location in areas that are currently designated as protected. In order to prolong the lifespan of current reserves, humans must reduce their dependency on non renewable resources and seek alternative energies.
Many sources of energy are more sustainable than fossil fuels. Geothermal, solar, and wind-powered technologies are all harvest renewable resources, but other methods are time-honored and far simpler. Timber is a renewable resource; trees can be harvested sustainably, without detriment to a well-managed forest or population, although attention must be paid to the gases produced by burning wood as fuel, which are pollutants. Development of better fuel cells that are able to harvest and retain larger quantities of energy derived from renewable resources is an important field.
Non renewable energy resources currently power our world, but this dependence upon finite resources is a potential recipe for disaster. Not only do many of them cause environmental damage, but what will happen when the wells run dry in the future? Reducing, re-using and recycling must become an integral part of our culture, as must the development and widespread usage of renewable and clean power sources.