Is the Downward Trendline of Fossil Fuel Consumption Really Going Down?

We’ve all heard about the negative effects fossil-fuel combustion has on the environment. But what does that really mean? Let’s dive into the science behind this claim. Commercial energy is a nice way of saying fossil-fuel combustion.

The Facts

Commercial energy is a nice way of saying fossil-fuel combustion. One of the main fossil-fuel being utilized globally is coal. This fossil fuel is useful in generating steam, electric power production, and factories. Its cheap price tag is very tempting and most developing countries use it to mine and transport. The countries who own most of the world’s coal reserves are the U.S., Russia, China, India and Australia. But what is coal and why is it so dangerous? Coal is graphite carbon that was made by ancient woody plants (Lignin) that were covered by water and developed for millions of years under high pressures and temperatures. The term “dirty fuel” has been coined for coal because when burned, coal releases CO2, H2O, SO2, F2, Uranium (radioactive metal), and other heavy metals. These air pollutants are dangerous to human health and the environment. Although some (developed) countries are trying techniques such as dry scrubbingto rid of these air pollutants before they are released to the atmosphere, most developing countries are not aware of these techniques and contribute to the growing CO2emissions. Global coal production has more than doubled since the 1980s and have peaked the highest since 2013-14. From the Our World in Data (OWD) graph, we can observe the use of coal is going down, but will it really make a difference?

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/coal-production-by-region

Taking a look at the next graph provided by OWD, we see countries such China and India has an overall upward trend of coal production. Yes, there are countries like the U.S. and U.K. that has decreased coal production, however countries such as China blankets these effects with its over-consumption.

https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/coal-consumption-by-country-terawatt-hours-twh?country=CHN

Rob Jackson, a climate scientist at Stanford University, postulated:

“their [China’s] economy has been slowing a bit…but now the government is trying to boost growth, and they’re [China] green-lighting some coal projects that had been on hold”.

The Impact

Since the Industrial Revolution, COatmospheric concentrations has gone up and is correlated to the increase of commercial energy from fossil fuel sources. Fossil fuel sources, when going through combustion, emits COinto the atmosphere, affecting both the environment and the population. It has been predicted COrates will keep increasing because developing nations are emitting more CObecause of  industrialization. In 2017 alone, the amount of COin the air has started to climb back up. China has surpassed the U.S. in COemissions and there is a steady rise seen with India also.

https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions

The Future

It will be tough to completely take away fossil fuel use from the U.S. specifically. Companies who source in fossil fuels are so entangled in the government that it will be hard to say “no” to their dirty money. For example, Koch Industries, the oil refining and shipping giant, donate millions of dollars to presidential candidates every year and these candidates will continue to support these companies as long as the money is still trickling in. Big fossil fuel companies also fund the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and essentially, fossil fuel money makes up a big chunk of election funds. In order to make a change, we must look into ways to reduce greenhouse gases. Ways such as planting forests, high-speed wind turbines, chemical extractions are some solutions to decrease CO2. More regulation with regards to fossil fuel use must be implemented in order to see a change in the next few years.

4 thoughts on “Is the Downward Trendline of Fossil Fuel Consumption Really Going Down?

  1. These effects are only going to be exasperated by the melting ice caps over the upcoming years. This is predicted to reduce the light reflected from the Earth, resulting in an overall increase in solar-based heating. Essentially, a runaway greenhouse effect.

    Even worse, recent studies have found years of permafrost melting is releasing carbon dioxide that had previously been stored in the soil:
    https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145880/permafrost-becoming-a-carbon-source-instead-of-a-sink

    Perhaps the best method to improve our condition is to remind people to think ahead as our ancestors once did. We have great cathedrals thanks to years of building from those that came before us. It is now our turn to return the favor by taking note of trends, such as the one explained in this article, and making the necessary sacrifices to preserve the beautiful ecosystems for those that will come after us.

  2. Reading about fossil fuels is always alarming as it seems that it is a well-known issue yet still remains without a solution. Reading the current statistics, I really begin to question if this is even a hole we as the human race can dig ourselves out of without banning together as an entire planet. I wish there was more common knowledge surrounding what we can do as individuals to be part of the change in reducing air pollutants in our daily lives. In an effort to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, I plan on purchasing an electric car in the future.

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