To Be… or not to Be… Green!

Planetary energy graphic - Perez & Perez 2009a
Planetary energy graphic compares finite and infinite (renewable) planetary energy reserves. Finite reserves are absolute totals– while the yearly available potential is shown for infinite (renewable) resources. Image courtesy of: Perez & Perez 2009a

by John Brian Shannon

What energy shall we use between now and 2050? That’s the real question, isn’t it? Our choices are laid out before us just like at the shoe store – all we have to do is choose!

So, lets see what’s available.

It turns out that there are two kinds of energy. Non-renewable and renewable.

Non-renewable energy:

Our worldwide 2009 energy consumption including all forms of transportation, was 16 Terawatt-years. We can see from the Perez & Perez graphic that the finite,  non-renewable energy sources are estimated to total 1445 – 1655 Terawatts. The total energy available from those sources is equal to 90.3 – 103.44 years of energy usage at 2009 consumption.

Once consumed, this kind of energy will be gone forever.

Renewable energy:

Keeping in mind the 2009 energy consumption total of 16 Terawatts per year, we see that renewable energy sources total 23,034.2 – 23095.7 Terawatts per year. That’s 1439 – 1443 times more energy than we required in 2009 – including all forms of transportation.

This kind of energy will be available every year until the sun burns out, the ocean’s freeze and the wind stops blowing.

What’s the difference some might ask, why worry? Even in the worst-case scenario we’re covered for 90 years of fossil fuel use if we keep our energy consumption at 2009 levels.

One, the difference in the actual cost per energy unit. Costs for renewable energy have been falling dramatically and it looks set to continue. Some kinds of renewable energy are already reaching price parity with coal and nuclear power.

Two, sustainable energy per-kilowatt-hour cost savings are becoming apparent when compared to conventional energy, because of something called “Merit Order” ranking, which is a program designed to help utility companies choose from the different kinds of energy available at different times of the day.

Three, the costs associated with certain kinds of energy use must be factored in as China’s leaders (for just one example) are now realizing that  410,000 people per year die from pollution of the air, water, soil and locally-grown food in that country.

Energy usage will continue to increase in developed nations with their 1-billion citizens. In developing nations, energy requirements will continue to increase exponentially along with their 6-billion citizens. Almost 3-billion more developing world citizens are expected by 2050.

To be… or not to be… Green? Isn’t the answer obvious?

Please see: “A FUNDAMENTAL LOOK AT ENERGY RESERVES FOR THE PLANET” — by Richard Perez and Marc Perez

 

JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

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