Fossil Fuels: Our Society\'s Dependency


Natural Resources Report
by Sean Falconer
Chemistry 122
Mr. Hart 1997-02-07

Our society has become dependent on fossil fuels for energy. That seems
fine for now considering the fact that everyone is generally happy in the
present situation. Fossil fuels are relatively inexpensive and seem to be doing
the trick right now. Using fossil fuels arise such issues as global warming,
rising costs of scarce resources, and shortages of raw materials. None of these
problems will draw full attention until the demand is needed, it\'s the old
supply and demand scenario. Although my opinion may seem pessimistic if you
look at past events it points to the supply and demand scenario.

During World War II rubber supplies were cut off to the western world
and we began to work on a compound that was a synthetic rubber. We succeeded in
supplying the demand and now that same synthetic compound is used today. My
theory is that the same thing will happen with such things as plastic, which is
made from fossil fuels. Someone will either come up with a synthetic plastic or
come up with something to substitute for plastic. The person who comes up with
the solution will become and instant millionaire and everyone will be happy.
There is one draw back of this way of solving problems, I mean sure it\'s great
to wait until the demand but we should still learn from our mistakes. We should
learn to plan ahead and see what the consequences could possibly be.

We still have other demands to meet, there are three major demands of
fossil fuels and they are heating, transportation, and industry. Although
transportation is taken care of, we may not like the thought of a solar car or
an electric car but there are solutions out there. Frankly the oil companies
don\'t want to lose their monopoly in the transportation industry and that brings
us into the whole economy issue. If we run out of fossil fuels what will happen
to the economy? Will it suffer? These are just a few questions that are asked
everyday, but for now we are just going to look at solutions for demands on
fossil fuels. This chart below illustrates the demands and the possible
solutions.

Energy Demand Alternative Energy Sources and Practices

heating - solar heating, heat pumps, geothermal energy,
biomass gas, and electrical from hydro and
nuclear plants

transportation - alcohol/gasohol and hydrogen fuels, and
electric vehicles
- mass transit, bicycles, and walking
- solar energy, nuclear energy, and
hydroelectricity
- improved efficiency and waste heat recovery

In conclusion I don\'t think the need for a substitute for fossil fuels will
be fully met until the demand arises. A substitute maybe found before the need,
but as history demonstrates the use of it will either be delayed or will not
occur. As for the economy jobs will be lost, but jobs will also be created in
new areas. The big oil companies will lose big and so may some small countries
like Kuwait. No one can really predict how the economy will turn out but if the
substitute or substitutes are less dangerous to the environment and not as hard
on natural resources our economy will eventually get over the lose of their
precious oil.

Category: Science