Phasing Out Fossil Fuels, Consumption, Environmental Impacts
Increasing future renewable energy usage is tied up with the possibility (necessity for mitigation of global warming) of phasing out fossil fuels. We explore a few aspects of this vast subject, including consumption and environmental impacts. Click on the links for more information.
While coal is currently a dominant source of energy on the planet (including China), many countries are making plans to limit or phase out coal over time. See HERE.
HERE are the 2005-2009 coal consumption figures for the US. Here is an Excel spreadsheet for World Coal Consumption (Million Short Tons), 1980-2006 that shows a 60% worldwide increase in coal consumption. The US averaged 18% of world consumption and China averaged 25% (more than doubling), over this period.
HERE is an article on coal capture and storage/sequestration CCS.
One aspect of phasing out oil, beside greenhouse gas considerations, is that the amount of readily accessible petroleum on the planet is being depleated. For an introduction, seePeak Oil (Wikipedia article).
Natural gasis not being phased out and there are no plans to do so. Natural gas consumption in the US has been relatively stable over the last 5 years 2005-2009. Click HERE to see the statistics from the EIA (US Energy Information Administration).
Natural gas is mainly created by two mechanisms: biogenic and thermogenic. Biogenic gas is created by methanogenic organisms in marshes, bogs, landfills, and shallow sediments. Deeper in the earth, at greater temperature and pressure, thermogenic gas is created from buried organic material.
HERE is a picture from the EIA on US natural gas supply:
Natural Gas and Global Warming
For an equivalent amount of heat, burning natural gas produces about 30% less carbon dioxide than burning petroleum and about 45% less than burning coal.However, the process of producing natural shale gas by fracking in shale formations produces methane by leakage. This implies shale gas has a higher greenhouse gas footprint than coal over several decades and is comparable over 100 years. This includes production and usage. See HERE for a discussion and HERE for the paper. HERE is a Cornell U. slide presentation on natural gas aggravating global warming.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks. The most important industrial use is in stimulating oil and gas wells, where hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years. The fracturing is done from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations to increase the rate and ultimate recovery of oil and natural gas. Considerable controversy surrounds the current implementation of hydraulic fracturing technology in the United States. Environmental safety and health concerns have emerged and are being debated at the state and national levels.
From the environmental law firm Blank Rome, here is information regarding
On February 7, 2011, the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") released a "Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources" ("Draft Plan" or "Study"). The Draft Plan was issued in direct response to the U.S. Congress' Appropriation Conference Committee's 2010 mandate that EPA study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing practices and drinking water resources.