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When Will Fossil Fuels Run Out?

Author: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 18 November 2014 | commentsComment
 
Fossil Fuels What Are Fossil Fuels

The three fossil fuels, oil, natural gas and coal, were formed millions of years ago when dead plants and animals were trapped under deposits and became buried underneath land. Compression over time fossilised the remains, creating carbon-rich fuel sources. All fossil fuels are finite - the deposits that exist cannot be replenished when they are used. With further use, all are in danger of running out.

The question of when each one will actually run out, however, is a tricky one. There are many different opinions and calculations and none really agree on the exact timing. Many different factors need to be considered including how much of each deposit is left in the Earth, how fast we are using each fossil fuel at the moment, and how this is likely to change in the future. If we start switching to alternative fuel sources that are renewable rather than non-renewable, the reserves that we have will obvious last longer.

Natural Gas

Some experts believe that current natural gas deposits fill around 6000 trillion cubic feet that could, with the current level of usage, last for about 50 years. This assumes that there are still no new sources of natural gas still to find. The difficulties in transporting natural gas (because of its explosive nature) mean that it tends to be used fairly locally to its source. The gas fields of the North Sea have been a rich resource for the UK but other countries in Europe obtain their supplies through long underground pipelines from Russia, which are hundreds of miles long. As the pipeline runs through several countries, the continuity of the supply can be compromised by political disputes.

Oil

The world could still have oil reserves that would fill 800 million barrels, with about half of that in the Middle East. Because we use oil to manufacture many materials, including plastics, we use oil at a much faster rate than either natural gas or coal. People have been expecting oil to run out within the next few years since at least the 1990s. No doubt it is currently getting scarcer, and as a result more expensive, but current estimates suggest we will not actually run out until between 2025 and 2070.

Coal

Coal is the fossil fuel with the greatest reserves and coal reserves are spread all over the Earth. It is very labour intensive to recover as it lies deep below the surface, usually around 300 feet below land level and deposits can only be a few centimetres thick.

Most of the coal deposits have not been tapped yet and the decline of the coal mining industry in the UK means that the coal seams still there are currently lying undisturbed. If we carry on using coal at the same rate as we do today, we could have enough coal to last well over a thousand years. However, as other fossil fuels run out, particularly oil, the use of coal may increase, reducing that time span considerably.

Global Warming

Governments around the world realise that we are approaching the ultimate crisis in terms of oil supply and there is a global movement to reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we use. If we can find alternative energy sources, it would not matter if oil, gas or coal ran out or not. The issue of global warming and climate change is also an important reason why fossil fuels have really fallen out of favour. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning and using fossil fuels could be contributing to global warming and causing disruption to the weather patterns all over the world.

Alternatives to Fossil Fuels

There are plenty of alternative energy sources that are renewable or in constant supply such as wind power and solar power. Most people are now realising that a massive switch to these types of power source will be required in the future but, it seems to be human nature that the urgency to make this happen will not be great enough until the prospect of running out of fossil fuels is much closer.

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I still don't get it for my homework I need to know what will happen when coal,oil and gas run out.
Soft - 18-Nov-14 @ 7:47 PM
Actually, there is no savior in renewable resources. Such technologies are merely derivative of fossil fuels. Solar power is renewable but solar panels are not; comprised of toxic hard metals that are terrible for the environment. Like-wise with wind. Wind power is renewable but wind turbines are not. Furthermore all such technologies rely heavily on fossil fuels for manufacturing and upkeep. We do not have hydrogen fuel cranes, for example, to erect turbines. Green solutions are an illusion--simply fossil fuels repackaged.
think again - 15-Sep-14 @ 10:09 PM
I personally think fossil fuels are the most lovlyst madness our god jhony regga has put above our holly earth of Poseidon and Jesus the zombie
Professor farnsworth - 6-Jul-14 @ 11:22 AM
aha! my homework is being completed! Grasias! cake mcbacon signing off!
TAL29000 - 22-Oct-13 @ 9:19 AM
this website was very helpfuol because i need to know this for my homework
yoshi - 7-Mar-13 @ 3:43 PM
I love this article these are some true hardcore facts awsome man keep up good work awsome
tanka - 18-Dec-12 @ 5:21 PM
you need to no when fossils fuels will run out because we have homework to do
laura - 7-Sep-12 @ 12:45 PM
This is amazing, I teach the things on this website at my church.
andyytomlinson - 23-Apr-12 @ 4:17 PM
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