Have you heard about global warming? Dumb question, of course you have. Have you seen numerous charts about global warming and wanted to be convinced, but walked away confused? Me too. I myself have been inundated by large amounts of data making a case for man made global warming and I want to believe it, but I see no consistency and get a gut feeling that everyone is trying to push their own agenda. As with most things in life, it will take time before we are able to look back and get to the truth of the matter. In the mean time though, there are actual problems to solve. So, if you’re not one for speculating and want to solve actual problems, read on.
Our country runs on fuels that are going to run out in the near future. These fossil fuels consist of natural gas, oil, and coal. Here are the facts:
- As of 2013, there were 2,203 trillion cubic feet (TcF) of technically recoverable natural gas remaining in the U.S. In 2013 the U.S. consumed approximately 24 TcF. At that rate we have 92 years remaining on our own supply of natural gas (1).
- As of 2012, using current mining technologies, there were 257.6 billion short tons of recoverable U.S. coal. In 2012 the U.S. used 1.02 billion short tons of coal, leaving us with 253 years of coal at that rate. The EIA predicts we actually have 180 years left, at the current production growth. The U.S. has 27.3% of the worlds coal reserves (1).
- According to the EIA in 2013 there were 1,645 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves. In 2013 the world consumed approximately 33 billions barrels of oil. At this rate we have about 50 years of crude oil left (2). BP says we have 53.3 years left.
Why wait for this problem to smack us in the face before solving it? This graph shows that energy consumption is not slowing down. Look close, the EIA predicts that by 2040 both India and China will be using twice as much energy as they are now.
This type of outlook should make entrepreneurs salivate! Every single fossil fuel powered motor in this world will someday have to be replaced. Think of the opportunity, by the time you retire in 50 years you could be sitting pretty. Also, new forms of energy production will have to be embraced to satisfy our love of electronic devices.
Secondly, renewable energy industries require more man-power, which in turn will create more jobs. Think of how many people you know that work at the local power plant. Do you even know where the local power plant is? Most energy companies run off of heavy machinery and are largely automated. They are centralized in one location and feed power all over a state. Alternative energy requires local power production sites and maintenance, bringing jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities to each community. Residential solar installation is a good example of this. This type of business requires a local company to install solar panels on a house and requires periodic maintenance, at the same time allowing customers to rely less on the grid, saving on electricity bills.
Lastly, renewable energy implies price stability. There is no impending countdown on when the sun will stop shining or the wind will stop blowing. Selling a product with that kind of marketability is every business mans dream. With a diverse portfolio of technologies (solar, wind, hydro), you are not as dependent on one and can provide more stable power.
Imagine the possibilities, solar powered skyscrapers, ships, cars, generators. Wind fields feeding into the power grid supplying a towns full energy needs. We may not be there yet, but 120 years ago no one believed that man could fly, let alone land on mars. We, as students at Georgia Tech have an obligation to the Southeast and our country to look into this topic, regardless of political leanings. Today there are bigger obstacles to alternative energy than the technical ones. Nevertheless, this earth we all live on has finite resources and when these fossil fuels run out we will need new sources of energy to supplement them. When jumping out of a plane would you wait until you hit the ground to pull the parachute? If we let ourselves hit the ground will we still be able to pull our ‘parachute’?
 U.S. Energy Information Administration. International Energy Outlook 2013. Energy Explained. [Online]. Available: http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm
 U.S. Energy Information Administration. Energy Explained. US Primary Energy Consumption 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm
 U.S. Energy Information Administration. International Energy Statistics. Total Oil Supply. [Online]. Available: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/pdf/0484(2013).pdf
About the Author
My name is Zach Archambault and I am Electrical Engineering student at Georgia Tech. I am interested in electrical energy, electromagnetics, and electronic design and applications. I have a new found fascination for energy harvesting and am exploring the possibilities there. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org