- Atara Mester
Global Energy Crisis
If you live in Geneva or the surrounding area, did you notice that a little while ago there were small orange machines that drilled into the ground on almost every street? According to Think Geoenergy, those were geo-boxes installed by the Industrial Services of Geneva (SIG) to find out if there is any potential geothermal energy in the city. But why are they testing the ground for energy? Are other sources failing or running out? This article includes everything about the ongoing energy crisis that is affecting the entire world.
The energy crisis took root as we tried to recover from the damage that COVID-19 has done to our energy sources. Per IEA, the energy industry was badly injured while people were quarantining, but now the energy rates are even higher than before coronavirus. This could have been because people were eager to get out of their houses when the lockdown was over. However, it has been clear that we don’t have enough energy for a while now. Our main sources of energy are coal, oil, and natural gas. These are called the non-renewable sources. They don’t last forever and can’t provide energy for eternity. Another name for them is fossil fuels, because they are made up of petrified animals and plants that have been decaying for thousands of years. Fossil fuels are usually burned to provide energy. They are also very bad for the environment, as they increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Our World in Data says that producing energy is responsible for 87% of global carbon dioxide emissions. As well as that, there is a limit to the quantity of fossil fuels.
Our sources of oil, coal and natural gas are quickly depleting, and there are many reasons. Number one is overpopulation. The more people inhabit the earth, the more energy we need and therefore the more fossil fuels we burn. The second cause is overconsumption, which is when people use too much energy. For example, if someone uses their car to drive short distances and never walks or rides their bike, that adds up to a lot of wasted petrol. Another cause is the misuse of energy, which is very common. For instance, when you forget to turn off the lights when you leave your house and by the time you realise, a lot of energy has been wasted. The final cause is that we aren’t exploring any other sources. Our World in Data also estimates that 86% of primary global energy comes from fossil fuels, and only 5% from modern renewable sources. That is not where we want to be right now, since we need to transition into those other energy sources very fast.
Fossil fuels polluting the air (credits: Unsplash)
How We Are Affected
Some people don’t even notice how much this energy shortage is changing our lives unless the price for petrol becomes more expensive. However, it is affecting us a lot even without us realising it. First of all, like was mentioned earlier, the prices for fossil fuels have soared. Forbes says that the cost of crude oil has gone up by 65%, and US coal by 400%. This is because there isn’t enough fossil fuels to go round, and also because it is becoming increasingly hard to obtain them. Another way that the crisis is affecting us is that many people don’t have access to energy. This isn’t always due to the energy shortages, but since the prices for fossil fuels have gone up and renewable energy is always quite expensive, some cannot afford to use electricity. Per Our World in Data, 13% of the world or 940 million people do not have access to electricity. This is especially difficult in the winter. As well as that, the scarcity of energy is inducing worry and stress in society and the government, which then causes them to speed up the process of using only renewable energy. Even though this is a good thing, it is still to be seen if the conversion to renewable sources will happen before fossil fuels run out. In addition to the previous point, we might be facing electricity shortages and blackouts in the future. The Economic Times says that the Swiss government warned major industrial companies that they need to cut power production to avoid blackouts. This is just another example of how bad things are getting.
(credits: Getty Images)
One solution for this crisis is renewable energy. Renewable energy, or clean energy, is energy that doesn’t run out for a very long period of time because its source is replenished naturally. Renewable energy is rather the opposite of fossil fuels because instead of mining and draining the earth’s resources, it harnesses their power. It is also much less harmful to the environment. One kind of renewable energy is geothermal energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, geothermal energy uses natural heat underground to create steam which then activates a turbine, providing electricity. Hydropower, wind power and tidal power are produced in a similar way, by using the water flow, wind, or waves to rotate a turbine, which is then processed in the same way as geothermal energy. Two additional sources of energy are biomass and solar power. Biomass energy can be generated from any plant or natural material. Typically, the plants are burned to release heat and chemicals, which are either used directly for heating things, or again to power turbines. Solar energy is obtained from solar panels. Since our world is abundant in sunlight, all we need for solar energy are the materials to build solar panels. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy says that when the sun shines on the solar panels, its energy is absorbed by some cells in the panel. The cells then create an electrical charge and move, generating electricity. Using these sources instead of fossil fuels will assure that we have enough energy to last us a very long time. The other solution is to stop using so much energy. It probably won’t help as much as switching energy sources, but if we lower the amount used, then we can save fossil fuels for when we truly need them. For example, tomorrow you can walk or use your bike instead of driving. Even though this might not seem like it can majorly change our situation, it ends up saving a lot of energy if everyone tries.
Renewable sources of energy (credits: Getty Images)
In conclusion, our civilization heavily relies on electricity, whether it’s for cooking, heating up our homes, communicating or even just for entertainment. Now imagine our world without electricity; we won’t be able to survive. If we don’t do something soon, we will actually plummet back to where we were a long time ago, before the industrial revolution. This is why you should think before you buy and be aware of everything you do so that we can conserve what is left of our precious energy.
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