Earlier we discussed that for energy to be useful, it must be cheap, plentiful, and reliable, and to be cheap, plentiful, and reliable, every element of the process to create energy must also be cheap, plentiful, and reliable. We saw how this can be difficult to achieve with some alternative energy sources, such as solar.
It’s important to know this because if somebody tells you “Let’s replace the way we currently produce energy with this other way,” you have to be able to evaluate whether or not the process is really viable.
Fossil fuels: cheap, plentiful, reliable energy for billions
The subject of this column is that the hydrocarbon, or fossil fuel, industry is the only industry that can produce cheap, plentiful, reliable energy on a scale of billions. That means that without such an industry, we don’t have the amount of food we need, the amount of technology we want, really the amount of anything we need or want.
The first thing to realize is that the vast majority of the world’s energy is in fact produced by the hydrocarbon industry. This was true back in 1980, and it’s also true in the present.
As you can see, there’s much more overall energy consumption now and the vast majority of that is still fossil fuel energy. What that means is that we’re using considerably more fossil fuels, not less.
There is currently no other industry that can match what the fossil fuel industry is producing and on the scale that it’s producing it.
Why? The reason is that the hydrocarbon industry has developed a highly resource efficient process to find, extract and harness a naturally concentrated, plentiful, and stored source of energy. It’s the only industry that has come up with a process that is cheap, plentiful and reliable.
To understand why that is, it’s important to understand what fossil fuels are and how to explain it to someone who doesn’t work in the fossil fuel energy. We’ll take that up next week.