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Free «The Future of Energy» Essay Sample

Energy is the ability to do work. It is very fundamental as it aids in various essential processes on the Earth. It provides us with light, enables machinery including vehicles to operate, provides warmth in homes, cooks food, powers home gadgets such as television, radio, microwaves and fridges, dries cloths, and helps plants to grow through the process of photosynthesis. When people eat, food is converted to energy that enables them to do work. The sources of energy include oil, gas, coal, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, solar and biofuels. The increasing demands for energy have led to its large scale production, transportation and consumption. However, the huge production, transportation and consumption of energy impact the quality of environment both locally and globally. The rate at which energy production, transportation and consumption affect the environment depends on the environmental policies put in place, which is usually determined by interests of various stakeholders. This paper discusses the 30 year trend in the production, transportation and consumption of energy and the impacts upon environmental quality as a result of the energy trends.

30 Year Trend in the Production, Transportation and Consumption of Energy

Production

The continued growth in global population has greatly changed the demand for energy use and the trends in production of energy. The increased growth of many nations such as China and India has made the world economy to grow by 4% each year especially in the first decades of the 20th century. According to SNL (2006), the demand for energy from 2000 to 2020 will increase by 2% every year. This shows that the rate of production of energy has to increase to fully serve the growing demand. The growth of the world economy ensures that even developing countries have access to electricity. It is predicted that by 2040, every household around the globe will have electricity, thanks to the growth of the world’s GDP by 4% which ensures even the poor benefit.

Over 80% of the world energy today is supplied from fossil fuels and is predicted to remain the same in the next 30 years. However, new energy sources that are friendly to the environment might overtake it in future years. While the production of coal has remained constant in the last decade, it is expected to decline by 2040 due to many environmental policies put in place to reduce its production. Currently, and in the near future, China will remain the country that produces large quantity of coal. The production of oil has been growing by 2% annually, though it is below the world’s energy growth. There is still a lot of oil to be produced by 2040; many trillions of barrels of oil were produced in 2000 and another trillion barrels of oil are expected to be produced before 2040. The advancement in technologies for exploring oil, such as offshoring, drilling and reservoir management, makes the future of oil production promising i.e. oil production would increase tremendously in the future.

Many sources of energy emerge today and there will be plenty of energy sources in the near future including plenty of solar energy in Middle East and North America, bioenergy in the Unites States of America and India, and space solar power in Russia and Japan. While the world’s oil will not be finished completely, many clean and safe energy sources would be used for various purposes in future. The fact that the world will not run out of oil is supported by the belief of many experts that oil were to be exhausted in 1880s after the World War I, after the World War II in 1970s during the first oil shock, and in 2000 when people thought that Hubbert peak was approaching – it made many oil companies to expand their business to other energy sources such as biofuel and solar.

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It is predicted that the production of gas will catch up with the production of oil and the supply of gas will be twice as much as the current supply by 2020 and overtake the supply of coal in 2016. The production of other sources of energy will catch up with that of oil and gas in 2030s. Though oil shortages have not been experienced all over the world apart from those experienced due to political and environmental factors, fossil fuel production will end in the near future. By 2040, other sources of energy, including those that have not been invented, will dominate the world.  

The use of nuclear energy to generate electricity has been tremendously growing in the last decade though its electricity generation share has dropped due to its decommissioning in Europe and few establishments of new nuclear plants. Many nuclear plants in Europe have been closed without being substituted with other new plants and very few plants opened mostly in Asia with China opening the first new nuclear reaction plant, followed by others such as Japan, India and South Korea. China has constructed 25 nuclear plants in the past 20 years and has increased the quantity of electricity it generates to 20GW and Russia constructed 30 nuclear plants and has increased the amount of electricity produced in the region and therefore it is able to supply other countries with gas and oil. However, many other countries have not yet implemented nuclear reactors due to the problems of safety and environmental problems it brings.

Though hydropower has been the traditional main source of electricity, it is predicted that it cannot increase globally since there are no suitable sites. It is also predicted that the major hydropower dams around the world will be finished by 2020 - China’s multi-billion dollar Three Gorges Dam built in the Yangtze River was finished in 2010. By 2040, many renewable sources of energy will be extensively used worldwide. Solar energy will be applied in industrial, household and agricultural use and photovoltaic energy is already widely used. However, it is highly dependent on sunlight which is not fully reliable in many regions. The production and use of geothermal and tidal energy will also increase but it will be restricted in regions with special geological conditions. By 2020, Algeria will produce and use 10% of solar power and EI Salvador will produce and use 15% of geothermal power.

Various regions which differ in the type of energy sources are used to generate electricity. France produces about 70% of its electricity from nuclear energy, Middle East produces 90% from fossil fuels, Latin America produces 70% from renewable energy, and Paraguay, Brazil and Venezuela produce 80% from hydropower.

With the need to conserve and preserve the environment, many other sources of energy will be utilized by 2040. Biodiesel, which started from nothing in 1990, is expected to grow to about 30 billion liters in 2020 and about 50 billion liters in 2040 which represents about 4% of the consumption of diesel worldwide and bioalcohol, which started from nothing in 1980, is expected to grow to about 200 billion liters in 2020 and 350 billion liters in 2040 (SNL, 2006). This will provide alternatives to other sources of energy that are not friendly to environment though they will not be enough to completely replace the sources.

Transportation

According to ExxonMobil (2013), the demand for transportation of energy will increase by more than 40 percent in the next thirty years (from 2010 to 2040). The demand for energy for commercial transportation, which includes aviation, marine, rail and heavy duty transportation, increases tremendously in the period from 2010 to 2040. This is facilitated by globalization, expanding economies and fewer restrictions placed on the international trade. Heavy duty transportation, which is the largest transportation sector, is predicted to grow to 65% and would account for 40% of all demands for transportation. Energy used for transportation in marine and aviation industries is projected to increase by approximately 90% and 75% respectively (ExxonMobil, 2013). Energy usage on personal vehicles will decrease over the period. This is due to the current shift by consumers to use lighter and smaller vehicles and improvement in technology that ensures efficient use of fuel.

The demand for energy usage for transportation varies from region to region depending on specific factors experienced in the regions. Due to its nature of buying and using heavy duty vehicles and its citizens owning personal vehicles, the trend on energy demand increases over the period from 2010 to 2040 in Asia Pacific and is predicted that the number of vehicles utilizing energy in Asia Pacific in the period from 2010 to 2040 would be around 500 million (ExxonMobil, 2013). By 2015, the demand for transportation in Asia Pacific will be greater than in North America. Both Asia Pacific and North America would account for about 60% of global transportation demands.

As globalization and economies of scale expand, heavy duty transportation will account for about 65% of transportation demands globally for the period from 2010 to 2040. Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Latin America will experience the highest energy demands for heavy duty transportation.

In the period from 2010 to 2040, it is predicted that the number of personal vehicles would double from 800 million to above 1.6 billion globally. With the increased rate at which personal vehicles that use energy efficiently become available, the number of those that use diesel and gasoline become less and would account for about 40% by 2040. Hybrid personal vehicles (those that utilize engines that use gasoline and motors that are powered using battery) will be highly sold and account to about 10% of the total sales of cars globally by 2040.

Through 2010 and 2040, oil would remain the widely used means of energy in the transportation due to its availability in many local stores and the advantages it provides over other means. But the improvement in technology would generate vehicles that use fuel efficiently by 2040. With manufactures improving their new vehicles to use fuel efficiently, personal vehicles form stores will consume about one gallon to travel a distance of about 47 miles by 2040 as opposed to one gallon for 27 miles consumed today (ExxonMobil, 2013).

While the contribution of natural gas as fuel for transportation will be great by 2040, it will still take a small portion compared to other global sources of energy for transportation and would increase by 4% from the current 1%. Marine and heavy duty transportation will use large portions of natural gas compared to light duty vehicles. This will specifically occur in North America and Asia Pacific where the demand for energy is high in heavy duty transportation. The number of heavy duty vehicles is approximated to increase by more than 20%, increasing the number of energy consumption from natural gas to more than 50% of today’s consumption (ExxonMobil, 2013). More than half of consumption of natural gas for transportation by 2040 will occur in North America and Asia Pacific.

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The consumption of fuel for transportation varies depending on the regions. Asia Pacific consumes a lot of gasoline fuel and its demand rises as people continue to use personal and light duty vehicles. Due to the continued growth of economy, Asia Pacific experiences high demand for diesel which constitutes about 40% of the whole transportation costs. The use of Jet fuel in transportation increases rapidly with the increase in income of residents. The need for commercial transport will increase the consumption of diesel to more than 65% in North America in the period from 2010 to 2040 (ExxonMobil, 2013). The reduced use of light vehicles over the period will decrease the consumption of gasoline by a third.

The demand for transportation energy will remain constant in the period from 2010 to 2040 and will reflect the consumption of gasoline to decrease by 25% as light duty vehicles that use energy efficiently are predicted to be used in the region (ExxonMobil, 2013). This will be lower than the demand in North America whose demand for the use of light heavy vehicle will decrease by a third while the demand for commercial vehicles will increase by 30% (VVT Technical Research Centre, 2009). The shift to diesel and gasoline is fueled by the fact that manufacturers produce energy efficient and lighter vehicles and the improved commercial transportation in the developing countries.

Generally the rise in world population promotes the use of various transportation means including rail, road, marine and air. The internationalization of business enables free transportation of people and goods from one country to another, increasing the need for energy use. As population increases, many heavy duty vehicles are used to transport goods to satisfy people’ needs, therefore the need to use energy increases. While there are various efforts by vehicle manufacturers to produce vehicles that use energy efficiently, the nature of population growth increases transportation energy requirements.

 Consumption

While the consumption of energy in the world was projected to increase by 1.8% per year in the period from 1990 to 2030, it has declined from 2% per year during the period from 1990 to 2000 and further to 1.5% per year in the period from 2000 to 2010 as shown in figure 1 below (European Commission, 2003). Generally, the different sectors show different rates of increase in energy consumption over the past two decades. The demand of energy by industries increases to the highest average of 2.4% per year in the period from 2000 to 2010 and is predicted to reduce to 1.2% per year in the period from 2010 to 2030 (see figure 1 below). While the consumption of energy by transport increases by 1.7% per year from 1990 to 2010, it is predicted that it will reduce to 1.5% per year from 2010 to 2030. Agricultural, service and household sectors go through a steady mean increase of 1.9% per year from 1990 to 2030.

According to European Commission (2003), there are very little changes in fuel consumption rate in the period from 2000 and 2030; notably the increase in electricity consumption from 15% in 2000 to 22% in 2030 due to the introduction and utilization of electricity in developing countries. The consumption of renewables decreases from 13% to 6% due to the adoption of fossil fuel use (European Commission, 2003).

Industry Sector

The demand for energy by the industry sector decreases by 1.2% per year in the period from 2010 to 2030, meaning that the production of energy for the industry sector increases by 1.2% per year. The greatest energy producers are expected to be in Asia, producing 1.5% per year, and CIS and CEEC, producing 1.4% per year. Japan, North America and Pacific regions are projected to have energy productions of 1% per year, and the European Union, with a mean energy production of 0.9% per year, has the lowest energy consumption rate among industrialized countries (Hadley et al., 2004).

While the consumption of energy in the European Union, Japan and Pacific region was the lowest among industrialized countries in the nineteen nineties, it is predicted that energy consumption for industry in Asia will be the lowest in 2010 and beyond (European Commission, 2003). Despite the decrease trend in the consumption of energy among many industrial countries, energy consumption in CEEC and CIS industries is predicted to increase and remain the highest among the industrial countries around the world. While the consumption of energy is predicted to significantly reduce in the next thirty years, it will present high energy consumption in 2030 compared to the other industrialized countries (European Commission, 2003).

Steel production industries are predicted to efficiently use energy in the coming thirty years. However, the rate of steel consumption of energy in a unit of steel produced differs from country to country. It is predicted that steel industries in the European Union countries will use energy more efficiently than others. The United States of America becomes the second in efficient consumption of energy in the projected duration of thirty years. While steel industry in Brazil remains the most energy consuming by 2015, it will experience efficient use of energy after 2015 though it will double the amount of energy consumed to produce a ton of steel in the European Union. China and India steel industries will continue decreasing their energy consumption and efficiently consume energy in 2030 onwards.

Transport Sector

Generally, the transport sector experiences an increase in energy consumption due to the many factors: as the population of people increases and their desire to live a luxurious life increases, the number of people using cars or vehicles in a unit area increases. It is predicted that the rate of consumption of energy by the transport sector would grow to a mean of 1.3% per year globally with 6% growth per year in Asia and 0.3% in European Union where it is stipulated that the number of cars equals the number of driving licenses that citizens possess (VVT Technical Research Centre, 2009). According to European Commission (2003), the ratio of car ownership between developed and developing countries is predicted to be 22 to 10 by 2030.

Household Sector

Though it is expected that the consumption of energy in industrialized countries will increase due to the expected efficient use of energy, the consumption of energy in developing countries is predicted to increase since the population is expected to grow and use more energy. In the European Union countries, for example, the utilization of households that do not use electricity is not linked with the increased levels of income in the projected period of thirty years.

With the introduction of electricity in developing regions, the use of electrical appliances and electric lights is expected to increase in the next thirty years, thereby increasing the rate of consumption of energy in households. As the amount of energy consumed in developing countries increases, the amount of energy needed from industrialized countries also increases.

 
 
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Service and Agricultural Sector

The consumption of energy in service and agricultural sector is predicted to increase in the thirty years. The consumption of energy in services for captive uses increases in all the countries all over the world. According to European Commission (2003), it is predicted that India will exhibit energy consumption rate of 3.3% per year, China 2.7% per year and European Union 0.9% per year in their service sectors.

Generally, as the world population grows, there are high energy demands experienced as there are high demands of using materials such as steel, plastics and cement, which require energy to produce.

Impacts of the Forecast against Environmental Quality

Though the forecast indicated that sources of energy that are friendly to the environment will be produced, transported and consumed in large quantities in future, they will not be enough to completely replace other sources of energy by 2040. Exxon (2013) predicts that the population of the world will grow by about 30% representing a population of 9 billion people which shows that the amount of energy demand will rise and people will use sources of energy that are not friendly to the environment. With the continued use of the sources that are not environmental-friendly, the environment will become polluted and global warming will be promoted.

Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of the earth or ocean. The rise in temperature was seen to increase tremendously in the 19th century and in the 20th century where the average temperature on the surface of the earth increased by about 0.8o. Scientists predict that the warming of the climate is due to the actions of human behavior that increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The warming of the atmosphere varies from place to place around the Earth. It results in an increase of the levels of the sea and changing precipitation patterns. Researchers predict that the warming is the greatest around the Arctic as there is continued reduction of glaciers and Ice Sea.

Global warming negatively affects the sustainability of water. The rise in atmospheric temperature increases the rate of water evaporation, reducing the amount of water on the Earth. It is predicted that there will be great water shortages in the near future as a result of global warming. It is also predicted that global warming would result into greenhouse effect. Greenhouse effect, like the greenhouse used in plants growth, would enclose the Earth and confine it to a temperature that would not be sustained by plants and animals making them to die.

The negative effects of global warming have resulted to the establishment of bodies that would help to mitigate it by reducing emissions, adapting to some of its effects, and geo-engineering. Global warming is as a result of human actions that increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that comes from burning fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are gases that trap ultraviolet rays from the sun. They normally blanket the Earth as they absorb ultraviolet rays from the sun, causing it to warm.

While changes in climate have been caused by natural factors in the past years, greenhouse gases have been increasingly emitted in the atmosphere through production, transportation and consumption of energy. Greenhouse gases negatively affect the climate; the molecules of greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiations emitted from the surface of the Earth, emit the radiations down again making it to blanket and heat the earth’s surface - warming the Earth. According to McElroy (2002), without the greenhouse effect that takes place naturally, the temperature of the earth would be 35oC colder than it is today. What escalate the increase in temperature experienced today are the increased amounts of greenhouse gases.

Scientists and environmentalists have conducted research and calculated the amount of global warming that comes as a result of greenhouse gases and that which come as a result of natural causes. In case human activities such as the increase in greenhouse gases and cooling of sulfate particles and naturally occurring effects such as variations in solar energy, eruptions of volcanic systems and random variability are all considered, the temperature changes that come as a result of simulation and that which is from observation for the last 140 years slightly coincide as shown in figure 1 below. In case human activities are not included, the temperature changes that come as a result of simulation and that which come from observation do not agree as shown in figure 1 below. The results indicate that the activities performed by humans such as production, transportation and consumption of energy have caused a significant increase in global warming. In fact, it is most likely that greenhouse gases produced by humans are the most contributors of global warming as shown in figure 1 below. According to IPCC (2001), natural factors were unlikely to cause the increase of global warming as their effects were very minute in the past decades.

Carbon dioxide produced through the burning of fossil fuels is an example of greenhouse gas. It has more than one molecule and experiences internal vibration which can absorb ultraviolet radiations and stays for a very long time in the atmosphere therefore controls the absorption and reaction in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide that is caused by human activities is known as anthropogenic carbon dioxide. Though there are many benefits of carbon dioxide gas more so in the maintenance of natural gases, the many human activities and lack of precaution that human beings have lately employed is alarming and causes global warming (Maslin, 2007). Moreover, there are many industries that consume energy and release carbon dioxide freely in the atmosphere which in addition to global warming, pollutes the environment. Since the products and services produced by the industries are very important in our daily lives, they are unavoidable and must be produced. But the manner in which the waste carbon dioxide gas is released in the atmosphere is alarming; it is freely released to the atmosphere instead of recycling or changing to other gases which are not harmful to the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gases regulate the Earth’s temperature by absorbing infrared radiation when it is reradiated by the Earth. Energy from the sun passes through the surface of the Earth and heats both the land and water bodies. Some of the energy absorbed by the Earth is radiated as infrared radiation. Some of the infrared radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases while some pass and get lost to the space. The absorbed infrared radiations are radiated back to the Earth (known as greenhouse effect), which support life in the Earth; the radiated energy from the greenhouse layer warms the Earth by a temperature of 32oC meaning that without the greenhouse effect, the Earth’s temperature would be too low to sustain living things.

The continued emission of carbon dioxide gas and other greenhouse gases will increase the atmospheric temperature which would negatively affect the world’s ecosystem. The increase in temperature would be catastrophic since many animal and plant species will not be able to adapt to it. The temperature of the sea will increase making the sea water to rise with few centimeters and the polar ice sheets melt causing floods at many coastal regions killing plants and animals.

To prevent all these catastrophes, it is prudent for people to identify the various ways of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and practice them. People should start developing policies that would provide buyers and users of cars who implement ways of reducing emissions of global warming with incentives and governments encourage, fund, and build markets for automatic vehicle manufacturers and provide tax incentives for vehicle owners who use fuels that do not produce or produce less greenhouse gases such as ethanol and biodiesel (U.S. Climate Change Technology Program, 2005; Union of Concerned Scientists, 1999). Industrial practices should encourage recycling and reusing industrial wastes to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere to the minimum. When people practice all these, they would help develop a sustainable world with no worries of adverse effects of global warming.

Conclusion

The rapid increase in human population in the world makes the demand of energy to be high. The production, transportation and consumption of oil are expected to tremendously increase in the next thirty years (by 2040). The production of fossil fuel is predicted to remain the same by 2040 and decline by 2040 due to the many environmental policies put in place to reduce its production. The production of oil has been growing by 2% annually, and the advancement in technologies for exploring oil, such as offshoring, drilling and reservoir management, provides a prediction that its production will increase tremendously in the future. The production of oil will also increase and catch up with that of oil. The production of energy from other sources such as solar, geothermal and biofuel are also predicted to increase.  

The rise in world population promotes the use of various transportation means including rail, road, marine and air. The internationalization of business enables free transportation of people and goods from one country to another, increasing the need for energy use. As population increases, many heavy duty vehicles are used to transport goods to satisfy people’s needs and hence the need to use energy increases. While there are various efforts by vehicle manufacturers to produce vehicles that use energy efficiently, the nature of population growth increases transportation energy requirements. The increase in population and desire to live a luxurious life increases the consumption of energy by the transport, industrial, household, and service and agricultural sectors.

The increased demand and use of energy poses a threat to the environment as the level of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere increases, promoting global warming. However, people can reduce this by using energy efficiently, recycling it and developing policies that conserve, preserve and make the environment clean. 

   

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