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Sunstainable Fossel Fuels

Published: 31-JUL-06

In the frantic hunt for alternative sources of energy, increasing daily in intensity and clamour, the villain itself is now being considered part of the solution and a way to a cleaner world. Could fossil fuels themselves present a big part of the answer to means of mobility and help the planet stop choking to death? Author Mark Jaccard thinks they can.

“Our economies, especially those of industrialised countries, are completely dependent on fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas,” he writes. “These are non-renewable resources that we shall exhaust some day, perhaps soon. Fossil fuels provide energy via combustion and in the process release emissions that are toxic to animals and plants. Some of these emissions may be changing the world’s climate. Indeed, each stage of exploration, extraction, processing, transportation and consumption of fossil fuels has known impacts and suspected risks for humans and ecosystems. Our appetite for fossil fuels is clearly out of control, and it is highly wasteful.”

Suggesting that it would be counter-effective, and disastrous for emerging oil-rich countries, to transform the energy environment away from fossil fuel consumption, Jaccard says a better way to employ the resource is to use technological means to clean it. He illustrates that in the last decade promising solutions have been found and we now have the technology to convert fossil fuels into clean forms of energy — electricity, hydrogen and cleaner-burning synthetic fuels as methanol and di-methyl ether — through processes that allow us to capture carbon emissions and store them safely deep in the bowels of the earth in sedimentary foundations — a process known as carbon sequestration.

While Jaccard lauds the research into renewable energy sources, he thinks it would be impractical and expensive to dump fossil fuels entirely, considering they are a way of life and help to sustain economies and create employment, especially in emerging nations.

Africa hosts the world’s biggest reservoirs of natural gas (more than Europe’s and America’s combined), has vast deposits of oil waiting to be pumped and coal reserves in Botswana and South Africa are the world’s biggest. To ignore them and the social and economic security they represent would be ruinous.

“Prematurely forcing fossil fuels out of the energy supply mix may not mean much to wealthy countries, but for the poorer people of this planet, this arbitrary requirement would divert critical resources that could otherwise be devoted to essential investments in clean water and sanitation, healthcare, disease prevention, education, basic infrastructure, security, improved governance and biodiversity preservation,” Jaccard maintains.

He pans the contention that wind power, hydroelectric and other means of energy generation so fervently championed by the anti-fossil camp should replace carbon-based fuels, saying “it will take enormous effort to make a wholesale replacement of fossil fuels with renewable-dominated energy systems within the next 100 years”.

The author believes that great strides have been made in producing clean energy from dirty fossil fuels, and that the process will continue and will sooner rather than later generate power that is as innocent of harmful emission as any other. It will also lead to a way of reconciling the growing need for energy resources, the dependency of emerging nations on oil extraction, and the means of protecting the planet.

Book Information

  • Author: Mark Jaccard
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press




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