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DEPLETION OF NATURAL SCIENCES

DEPLETION OF NATURAL SCIENCES

There are primarily two types of resources: energy and minerals. As noted, a natural resource only has "value" as long as humans need it. As it turns out, humans need more and more energy and mineral resources, resulting in increased costs. There has also been a steady rise in the cost of petroleum, gold, copper, platinum, and titanium.

Throughout history, most of the world's energy came from animate power; the use of animals such as mules, ox, and horses. But following the Industrial Revolution, most of the energy in Europe and the United States was used for machinery. The energy used to power the machinery came from inanimate power such as biofuel and fossil fuels. Currently the most used energy source for less developed nations are biofuel such as trees, coal, and methane. But in more developed nations and nations transitioning, fossil fuels have become the central source of energy.

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FINITENESS OF FOSSIL FUELS
So what is fossil fuel? Everything that is or was alive is made out of carbon. Millions of years ago when the planet was a lot warmer, plant life was quite abundant. Over geologic time, these carbon bodies were buried and ultimately converted to fossil fuels (i.e. coal, petroleum, and natural gas). So when you fill your car up at the gas station, you are actually putting ancient plant life into your vehicle. When you drive off, the fuel is burned, and the ancient carbon is released into the environment in the form of carbon dioxide.

There are two concerns with fossil fuels. One is that the carbon dioxide released is a greenhouse gas and the other is that it is considered a finite resource. You have probably heard of the recent debate between renewable energy and nonrenewable energy. A natural resource is considered a renewable resource if the nature can reproduce it within a human lifetime. So energy sources such as solar energy, wind power, and geothermal are considered renewable energy sources. Fossil fuels are not considered renewable because it requires millions of years for the earth to replenish them. So ultimately humans will run out of fossil fuels, but the question is when. In terms of coal, the world has well over 200 years worth, but with petroleum the question becomes more complicated.

Currently there are over a trillion barrels of petroleum, called proven reserves, that we are aware of with current technology. Potential reserves are resources of petroleum not discovered yet by society. Currently there is a lot of concern about how many reserves of petroleum are left to discover. Technology today is allowing industry to discover reserves deeper than ever before and tap into petroleum reserves in ways never allowed before.

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UNEVEN DISTRIBUTION OF FOSSIL FUELS
Another global problem in terms of fossil fuels is that it is not found uniformly around the planet. Coal forms in tropical regions where there are lots of vegetation and swamps. As the vegetation falls into oxygen poor water, it is converted into a carbon-based rock over geologic time. Because of plate tectonics, the slow movement of continents around the planet, most of the mid-latitude countries such as China, Russia, and the United States were located near the equator 250 million years ago. Today these countries have abundant amounts of coal. Petroleum and natural gas forms on the ocean floor under high pressure from overlying water and sediment. Some of these areas are still under water such as in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Mexico. Other regions are no longer underwater such as the Middle East.

Most of the world's sources of fossil fuels exist in more developed countries, which has greatly helped in their development. Today the United States and China are the largest consumers of fossil fuels on the planet. Yet in the 21st century, the demand for coal, petroleum, and natural gas will shift to less developed nations as they move through the demographic transition model.

The majority of the world's petroleum prices is determined by As noted earlier, mid-latitude countries such as the United States, Russia, and China have the largest supply of coal. In terms of petroleum, the mission of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) "is to coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its Member Countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry."

OPEC formed in 1960. Some of you might have also heard about the energy crisis of the 1970s. This occurred when Arab countries of OPEC were angered by the Europe and the United States' support over Israel during the 1973 war with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The Arab OPEC members refused to supply oil to the United States, which immediately created a fuel shortage. During the 1980s and 1990s, prices of oil dropped dramatically stimulating global economies all around the world. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia struggled to survive as a modern society. But starting in the late 1990s, Russia began exporting its petroleum and coal resources and its political, economic, and military power grew substantially. Cheap fuel in the United States spurred the automotive industry to build large SUVs with low miles-per-gallon. But the mid-2000s saw a sharp increase in fuel prices with record prices occurring in the summer of 2008. Following the summer of 2008, SUV sales plummeted risking the possibility of Ford and GM becoming extinct.

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NONRENEWABLE SUBSTITUTES FOR PETROLEUM
With the increase of oil the last few years, there has been a desire to find alternatives. There has been a sharp increase natural gas vehicles because natural gas is cheaper and pollutes less than oil. But basic economics of supply and demand state that as natural gas is used more (demand), cost is likely to follow.

Since the world has plenty of coal to last hundreds of years, some have pushed more coal burning. But there are several environmental concerns with coal. First, coal is the "dirtiest" fossil fuel in terms of air pollution. Burning coal releases vast amounts of sulfur, which creates acid rain and mercury which damages our neurological system. But it also releases the largest amount of carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas. With the current concern with global warming, there has been a lot of talks about carbon sequestration. The idea behind this is that if humans can capture the carbon dioxide before it is released, we might be able to "lock" it deep within the earth and thus preventing it from contributing to global warming. But the technology here is far from proven yet.

A third source of nonrenewable energy is nuclear. Since Chernobyl in 1986 in the former Soviet Union and the Three-Mile Island incident in the United States, our country has been very apprehensive in creating new nuclear power plants. The benefit of nuclear power is that incredible amounts of energy can be generated without polluting the environment. But there are serious concerns about potential accidents and the radioactive waste it generates. There has been recent heated debate in the West as to where to store radioactive waste. In Utah, there has been talk of storing nuclear waste at the Goshute Indian Reservation as a short-term stop to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But many in Utah believe that a nuclear waste, which takes tens of thousands of years to decompose, in Utah will never leave even though we don't have a nuclear power plant. In Nevada, there is concern about the actual safely of storing nuclear waste in a mountain with nearby fault lines. And after the September 11 terrorist attacks, there is renewed interest of nuclear power plants becoming targets.

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NATURAL SUBSTITUTES FOR PETROLEUM
With the increase of oil the last few years, there has been a desire to find alternatives. There has been a sharp increase natural gas vehicles because natural gas is cheaper and pollutes less than oil. But basic economics of supply and demand state that as natural gas is used more (demand), cost is likely to follow.

Since the world has plenty of coal to last hundreds of years, some have pushed more coal burning. But there are several environmental concerns with coal. First, coal is the "dirtiest" fossil fuel in terms of air pollution. Burning coal releases vast amounts of sulfur, which creates acid rain and mercury which damages our neurological system. But it also releases the largest amount of carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas. With the current concern with global warming, there has been a lot of talks about carbon sequestration. The idea behind this is that if humans can capture the carbon dioxide before it is released, we might be able to "lock" it deep within the earth and thus preventing it from contributing to global warming. But the technology here is far from proven yet.

A third source of nonrenewable energy is nuclear. Since Chernobyl in 1986 in the former Soviet Union and the Three-Mile Island incident in the United States, our country has been very apprehensive in creating new nuclear power plants. The benefit of nuclear power is that incredible amounts of energy can be generated without polluting the environment. But there are serious concerns about potential accidents and the radioactive waste it generates. There has been recent heated debate in the West as to where to store radioactive waste. In Utah, there has been talk of storing nuclear waste at the Goshute Indian Reservation as a short-term stop to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But many in Utah believe that a nuclear waste, which takes tens of thousands of years to decompose, in Utah will never leave even though we don't have a nuclear power plant. In Nevada, there is concern about the actual safely of storing nuclear waste in a mountain with nearby fault lines. And after the September 11 terrorist attacks, there is rene
.wed interest of nuclear power plants becoming targets.
Open Geography Education by R. Adam Dastrup is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Kategoria: Moje artykuły | Dodał: kolo (2019-03-22)
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