At the moment, the vast majority of the energy we in the UK depend on in our daily lives is produced from fossil fuels; in 2008 the proportion generated from non-renewable sources was 94.5% according to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. This is not sustainable.
There are three problems associated with generating energy from fossil fuels, and these are linked to each other:
- Climate Change: it is now the consensus of the majority of leading climate scientists that our use of fossil fuels to generate heat and power is leading to changes in the climate, and that there will be disastrous consequences for humankind if this continues at its current rate.
- Other environmental impacts: the process of extracting, refining and transporting oil and other fossil fuels can have huge impacts on the surrounding environment. For example, the major oil spill at the BP Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico on 20th April 2010 decimated marine and coastal ecosystems throughout the area.
- Peak Oil, peak gas and energy security: Many experts are convinced that the maximum rate of global oil extraction has now been passed, or will pass soon. This will mean an end to cheap and plentiful oil in the near future, resulting in hikes in oil prices and the price of goods made and transported using oil. Peak gas may not be far away either. These trends in energy availability could also result in more wars in areas that are rich in fossil fuels.
To meet our energy needs into the future, and avoid catastrophic climate change, it is now clear that as a society we must both reduce the amount of energy we use and increase the amount of energy generated from renewable sources.