Whether you believe in global warming or not, there is one fact that everyone can agree on: burning fossil fuels pollutes our environment. Communities where the waste products are dispersed are inevitably plagued with high numbers of health problems and water/air/land contamination. Also, as the name implies, non-renewable energy is a precious and finite resource, and we are burning through it today faster than ever. While this issue of environmental impact is a major case for renewable energy, we also want to address the debate from a financial perspective. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that renewable energy is gaining so much momentum and why non-renewable energy sources are becoming less attractive.
The Economics of Pollution
The full impact of the waste products from the power industry are often swept under the rug and not publicly acknowledged. Everything from the extraction process to the disposal of the end waste products has disastrous effects on the land, air, and water of local communities. Health problems are also rampant in these communities and not always understood as being caused by said pollutants. The overall economic impact of dealing with these “back end” problems is far greater than most people realize and is not factored in to the debate between renewables and non-renewables as it should be.
How Much Coal is Left?
When you realize that coal, as a non-renewable energy source is limited, one thought instantly pops into your head: How much coal is left? The answer to that question is very complicated because it is largely tied to how quickly the world develops and advances. The World Coal Association says that we have roughly 118 years of coal left on the planet. While that sounds pretty good at first, it’s actually pretty far from good because that statistic is based on current demands. This also does not address the question of how are those remaining supplies going to be accessed. More intrusive and damaging processes must be used to acquire the dwindling reserves as time goes on.
We will consume coal at exponential rates as more and more nations develop and use coal for energy. Furthermore, the world population is multiplying faster than ever. The real figure could be as little as 23 years, which will happen in a blink of an eye. Right now our energy infrastructure is largely based on non-renewable energy sources, and if we don’t take action now, we could run into big problems in the near future.
Supply and Demand
Also, consider what this will mean from an economics perspective. We have all heard about the rules of supply and demand before. While we may be years and years away from the complete depletion of coal reserves, the closer we get to this limit the higher the price of coal will rise. I don’t know about you, but when my energy bill comes, I can’t help but think of all the other things I could have spent that money on. If our power derives mostly from coal, our energy bills will only climb higher as the clock ticks down to the day we run out. Instead of placing these burdens on future generations, we need to be investing in renewable energy sources because it is one of the smartest investments to make today.
Other Finite Sources of Energy
However, coal is just one type of non-renewable energy. We also use other types such as petroleum and natural gas, but these energy sources are fundamentally flawed as well. One day, they are going to run out, and we need to do everything in our power to take advantage of renewable energy sources before it’s too late. The time is now to switch investments from fossils to solar power for a more prosperous future.