When Will We Run Out of Fossil Fuels?
According to historical records and archaeological finds, the history of the usage of fossil fuels may be as old as is the history of human civilization. However, since fossil fuels are non-renewable sources, there is no denying that there would come a day when we run out of fossil fuels.
The consumption rate of fossil fuels is not at a constant rate. As of now, the global consumption of fossil fuels rises by more than 1% each year. The truth is, we simply do not have enough to supply the full demand of our industries and populations, and our reserves will be empty soon.
Some might suggest that we can continue to discover new reserves. Yet, the potential and probability are low. Even with more reserves, it would be a challenge to meet the population's needs according to the current and expected future levels of usage.
Former Saudi oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zahi Yamani said: "The stone age came to an end, not for lack of stones, and the oil age will end, but not for lack of oil."
So, when will we run out of fossil fuels?
Oil 47 years
There are 1.65 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves in the world as of 2016. The world has proven reserves equivalent to 46.6 times its annual consumption levels. This means it has about 47 years of oil left (at current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves).
Coal 133 years
As of 2016, there are 1,139,471 tons (short tons, st) of proven coal reserves in the world as of 2016. The world has proven reserves equivalent to 133.1 times its annual consumption. This means it has about 133 years of coal left (at current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves).
Natural gas 52 years
As of 2017, about 6,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are available with some of the largest reserves in United States, Algeria, and Nigeria. The world has proven reserves equivalent to 52.3 times its annual consumption. This means it has about 52 years of gas left (at current consumption levels and excluding unproven reserves).
Can we do something about it before fossil fuels run out?
Regardless of the kind of fossil fuel reserve and how much of it we have, it will not last forever. To find something that can support us in the long run, we must shift our dependence toward renewable energy sources.
Currently, renewables only provide 5% of our energy needs. Since renewable energy sources are not popular enough, there is a high chance that the process of emptying our reserves would speed up. To overcome this issue, we need to take immediate action. Not only do we need to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, but we should switch to green energy as soon as we can.