The current over-reliance on fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – is not economically, geopolitically or environmentally sound. The only sensible thing to do is to invest in, and begin to use, alternative fuels. Or at the very least, we should be researching and developing alternative forms of energy capture and distribution.
In his State of the Union address in 2006 President George Bush highlighted concern regarding the country’s dependence on fossil fuels by stating: ‘Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology.’ It is arguable that Australia is also addicted to fossil fuels, and while we have reserves in our country, they are still finite forms of energy.
Lack of stability of supply, as well as concerns about how stable their governments are, are some of the challenges facing oil supplying nations in their relationships with other countries. Russia has some of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world and concerns have been expressed that this country may use this energy power to over-reach in its relationships with neighbouring countries.
Fossil fuel dependency and the wasteful use of resources may increase climate change, with the ever-present threat of raised sea levels and the likely effects on food production, which could add to geopolitical tensions around the world.
What happens when the reserves of energy we are currently dependent upon are depleted? These resources are finite. Western countries, which have smaller populations, use far more energy than other countries. But as countries such as China and India, with their vast populations are developing, it is necessary to consider that their usage will be far greater, causing depletion of these resources at a more rapid rate. As China and India are emerging, and are requiring more and more energy, wouldn’t the most sensible thing to do be to assist them to establish technologies that are not so reliant on fossil fuels to feed at least some of their energy needs? In this way, some of the environmental and other mistakes made by developed nations may be prevented.
We now do have the technologies to replace fossil fuels with sustainable energy systems, which are based on renewable energy and which are also efficient. The commercially available energy technologies include wind power, hydro-electricity, solar photovoltaic power, concentrated solar thermal power with thermal storage, as well as appliances and equipment which are energy efficient. Buildings are also capable of being built to be more energy efficient.
What we need is effective government policies to boost investor confidence in these products and expand the markets.