Ask A Scientist
Is there any alternative for natural gas/oil when we run out?
Asked by: Holly Hurbis
School: School: Maine-Endwell Middle School
Grade: Grade: 6
Teacher: Teacher: Kevin Wagstaff
Research area: Sustainable Energy Solutions
Students at Binghamton University led by Wayne Jones and Debora Clinton Callaghan answered this question as part of a sustainable energy solutions class. The goal of the course is to introduce first-year students in Harpur College of Arts and Sciences to college success strategies through an exploration of topics in Sustainable Energy.
At the current energy consumption rate, our society will run out of natural gas, oil and other fossil fuels. However, it is difficult to determine a specific date when that will happen because our consumption is increasing and new technologies are increasing resource availability. Through 2040, it is predicted that 80 percent of the energy supply will come from fossil fuels. Fortunately, alternative energy sources that are more environmentally friendly are available to ease our dependence on fossil fuels.
Natural gas can generate electricity for your house or even fly a plane, but energy sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric can make up for natural gas and other non-renewable sources of energy. Solar energy converts energy from the sun into electricity. Turbines can convert wind energy to electricity or convert water to electricity. These processes are cleaner than natural gas and oil.
Alternative energy sources also cost less than oil. For example, to light a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours with solar power would cost about 12 cents, but with oil, it would cost about 17 cents. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up over time. Although installing alternative energy sources is expensive, they eventually pay for themselves and the cost is decreasing with advances in technology.
Switching to other sources of energy is not easy. There are environmental limitations to consider such as geographic location, health concerns, energy storage and resource availability. Social influences such as large corporations campaigning against green initiatives due to worries about profit loss can also cause negative public opinion about eco-friendly alternatives.
To help conserve energy and help limit the current consumption rate of fossil fuels, there are things you can do around the house now. Encourage your parents to keep the temperature at moderate levels to save money and energy. Decreasing heating or air conditioning in your home when nobody is there saves energy. Switching off appliances and lights, as well as taking shorter showers also helps to conserve energy and create a more sustainable energy future.