Advances in Energy and Fuel

Advances in Energy and Fuel

In recent years energy consumption has been a much talked about issue. Fossil fuels, which power just about everything from cars to electrical plants, are what we’re all most familiar with, but fossil fuel is a non-renewable source of energy. Sooner or later, we’ll have to turn to new sources of energy.

Natural Gas and Fracking

One of the big problems with the oil market is our dependence on foreign oil. In a recent column, Peter Orszag reports a possible solution to this dependence. In the column, Peter Orszag, vice chairman of global banking at Citigroup, notes some of the clear advances in obtaining fossil fuels, namely in the form of natural gases.

Peter Orszag mentions the improvements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, that have resulted in a significant increase in recoverable reserves and an overall decline in natural gas prices. Hydrofracking involves injecting pressurized liquids into underground rock. Aside from controversy over environmental effects, this method is highly effective for retrieving natural gases.

Similar methods are being used to extract oil from shale formations, which is what experts call “tight oil”.

About Natural Gases

Natural gases are mainly composed of methane, along with a mixture of other various hydrocarbons. Natural gas is used to provide heat and generate electricity in buildings, homes, and vehicles.

What makes natural gas advantageous is that it emits less than half the carbon dioxide of coal, the current leading energy source. It’s also plentiful and, as previously noted, can be drilled domestically. This reduces our reliance on foreign oil, further allowing for cheaper energy.

However, even if we could instantly switch all our coal-powered plants with natural gas power, it would still just be a substitute until we could find a more sustainable, renewable energy source.

Looking to the Future

In the grand scheme of things, we are depleting fossil fuel reserves much faster than new ones are being made, which means we’ll probably use up the world’s fossil fuels at some point in the future. As such, it’s a good idea to look to new forms of fuel that are renewable.

Next to solar and electrical power, perhaps the most sustainable, viable energy source is hydrogen. It’s the most plentiful element in the world and creates zero emissions. In fact, the process that occurs within a hydrogen fuel cell results in nothing but pure water. Scientists are still developing a hydrogen fuel cell that is efficient and safe for use by the average person, so it might be a while until we see a hydrogen-powered car on the market.

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