Fossil Fuels and our Modern World

Fossil fuels play a key role in the modern world, and whether we realize it or not, we depend on them almost every day. Every aspect of our lives is touched by fossil fuels in some way, even if it isn’t immediately obvious. Our energy infrastructure is dependent on fossil fuels, with roughly 82% of the energy generated in the United States coming from fossil fuel burning power plants. Our transportation system is equally dependent on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels power trains, planes, ships, and our cars. Everything we buy has almost certainly been moved Even electric cars are indirectly dependent on fossil fuels, since they rely on a power grid that is largely fueled by fossil fuels. 

Beyond transportation and the energy grid, we depend on other forms of fossil fuels every day. Plastics are synonymous with modern life, it is everywhere. Plastics can be found in our homes, in our cars, and in our phones, and almost all of these plastics are derived from oil.  We wear clothing made from oil based polyester, we depend on pharmaceuticals derived from petrochemicals, and we wear shoes that depend on oil based synthetic rubber. These are just a few examples of oil derived products we use every day, there are many more.

Yet every day we hear that fossil fuels are destroying the world, and we must stop using them in order to preserve the earth. Yet, we will destroy a key pillar of modern life if we stop using fossil fuels.  Modern life would all but cease to exist if we stopped using fossil fuels. How do we reconcile these two worlds? The answer is conservation. We must use our resources wisely and responsibly. That means moving oil safely and developing new technologies to reduce emissions from fossil fuels. Could future technologies render fossil fuels obsolete? Yes, they could. The problem is those technologies don’t exist yet, and until they do we need to use what we have (fossil fuels) wisely and responsibly.