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Analyses Last Updated: Nov 28, 2019 - 12:34:01 PM


Can the Modern Civilization Survive Without Fossil Fuels? - Yes, But!
By E. Kalair, N. Abas, N. Khan, Comsats 25/11/19
Nov 28, 2019 - 12:30:46 PM

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The world is crossing the tipping point, without 100% renewable energy alternatives in hand, and Lexus Nexus is Climate Emergency. GHG emissions decelerated for a couple of years after Paris Accord but started rising again in 2018. Concentration of carbon dioxide in air was 403.27 ppm from 2016 to 2017 that escalated to 408.42 ppm in 2018 and 410.67 on 26 November 2019 [CO2 Now 2019].

Our collective survival lies in biological foods, chemical medicines and nature inspired technologies. We have to harness the photosynthesis and nuclear fusion technologies to get rid of GHG emitting fossil fuels by 2050 to reverse the climate balance right on the tipping point. Nature is helping us by windier weathers and sunnier seasons. Fossil fuels are In fact ancient biomass and solar energies.

Neither the fossil fuels will deplete in near future, nor can the capitalist democracy survive without the hydrocarbons. BP's annual report claimed in 2013, the Earth has nearly 1.688 trillion barrels of crude, which will last 53 years at current use rates [BP, 2014]. Peak oil camp claimed the world to run out of oil in 2052, gas in 2060 and coal in 2088, which will continue growing by new discoveries. Energy experts related oil crisis to divestment into renewable energy [David, 2014].

BP faced criticism and was forced to say the world is not running out of oil and gas, the reserves are likely to double by 2050 despite rising demands [Reuter 2015]. Oil reserves increased from 2013 to 2019 as that had increased 27% from 2003 to 2013. Forbes related the oil depletion reports to sleepwalking into next oil crisis. Evolution of electric vehicles might not require oil anymore in future. Experience shows the old machineries are replaced by newer, better, and cheaper technologies [Robert 2018].

Saudi Oil Minister, Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, said in New York Times article "The Breaking Point" in 2005 "The Stone Age didn't end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil." British Empire plundered the planet for food a few centuries ago and now does not even see the fast food restaurants in every street. Food and energy crises are coded into their genes [Alisha 2014].

Humankind needs fresh air, clean water and nutrient food to survive. Air pollution issue has arisen from the long hauled combustion of fossil fuels, but food and water have remained the central raison d'être behind most ancient wars [Tom 2012]. Food wars were fought by hunger stricken countries yet water wars stem out of social issues despite being very vital element for life [Barnaby 2009].

Food, water and energy are rungs of social stratification. Z-Gen youth and Y-Gen people were not yet born in 1950s and 1960s, the X-Gen people know the wheat bread used to be best nutrition in town, six to seven decades ago. British agricultural revolution increased crop yield with fertilizers and US war on bugs increased productivity with insecticides [Ang 2013; Will 2007].

Fossil fuels are the natural blessings which accelerated human prosperity. Steam engine, diesel and electric tube wells reinforced agricultural revolution during industrial revolution.  Coal, oil and natural gas ended hunger on planet at expense of air, food and water pollution. Drugs, materials and machines were developed for business not human welfare [Brad 2009].

Z-Gen pundits curse fossil fuels in print, cyber and electronic media which are still powered by fossil fuels. Climate change cults say right and Trump’s stance also not very wrong. Everybody realizes air pollution and global warming, but there is no option to switch over. As soon as solar/wind become cheaper and laser fusion/artificial photosynthesis plants become cheaper the energy transition will occur in no time. The fossil fuels supply 80% of our 13.7GTOE energy demands [Kalair 2019].

We hate oil, yet every morsel of bread, meat, fruits, and medicines is powered by fossil fuels. However, fossil fuels have polluted politics and planet. Renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels, if you factor in social costs. Fossil fuels owners, discoverers, developers, processors, traders and consumers are all equally responsible for climate change and environmental pollution. However, divestment movement has hit the echelon on heels where it feels pain [Noam 2018].

Paris Accord wants to protect zillions of lives and their properties from flash floods, sea rise, violent storms, droughts and famines. Stakeholders in fossil fuels industries cannot accept the coordinated action for their personal economic gains. Climate change pundits ask then cut their power and wealth that is not acceptable to oil, gas and coal giants. Global destabilization policies keep the political and sectarian forces busy and they have no time to take action against climate change.

Combustion of fossil fuels pollutes air, emit CO2 and greenhouse gases. No more than 33% of proven fossil fuels reserves can be used before 2050 if world is to achieve the 2°C target. Limits on burning fossil fuels can avoid 20-65% damaging effects by 2100. According to a study burning of fossil fuels costs $120 billion health charges a year due to tens of thousands of premature deaths by air pollution.

Proven fossil fuels have 2,795Gt of carbon in earth. Burning of 565Gt fossil fuels, is upper safe limit for staying below 2°C temperature rise, and fossil fuels companies plan to burn 5 times more. Annual CO2 emissions come from fossil fuels and cement (35.92Gt) and land use change (3.3Gt). Half (50%) of annual CO2emissions go into atmosphere, 26% into land and 24% into oceans. In Mona Loa, CO2 concentration was 411.87ppm on 12 February 2019. Accumulative concentration of CO2, CH4, N2O and CFCs greenhouse gas is touching 490ppm limit [CO2 2019].

Global divestment reached $6.24 trillion, up from $52 billion in last four years, and aimed for $10 trillion by 2020 [Joshua 2018]. As of 2018, more than 1000 institutes and 58000 individuals divested $8 trillion from fossil fuels. Divestments are coming from religious organizations 28%), philanthropic foundations (18%), Governments (15%),   universities (15%), pension funds (14%), NGOs, profit entities and others (9%) industries [GFF, 2019]. However, David claimed the global investment in renewables was $2.2 trillion against $4.65 trillion in fossil fuels industry [David, 2018], the rest may be divestments.

Paris, and Germany are largest nuclear and wind/solar power producers, UK is trying hard. China is world’s largest renewable energy producer to which India is trying to follow, more in population and less in renewable energy. Oil companies are scrambling to go for solar/wind energies on economic basis.

Democracy is a system of government where citizens exercise power by voting. Democracy can survive without fossil fuels. Romans in Athens first time practiced democracy in 508-507BC. Romans used to use vegetable oil for lighting the fossil fuels were discovered during industrial revolution.  Chinese used the bamboo piped natural gas street lighting in 500BC, who never practiced democracy.

Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Trade and industry depend on energy which is now derived from fossil fuels. Democracy can survive end of hydrocarbon, but capitalism might not bear the blow of oil, gas and coal depletions [Kevin 2014].

The capitalist democracy is a political, economic and social ideology that involves the combination of a liberal democratic political system with a capitalist economic system. Democracy can survive, may be to some extent capitalism too, but capitalist democracy depends on fossil fuels. The democracy becomes monocracy in famines as globalization becomes localization during economic crisis.

Horses, humans and elephants were energy and power sources in Dark Ages. Large elephant riding armies were signs of power and military supremacy. Horse riding sword equipped warriors outweighed slow speed elephants. Genghis Khan conquered largest contiguous land with composite bows and British Empire conquered more than half of the world using rifles [Jack 2004; Bruce 1968].

Democracy and capitalism need some form of energy to govern. Pharaohs, Romans, Arabs, Europe and America relied on slave blood power before invention of internal combustion engine and discovery of economic fossil fuels [Klein 2007]. The plentitude of fossil fuels energy rendered slavery uneconomic. Western countries ended slavery on economic, not human rights and morality basis [Kurt 2005].

Discovery of oil in 1859 ended slavery in America, rise in oil production gave equal voting and working rights to men and women, peak oil led to labor unions, high taxes and social welfare projects, and oil depletion may reverse the journey. After oil depletion the coal and natural gas may sustain democracy, but end of hydrocarbon honey may close chapter of capitalistic democracy [Martin 2017].

Coal is formed by decay of 300 million years old forests in subsurface under moderate pressure and temperature. Modern coal mines used to be dense forests in remote ancient times. Oil is formed by decay of buried small plants and organisms, 500 million years ago, under very high pressures and temperature. Natural gas is produced under even higher temperatures and pressures. Coal accounts for 40% of global power generation. Hydro fracturing contaminates lot of water in shale gas fields.

A 300 to 500 million old sub surface forest, now replete with fossil fuels, is spread from Middle East to Russia and America. This hydrocarbon honey park belongs to 80 to 100 richest people. Discovery of this fossil fuels park in last 165 years has proved to be the biggest source of energy, power and wealth. However, socialist economists believe the decline of capitalism have already started [Ellie 2017].

At rate of $47.62 per barrel the value of 1.7 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves is $81 trillion. Similarly, at rate $52.60 per short ton the value of 1.1 trillion tons of proven coal reserves is $57.9 trillion. Likewise, at rate of $9.76 per cubic meter the value of world proven natural gas reserves of 195.2 trillion cubic meter is $20.1 trillion. Value of world fossil fuels is $159 trillion today [Brian 2017].

The world economy is considered as the international exchange of goods and services that is expressed in monetary units of account. According to IMF Asia ($30.22T), America ($23.55T), Europe ($21.82T), and rest ($9.25T), world’s $84.84T economy is 53.35% of global fossil fuels reserves, and World’s GDP (PPP) economy is $134.98 trillion that is 84.89% of global fossil fuels value [IMF 2018]; IMF 2018].

Many countries have natural gas reserves, but five nations (Russia, Iran, Qatar, USA and KSA) top the list. One hundred countries pump gas and extract oil, but only 44 produce more than 100,000 barrels per day. Hardly 20 countries produce more than 1million barrels per day and two (Russia and KSA) produce more than 10 million barrels per day.

Oil and gas produce 52% of Russian Government revenues, oil makes 92.5% of Saudi Arabian budget (55% of GDP) and 70% of Qatar Government Revenue (85% of GDP). Oil and gas exports are 70% of Russian, 97% of Saudi Arabian and 85% of Qatar’s export incomes. How oil and gas reserves holding countries can listen to climate change science! Money evaporates moral values which amounts to saying a family to get out of jinxed abode during cold wave polar vortex.

Air pollution by fossil fuels and water pollution by plastics affects humans and marine species. According to World Bank air pollution causes the global economy more than $5 trillion annually in welfare costs [Justin 2016]. According to World Trade Institute the plastic pollution causes annually %13 billion losses to marine species and half of that to marine industries [Elizabeth 2018]. Cost of water contamination is $4.3 billion in USA which consists of 4% world population. At same or little lesser scale the global cost of water contamination exceeds $100 billion per year [KSU, 2008]. Over 3 million people are annually hospitalized due to pesticide pollution. Soil pollution costs China annually $146 billion, at nearly same rate, soil pollution costs the world 1 trillion dollar [Hallie 2017]. Human and financial cost of air, water and soil pollution is 9 million premature deaths and $4.6 trillion economic losses [Steve 2017].

Plastic is modern pollution which did not exist before 1950. Plastics take centuries to degrade in soil and water. Plastics particles enter human and animal lungs through air, water and food.  World community annually produces 407 million tons of plastics out of which 13 million ton plastic enters oceans, which kill 100,000 marine species, and rest goes in drains, rivers, soil and air. More than 1250 million barrels of oil is used to produce plastics that is 4% of global oil consumption [Eric 2018]. Pakistan alone produces 55 billion plastic bags which are increasing at rate of 15% every year. Government of Pakistan has placed a ban on plastic production and use yet there are 8000 plastic factories where tens of thousands of people work. According to Jordan 87,000 tons of plastics are floating in Great Pacific Garbage Patch alone and there are four similar other gyres. EU plans to ban single use plastics by 2021 and 250 big brands like McDonald, Coco Cola and Nestle by 2025 [Jordan 2018].

There is lot of awareness literature on climate change yet many climate change executives really do not know difference between pollution and climate change. In two separate seminars, I asked two presenters, Ex-VC LUMS University and Ministry of Climate official, to tell any sign of climate change in Pakistan? First replied smog and second referred to plastics. Chairman HEC claims to be Climate Change expert yet he has done nothing to include climate change mitigation or adaptation course in universities. We have climate change ministry, climate change council and regulatory body yet output is zero. However, prime minister’s 10 billion tree plantation is a good initiative for green Pakistan [Koty 2018]. World community trusts Imran Khan as he has already planted 1 billion trees in KPK [Rosamond 2018].

Climate change is real threat with visible signs on planet, but the $159 trillion fossil fuels assets blind the perpetuators of capitalistic democracy. US debt was less than $2 trillion in early 1980s that exceeded to $22 trillion today [Daniel 2019]. Every American owes to pay $6,700 debt in 2019 and Trump attributes debts to wars, which actually rise during wars as well as recessions [Jacob 2018].

North America had no debt in 1840, US debts increased during Civil War in 1860s, WW-1 1920, Great Depression 1935, WW-II in 1945, Gulf War in 1990s and long Terror War from 2001 to 2019. When US debts exceeded $22 trillion American President Donald Trump decided to pull out of long hauled war by saying the Great Nations Do Not Fight Endless Wars [NAP 2019].

US President Donald Trump has pulled out of war in Afghanistan, but started a new trade war with China, that did not help [Joseph, 2018]. China owed $1.2 trillion debt from US yet it did not use it as fiscal weapon [Bryan 2019]. China built BRICS wall and US-China trade war increased some jobs in America, but real benefits went to Vietnam and South Asia [Gordon, 2018, Daniel 2018]. Chinese exports boosted at start of 2019, despite Trump’s taxes on Chinese goods [Karen 2019]. US-China trade war may prove “out of frying pan into fire” for Americas, as CNN had warned [Kristina 2019].

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Source:Ocnus.net 2019

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