Despite the clear need for us to transition to green energy, fossil fuels still dominate our energy markets. But what is our planet’s most abundant fossil fuel?
The Most Abundant Fossil Fuel Crown Goes to…Coal
Nations like Saudi Arabia have major oil fields, while Russia leads the pack on proven natural gas resources.
But, taking the planet as a whole, the most abundant fossil fuel is coal.
The United States has the largest coal sources of any nation. States like Wyoming and Virginia have made coal mining a way of life. In fact, the United States government boasts its coal reserves total one quarter of the world’s proven coal sources.
To put that another way, the United States has more coal than the rest of the world has available oil reserves.
There’s a big problem though. For the past few years the United States government has tried to revive its coal industry, but it hasn’t worked.
For one thing, the American public doesn’t want more coal mining operations. Another issue is that natural gas and other fossil fuels are out-competing coal. The growing green energy sector is also applying pressure.
So, it’s little wonder that the global coal market has been in free-fall. Despite the United States seeing a brief surge in coal export demand around 2017, this downward spiral does not look set to end.
Fossil Fuels Infrastructure: An Increasingly Risky Bet
Coal is notorious for being a “dirty” fossil fuel, and with good reason.
The mining process is an ugly one that carves up massive amounts of earth and can also change water courses. Acid mine drainage is also an environmental concern that requires long-term management.
Now, the United States has started to transition to natural gas production. Nations like the UK through to Japan are also following. They bill this as a “clean” energy alternative.
However, environmental groups say while natural gas might seem attractive, it is anything but environmentally friendly and has several of the same problems as coal.
Many gas drilling sites cannot be the same as the sites we have used for oil and coal extraction. This means we are having to clear yet more new land and build new infrastructure to feed our fossil fuel habit.
What’s more, some gas extraction processes use a lot of water. With that comes the risk of water contamination. This happened in Wyoming where research shows fracking led to ground water contamination.
Environmentalists worry that investment in natural gas infrastructure now will only prolong fossil fuel use in the future, and we can’t afford that.
If we are to have any hope of achieving our climate change related targets, scientists are clear that fossil fuels cannot be part of our long term strategy.
It is time to leave fossil fuels alone, whether that is coal, oil or natural gas, and whether they are abundant energy sources or not.