June 5 2021
by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute
Eons ago as then-existent forms of life on Earth died off, decomposing remains became fossils…or relevant to current “heated” conversations about the future of energy, the stuff of today’s “fossil fuels.” Coal, crude oil, natural gas.
As National Geographic explains for us, these fuels found in the Earth’s crust contain important amounts of carbon and hydrogen, which can be burned to create the energy we need in our modern times. Consider:
Coal – we have long been extracting the deposits found in sedimentary rock – is the important foundational fuel source for the industrial era of at least the past two centuries.
Oil, more recently (since the mid-1800s) has been pumped out of ample reservoirs deep beneath the Earth’s crust. Or today, from closer deposits found in sedimentary rock, such as in shale layers (see: fracking – hydraulic fracturing).
Natural gas? Often described as a “transition” fuel (between fossilized sources and renewable energy sources) is extracted from the deposits near the deeper oil deposits. Natural gas is mostly comprised of methane, providing significant energy when burned – and also identified as one of the more potent Greenhouse Gases (GhG).
NatGeo tells us that the National Academy of Sciences charts 81 percent of total energy used in the U.S. as coming from these three fuel sources – responsible for three-fourths of global emissions over the recent decades.
So, what to do about the future directions of fossil fuels as primary energy sources, as leaders and institutions of the U.S. and other nations look beyond fossil fuels to create the energy needed to power business, homes, transportation, and more?
The debate about all of this (the “beyond fossil fuels discussion”) plays out in the era of the 2015 Paris Agreement to hold the Earth’s temperatures to below 2-degrees Celsius rise in this century compared to the level of pre-industrial days.
Reducing the use of fossil fuels is one of the ways to accomplish this, say climate change activists; more reliance of renewable fuel sources is being widely embraced as an important transition.
About transition: the industrial era got a big boost in the 1860s when the first oil wells were drilled in Pennsylvania and resulting processed kerosene began quickly knocking off the U.S. whaling oil business…coal extraction was already an important source of energy for industry.
The public debate about the fate of fossil fuel use in many nations, and the future direction of the many companies involved in the extraction, processing, and distribution of these fuels, is ongoing and involves many constituencies with a stake in the outcome of public policy and actions to address the issue…especially in the context of the commitment of almost 200 nations to comply with the terms of the Paris Agreement.
In this week’s G&A Institute’s newsletter (Sustainability Highlights), we shared important developments in the discussion about climate change and energy sources, as investors take action in proxy votes at Exxon and Chevron, and leaders call for “Energy Compacts” (by country, business interest, city) to achieve the goal of clean affordable energy by year 2030 (see SDG 7) and “net zero emissions” by 2050.
Of course, today’s energy source enterprises have to play a significant role in the process; energy transition that will be discussed by the UN’s High-level Dialogue on Energy.
Details on all of this are in the selections for Top Stories and in other of the content silos…and more is on the G&A Institute’s SHQ web information sharing platform: www.sustainabilityhq.com.
- Activist Investor Wins Exxon Board Seats In Day Of Reckoning For Big Oil (Source: Oil Price)
- In stunning vote, shareholders elect two new directors put forth by shareholders at ExxonMobil, seeking climate expertise and action (Source: Ceres)
- Chevron investors back proposal for more emissions cuts (Source: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre)
- Recognizing growing urgency, global leaders call for concrete commitments for clean, affordable energy for all by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050 (Source: UN SDGs)
- Alberta Oil Sector Facing Volatile and Long-Term Decline Even in the Absence of Domestic Climate Policies (Source: IISD)
The National Geographic content on fossil fuels is in the organization’s Resource Library – this is excellent material for discussing fossil fuels with students (What is a fossil fuel and what is being done to make fossil fuels more environmentally-friendly?).