I woke up startled with a disbelieving look on my face. Is it possible? For a moment I had dreamt about a world, conscious about its natural reserves and keen on saving them, thus ensuring a blissful future not only for themselves but also for their progeny. That it was only a dream is what saddens me the most.
Bradley Millar has said,“To tell a child not to stamp on the caterpillar is as important for the child, as it is for the caterpillar.”This saying summarizes the context of the discussion quite emphatically. In an ever dependent world on natural reserves to an extent that modern life would be alarmingly incomplete without them, it is saddening to observe the general callousness in their use and more precisely their ‘misuse’!
A casual reflection on our history books would reveal that natural reserves have been so intimately involved with our development that even ages have been distinguished by their discovery as the Iron Age, the Bronze Age etc. As the new and developed world molded, the use of natural oil and gas as efficient and reliable energy providers slowly dominated most spheres of human need for energy. It does not take long to realize how vital they have become over time. In a world of non-conventional energy sources and electricity, we can still hardly do without Mother Nature’s exquisite gifts.
However over consumption and over dependence on cheap energy resources has led to their massive depletion. Oil accounts for 40% of the world’s energy requirements where as natural gas accounts for 23% [USGE98]. However oil is being used at a rate of 77 million barrels a day which makes 26 billion barrels annually [IEAKEY 2003]. In US alone the annual use of natural gas is 12 trillion cubic feet.
Since the petroleum reserves are limited and their geographical production process is a long one, massive demand has led to huge depletion. The demand on the other hand hardly seems to lessen. According to an estimate, by 2015 we will require 80% more fuel than what we need today. The depletion rate of gas is more alarming. The gas fields have been down by 17.30% in production over the years.
The magnitude of our fuel consumption can be understood if we take a look at the estimation that states 500 nuclear plants would be required in US alone to totally stop the use of natural reserves. At this rate, if the problem is not addressed immediately we would soon run out of oil, gas and alternatives that can replace them.
The first step to address the issue is to understand the chief reasons that have led us to such a dire strait. Firstly the present population of the world is 6, 602, 224, and 750 (July 2007). Demographers believe that the population will reach 10 billion before it can stabilize. This growing population demands an energy resource with flammability, high energy value and convenience of use. This puts an ever increasing pressure on the natural reserves to meet the demands of the populace.
Secondly, industrialization, machinery and faster modes of transport have become a way of life and symbols of prosperity. They use a whole lot of oil and gas everyday; however we are so keenly bent on development that we have closed our eyes to the larger picture that development has no meaning without support from natural reserves and thus they have to undergo a sustainable development and not one at the cost of each other.
Thirdly, in spite of the development of non-conventional energy resources, the general populace is still apprehensive about their use along with natural oil and gas, chiefly because of their low energy value and inconvenience in using them.
Last but not the least, all our awareness campaigns have limited themselves to academic exercises only which are done on a few days. It has hardly affected the general attitude of the people.
Now that the various aspects of the problem are clear it is important to devise a policy for the sustainable consumption of these resources. The task ahead is definitely tough but as Mahatma Gandhi,“Manliness consists in daring to do the right and facing the consequences.”
The following three tier policy, called the 3A policy, looks to bring forward changes in the right direction. The policy is broadly categorized into three phases which need to run simultaneously.
1. All people must consciously try limiting their use of oil and gas. Better scientific and energy efficient practices can go a long way in curbing their misuse. Public transport systems, car
2. Alternatives like hydro, solar and wind power and bio-fuels must be used more frequently. They are both and renewable and non-exhaustive sources of energy. This would bring down the demand for the natural gas and oil.
1. The Government has set many standards in the consumption of oil and gas. Better vehicles with good engine condition are certified. A good citizen should abide by these policies to minimize the misuse of oil and gas.
2. All government policies and initiatives need to meet the complete support and encouragement of the people.
3. International bodies must monitor the consumption of oil and gas by various nations and must set international standards for all nations to practice.
1. It is of vital importance that the message of conservation of oil and gas must be spread to as many people as possible. It should be passed on as a social responsibility. Through various schemes and campaigns school children and the youth must be involved in the procedure. Awareness Campaigns should be conducted at regular intervals.
2. Research in new alternatives and better techniques to conserve oil and gas should be adequately funded and encouraged by the government as well as non government organizations.
3. Preaching without practice will never help and so we need to see that the policies have to be realized by the people and not remain as academic exercises only.
It must be pretty clear by now that oil and gas need to be preserved or the day will soon dawn when they will be gone and then mankind will be thrown centuries back in progress. Our industries will come to a standstill and the fast world which is turning the globe into a village will become slow again.
Nature, as Einstein remarked, may be profound but she never cheats; that is she plays the game according to her rules. The rules, of course, are decided by her. Man might meddle with it time and again but a substantial alteration could bring about disastrous changes. Natural oil and gas are not ours alone. It is our responsibility to see that they get passed on to our future generations. However if we do not, the following poetic prophecy will definitely be realized
“And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man?”
– William Wordsworth