When will fossil fuels run out?
In this article, we will inspect how long fossil fuels will last. Natural gas, coal, and oil are non-renewable sources of energy, and our reserves are constantly getting emptier. What is the solution? Is building more nuclear power plants inevitable or can we go green in the next decades?
Fossil fuels running out fast
Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources. They formed millions of years ago. The Earth’s heat, the pressure, and the movement of the layers decomposed plants and animals, turning them into petroleum, oil, coal, and natural gas. The deeper we dig, the more likely it is to find natural gas and oil resources.
The global demand has not reached the peak yet. Year by year, global energy consumption is getting higher, therefore the use of fossil fuels is getting higher too. We simply do not have enough renewable energy to supply our industries’ and populations’ full demand.
Global demand for fossil fuels
Global consumption of fossil fuels is still rising by more than 1% each year. However, oil has started to ‘lose’ its popularity in favour of natural gas, which is good for the environment.
Learn more about environmental impacts.
Natural gas is the most eco-friendly fossil fuel. We consider it as a bridge between non-renewable and renewable sources of energy.
The problem is that fossil fuels formed millions of years ago, so waiting for new fossil fuels to form is not an option with our rising demand. Our reserves will be empty soon.
How much fossil fuel is left?
Formed millions of years ago, yet only used for around 200 years, fossil fuel reserves are emptying very quickly. It is also obvious that the exact date of running out of these fuels remains unknown. It is because we continue to discover new reserves, however, the number of new
reserves is low: they cannot meet our population’s needs with the current and expected future levels of usage.
Former Saudi oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zahi Yamani said: "The stone age came to an end, not for lack of stones, and the oil age will end, but not for lack of oil."
How many years of fossil fuels are left?
According to research based on 2015 data, the current statement of when our reserves will be emptied is this:
- Oil: 51 years
- Coal: 114 years
- Natural gas: 53 years
Other sources estimate that we will run out of fossil fuels much earlier – for example, oil deposits will be gone by 2052.
We do not just have to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and switch to green energy because we run out of supplies, but also because coal and oil are harming our environment badly.
Renewables only provide 5% of our energy needs, while nuclear energy supports our demand with 4% of energy. Nuclear power plants are also safe sources of energy, the problem is the storing of nuclear waste.
The world is more likely to take the ‘green way’ instead of the ‘nuclear way’.
Read more about decarbonization: what can you do against climate change?
Conclusion: how long will fossil fuels last?
- It is predicted that we will run out of fossil fuels in this century.
- Oil can last up to 50 years, natural gas up to 53 years, and coal up to 114 years.
- Yet, renewable energy is not popular enough, so emptying our reserves can speed up.