Humans have been using fossil fuels for heat and light since before recorded history. For a very long time, it was only coal that we used. In the middle of the 19th century, however, petroleum oil began to replace animal oil in lamps, bringing about the first commercial uses of fossil fuels. Prior to this, windmills and watermills were the main source of energy for industry (milling, metal working, etc.) at the time.
With the advent of the Industrial Age however, we have seen a very consistent rise in the need for fossil fuel. Used for shipping and transportation, oil and gasoline in machines and automobiles, and plastic production fossil fuels have become the go-to source for so many of our modern day technologies.
Recently though, there have been advancements made in renewable energy resources, solar and wind power particularly, and these new sources of energy are causing fossil fuels to be less necessary.
One company, Carbon Tracker, predicts that fossil fuel demands will peak in the 2020’s, while research from Oxford University predicts that we will see the peak happen as soon as this year. Previous estimates had put the peak somewhere around 2050 and oil and gas companies seem unfazed by the rapid growth of the renewable energy resource industry itself, despite the fact that coal already saw its peak happen in 2014.
Currently, the fossil fuel industry carries about $25 trillion in assets, but markets are expected to take a large hit as renewable resources become less expensive and more popular. Some countries coming into their industry phases are even foregoing fossil fuel systems entirely and setting themselves up with renewable resource energy sources right from the start.
Old technologies are often eclipsed by up and coming ideas and are often deemed obsolete after a time when more efficient means of producing results are generated. The fossil fuel industry is likely headed in this direction given the popularity of renewable resources and the fight on carbon pollution.
With so many people, companies and countries looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, it is no wonder that there has been a boom in the renewable resource sector and a subsequent decline in the fossil fuel industry. Even with the US backing out of the Paris climate agreement, and some other countries threatening to follow suit, there is an estimate that by 2050, renewables will have overtaken fossil fuels in so many applications.
Nothing lasts forever, so they say, and those people and countries who have been so dependent on oil and gas for so long will see the day when fossil fuels become outdated. Just because oil and gas have reigned supreme in the energy industry for so long does not mean that they will be protected against these cleaner technologies now making appearances in the world market.