Fossil Fuels

10 June 2012

MANILA, Philippines --- One does not have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that the amount of fossil fuels remaining is ultimately limited and cannot last forever.

Any hope that the price of gasoline will go down to affordable levels is simply wishful thinking.

Here's what authors Emi Bedi, Cancee, and Hakan Falk say in their articles at ''Energy Saving Now.''

''At some moment during the next five years, we will have consumed more than one half of the total usable fossil oil on Earth. To date, we have extracted 807 billion barrels of crude oil. Only an estimated 995 billion barrels remain that can be extracted at current production costs.''

''If the world-wide rate of oil consumption remained a constant 24 billion barrels of oil per year, we would run out of oil in 2040. But consumption is not static - it is increasing by about 2 percent per year.''

The authors say it seems clear that demand for oil will overshoot supply well before 2040. At some point between 2010 and 2025, all fuel from fossil oil will be too expensive for the average consumer to afford unless Middle East countries intervene and up production.

The world's proven reserves of oil have increased from some 540 billion barrels in 1969 to just over 1,000 billion barrels in 1992, but this does not mean that potential reserves are unlimited.

Scarcity had forced oil companies to prospect difficult sources such as the North Sea and Alaska. Demand is so huge that it now becomes economically viable to finance drilling in those areas.

Extracting oil in frozen grounds or deep in the ocean requires more investments in digging equipment.

What all of the above tell us is that it is time to look for alternative sources of fuel if we as a nation are to survive. Already, the country is experiencing power shortages and nowhere is this more adversely felt than in Mindanao.

Mindanao is vulnerable since more than half of its power requirements are from hydroelectric plants. Of the country's 15,572 megawatts (MW) installed capacity, 3,291 MW comes from hydroelectric sources.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines says Mindanao's available capacity was capped at 785 MW as of March 24, 2010, against a dependable capacity of 1,682 MW.

In the Visayas grid, which covers central Philippines, a much smaller deficit of 34 MW existed two years ago. Luzon is less dependent on hydroelectric power than Mindanao, with the Visayas relying on geothermal energy and Luzon on electricity generated from natural gas.

Maybe it is time to turn our attention to alternative sources such as wind power, which is abundant in many parts of the country.

(To be continued)