Virtual Wall Street, A. Jonathan Buhalis
 
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sunflower field, A. Jonathan BuhalisEnergy Commodities
by Jonathan Buhalis
Besides our concern for metals, we also keep an eye on Earth's other limited resources, including energy commodities. Energy commodities are almost synonymous with fossil fuels, mined and sold on global commodities markets.

Fossil fuels are believed to be the remains of ancient plant and animal matter, buried and then transformed by geologic processes. Fossil fuels are carbon or carbon compounds that can be burned as fuel after they are located and mined.

The world's supply of fossil fuels is large but limited. Using reported (by British Petroleum) values for known reserves and consumption, the supply of the main fossil fuels is as follows:

Depletion
(years)
Supply
(years)
Coal 132 38
Gas 60 14
Oil 42 15


In other words, the known coal reserves at current mining rate will be depleted in 132 years. If we convert all our energy use to coal, the supply will only last 38 years.

Fossil fuels are burned to generate heat, to propel vehicles, and to create electricity (from steam turbines) to light our cities. Because burning is never perfect, this burning creates carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and other pollutants. Because the input fuel may not be pure, this burning can create compounds of sulfur, mercury, and other toxins.

Manhattan at Night, A. Jonathan Buhalis

Fossil fuels have been known for decades to be major contributors of pollution. These fuels are more abundant (for now) and cheaper than alternatives, but are being gradually replaced where possible in the developed world. Replacement being not always possible or desirable, we will actually be using fossil fuels right up until they run out.

The Energy Information Agency of the Department of Energy projects that the world will need ever increasing amounts of energy sources:

World energy needs projected to 2030, A. Jonathan Buhalis

Burning nighttime lights remind us of how much we rely on energy to live the way we do.

Manhattan Skyline at Night, A. Jonathan Buhalis
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Content by Jonathan Buhalis
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