The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. Similarly, the world will probably never run out of oil, coal, and natural gas. But each time we extract a million tons of these finite resources, the next million becomes harder and more expensive to get. It’s like a barrel full of golf balls. At first, it’s easy to pull them out by the handful. But, the farther down in the barrel you have to reach, the more effort it takes to get each ball. At some point, it becomes too difficult and expensive to extract more. The only question is when does it become too hard?
What do experts think? To be super-conservative, we’ll use the forecasts from the industry trade groups that represent each kind of fuel (their answers may surprise you). British Petroleum Statistical Review of World Energy 2020 estimates 50 years of remaining oil reserves. The World Coal Association puts economically recoverable reserves at 150 years. And, the International Gas Union Global Gas Report 2020 says predicts 50 years of viable natural gas reserves. For a deeper dive, including the 90-year forecast for nuclear fuel, you can read, If we used this much fossil fuel in Edison’s time, we’d have already run out.
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