Concerning peak-coal estimations figures are even more apart. Only a small number of nations control world’s coal reserve and as different to oil, coal is explored and used in the same country, where the fossil resource is “distributed” in, itself and not exported by globalized companies, such as BP or Shell. For example Russia with the estimated second highest amount of coal reserves and many unexplored is only exporting 20 percent of its production (H et al., 2008).
The Big Six, how they are ofen described, namely the USA, Russia, China, India, Australia and South Africa together control an estimated amount of over 85 percent of the world’s hard coal reserves, whereby the USA has alone almost 30 percent of the world’s total coal reserves and some nations already peaked in coal production in the 1920s, i.e. United Kingdom (Het al., 2008). Seeing this regional concentration the estimated peak-coal highly depends on the economic growth in these nations.
China already placed second in the world’s GDP output and with growth rates above 8 percent with an increase in coal production in the last 25 years of 255 percent, are threatening world’s coal reserves (Hk et al., 2008). Moreover China has recently become world’s export leader and it is likely that India is catching up with world’s leading nations in the coming decades. Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel in India and currently accounts for 55 percent of its energy needs (Chowdhary, 2002).
Concerning the estimation of suffication the Reserve-to-Production-ratio (R/P-ratio) is often used to measure the remains of a certain resource, but only if you look at the development over time the reserves can somehow estimated. In year 2000 the US had 255 years of coal remaining whereby in 1988 300 years of coal reserves were estimated. In the global picture the trend is very evident. In 2000 the R/P-ratio of the world was 227 years only 7 years later in 2006 this number decreased to 147 years, a decrease excessing 35 percent (Hk et al, 2008).
Therefore these figures have always to be seen in retrospect to the global economic growth. One sign and an evidenced trend to massive global declining coal reserves are the increasingly challenging reserve exploration (Dasgupta and Heal, 1979) and the declining trend in calorific value of US coals (H and Aleklett, 2009). Moreover many coal regions in the United States with the largest formations are already discovered, assessed and developed (Milici, 2009).
Similar arguments can be applied to the entire world. Looking at the world reserves and future estimations only Russia is facing an increase in coal production in the coming decades, the plateau will be reached by 2020 (especially in China unless their reserves are bigger than reported) and the global production will go into decline after 2050 (Hk et al., 2008). Certainly these are only estimations, but the fact that explorations are increasingly challenging shows that there will be a downfall in production sooner or later. The coming figure underlines the importance to reduce coal consumption.
More than 50 percent of world’s coal usage is on electricity and heat generation. This highlightens the importance of green energy supply to achieve sustainability for future generations. Due to the fact that many countries have to import fossil energy sources they depend on other countries in favor of their energy supply. In 1995 Germany imported about 68 percent of its used resources and in 2011 already nearly 80 percent are imported from foreign countries(BGR, 2009).
In 2009 97 percent of it’s used crude oil, 84 percent gas and 72 percent coal came from foreign countries (Piepryzk and Kortlke, 2011). Therefore Germanys economy and economic growth depends on imports of fossil fuels. Alltogether the EU with its 27 states is the most dependend international community in the world. The overall import quote is concerning crude oil by about 84 percent and natural gas at 62 percent (Eurostat, 2010).
Trading of natural resources is well-founded because the further exploiting of national resources will increase in the future. Therefore increasing the supply of renewables in the energy and transportation sector will diminish a nations dependence and contribute to energy independence. The EUs dependence can be transformed to several other nations and international communities with similar occurrence of low fossil fuel resources. Worldwide fossil fuels are concentrated in several areas.
These regional concentrations contain risks. As mentioned before coal sources are more or less equality distributed around the world. Not in the amount which every nation has, but they are coal sources on every continent. Crude oil is more regionally concentrated and the highest amount of oil and natural gas are in political instable areas, such as the middle-east, the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. This region is also named the “strategic ellipse”. More than 70 percent of worldwide natural gas and crude oil reserves are bundled in this area (Rempel, 2006).
The Economist Intelligence unit founded by the weekly magazine “The Economist” publishes the “Political Instability Index”, where in more than have of world’s crude oil exports are coming from areas where in political instability is estimated to be between high and very high (BGR, 2010). Looking at the diminshing natural resources around the world and include the regional concentration of fossil fuels destructive incidents can happen to save and protect these natural, non-renewable resources, i.e. protectionism of resources maybe resulting in wars. Therefore supporting green energy and finding new ways for transportation and energy supply will minor or only postpone this possibility.
Research publications give evidence to this idea. According to a empirical research by Collier and Hoeffler (2000) the probability of a war-start in a country with no natural resource exports is about 0,5 percent, whereby if oil is the major export good the possibilitiy of a civil war is about 40 percent. It cannot be only characterized by a homogenously dispersed population, other aspects have to be scrutinized. The cause that a civil war is for companies an advantage to exploit natural resources (f.e. explained by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs etc.) might contribute to this fact. Natural resources in unstable governmental conditions are often more a curse than a blessing.
Reducing the risk of transportation and exploration Hereunto first an excerpt of BP’s statistical review of world energy 2011 Looking closer at the export and import of crude oil it is first evident that the US and Europe are massively importing. Concerning Europe this figure is not astonishing with having only marginal crude oil sources, but concerning the US the export and import numbers are supposedly for many people a big surprise. Europe is exporting more crude oil than the US and the United States are just behind Europe in favor of imports, therefore the second highest importer of crude oil. As a country itself it is high above any other country.
Although being the third highest crude oil producer, behind the Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia (BP, 2011) the US are also among the greatest importers. This is clearly a significant sign that the US is already holding back its crude oil sources for future demand. I will come back to this point in my summary and conclusion. The risk of transportation is centered in this paragraph. Seeing that there are huge trade amounts between countries implies occuring risks. In 1991 almost half of the extracted crude oil was used in the exploited country, only 16 years later the percentage rate decreased to 36 percent (Piepryzk and Kortlke, 2011).
Thus the installation of pipelines and the usage of oil tankers is increasing. Seeing the world in future generations, especially piplines crossing several nations and continents could be used as pressuring agents ending up in severe conflicts between nations. This is already evident through the conflict between the Ukraine and the Russian Federation where transit charges are on of the reasons (Stevens, 2009). The likelihood for oil spills due to pipeline corrosion is also rising intensively. Moreover crude oil shipments imply risks too due to increasing piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coast. Increasing attempts show the severity in this case.
In 2010, 219 pirate attacks were counted and until June 15th 2011 already 154 attacks were recorded (http://www.abendblatt.de/vermischtes/article1924752/Piratenangriffe-vor-Somalias-Kueste-nehmen-weiter-zu.html). Military operations by several nations try to diminsh this danger, but these operations can only be temporarily solutions stated by Kstner (2006). Looking on the other side of the coin transportation risks do not only imply economical risks, also environmental issues are increasing intensively. Last years blow-out of BP’s Deep Water Horizon, which was an ultra-deepwater offshore oil drilling rig, was supposedly the most obvious severe environmental impact, caused by the exploration of new oil fields. Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, an oil tanker running aground in Alaska is one example that oil shipments are also involved in massive oil spills.
A list of oil spills can be seen on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_spills, accessed July 16th 2011. Moreover the mining of non-conventional oil fields have an massive impact on environment, and extraction and further development of these fields result in high costs. Costs always imply the usage of sources, in this case for example water or energy, whereby the exploitation still lacks in efficiency (Business Insight, 2010). Besides the use of resources to explore these new discovered oil fields severe environmental impacts have to be considered. Deforestation, ground-water pollution, air and soil pollution are only some aftereffects.
Due to the fact that these unconventioal oil fields are estimated to be double the size of conventional crude oil fields an exploration is inevitably (Piepryzk and Kortlï¿½ke, 2011). Therefore decreasing the present oil demand by endorsing renewable energy supply could result in postponing recent attempts of exploitation until higher amounts of efficiency are reached and new technolgy innovations are deployed to save the resource water, decrease environmental impacts and minor the use of power.