It’s critical to understand the nature of what constitutes an alternative energy source has been changed considerably over time due to incongruities related to energy use as the primary focus of these alternatives must be to address concerns and apprehensions for the use of fossil fuels.  Burning fossil fuels for energy not only releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and are the largest driver of global climate change but also they are a major contributor to local air pollution which is estimated to be linked to millions of premature deaths each year.

Here is a reality – fossil fuels such as coal, oil, or natural gas, formed in the earth from dead plants or animals.  When these organic materials settled underground over the course of millions of years, they got mixed up with sand, mud, and rocks and they turned into sedimentary rocks. These rocks converted to natural gas or crude oil after being exposed to pressure and heat in the earth’s crust.

Fossil fuels as the primary source of energy used to power the engines of different vehicles in the land, air, and sea. Gasoline is the refined crude oil and is used to fuel cars. Coal produces heat in thermal power plants to generate electric power used in households, industrial and commercial establishments. 

Here are some highlights as effects of burning fossil fuels based on a report, Toxic Air: The Price of Fossil Fuels, published by Greenpeace Southeast Asia:

  • Air pollution generated from burning fossil fuels is attributed to approximately 4.5 million premature deaths worldwide every year, a figure that exceeds global road accident deaths by more than threefold.  The incidence of stroke has been linked to PM2.5 exposure, and 600,000 deaths from stroke annually can be attributed to fossil fuel derived PM2.5 exposure. Just as an explanation – Particle Pollution or particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter called PM2.5. Particles are small enough to be breathed into the deep part of your lungs, and even into your bloodstream. Source of PM2.5 Vehicle exhaust;
  • Fossil fuel generated air pollution costs the world an estimated US$2.9 trillion per year, or roughly 3.3 percent of global GDPExposure to fossil fuel generated PM2.5 alone is attributed to an estimated 1.8 billion days of work absences due to illness each year worldwide, equating to approximate economic losses of US$101 billion per year;
  • Air pollution from fossil fuels is responsible for 40,000 children dying before their 5th birthday and costs the global economy as much $8bn a day;
  • Air pollution increases the incidence of chronic and acute illnesses and contributes to millions of hospital visits and billions of work absences due to illness each year. It also damages global economies and the environment;
  • Greenpeace has estimated that exposure to PM2.5 from fossil fuels is responsible for 7.7 million asthma-related hospital trips each year and for the death of around 3 million people due to cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer;
  • A further estimated 1 million people die prematurely due to ozone pollution and 500,000 people due to Nitrogen Oxide (NO2); 
  • Each year the global economy takes a $350 billion hit from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — a by-product of fossil fuel combustion in vehicles and power plants — and a further $380 billion hit from ozone, according to middle-ground estimates; and
  • China, the U.S. and India bare the highest cost from fossil fuel pollution, $900bn, $600bn and $150bn respectively.

The following graph designed and published by “Our World in Data”, illustrating global fossil fuel consumption disaggregated by type. This is shown as a stacked area chart – useful for seeing the relative contribution of each – Gas, Coal, and Oil:

The following graph is designed and published by “Our World in Data”, illustrating which countries use the most energy for fossil fuels:

The following graph is designed and published by “Our World in Data”, illustrating where do people consume the most energy per capita from fossil fuels:

The term Alternative Energy is used interchangeably with Renewable Energy.  Perhaps the meekest way to define alternative energy is to say any energy source that is an alternative to fossil fuel whereas renewable energy is referred to as clean energy, comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished.  For example, sunlight or wind keep shining and blowing, even if their availability depends on time and weather.

Perhaps the best examples of Alternative Energy Sources include:

  • Hydrogen Gas: Unlike other forms of natural gas, hydrogen is a completely clean burning fuel. Once produced, hydrogen gas cells emit only water vapor and warm air when in use;
  • Tidal Energy: While tidal energy uses the power of water to generate energy, much like with hydroelectric methods, its application actually has more in common with wind turbines in many cases;
  • Biomass Energy: Biomass energy comes in a number of forms. Burning wood has been used for thousands of years to create heat, but more recent advancements have also seen waste, such as that in landfills, and alcohol products used for similar purposes;
  • Wind Energy: This form of energy generation has become increasingly popular in recent years. It offers much the same benefits that many other alternative fuel sources do in that it makes use of a renewable source and generates no waste;
  • Geothermal Power: At its most basic, geothermal power is about extracting energy from the ground around us. The World Bank currently estimates that around forty countries could meet most of their power demands using geothermal power;
  • Natural Gas: Natural gas sources have been in use for a number of decades, but it is through the progression of compression techniques that it is becoming a more viable alternative energy source. In particular, it is being used in cars to reduce carbon emissions;
  • Biofuels: In contrast to biomass energy sources, biofuels make use of animal and plant life to create energy. In essence they are fuels that can be obtained from some form of organic matter;
Source: Energy Voice
  • Wave Energy: Water again proves itself to be a valuable contributor to alternative energy fuel sources with wave energy converters. These hold an advantage over tidal energy sources because they can be placed in the ocean in various situations and locations;
  • Hydroelectric Energy: Hydroelectric methods actually are some of the earliest means of creating energy, though their use began to decline with the rise of fossil fuels. Hydroelectric energy carries with it a number of benefits. Not only is it a clean source of energy, which means it doesn’t create pollution and the myriad issues that arise from it, but it is also a renewable energy source;
Source: Imperial College London
  • Nuclear Power: Nuclear power is amongst the most abundant forms of alternative energy. It creates a number of direct benefits in terms of emissions and efficiency, while also boosting the economy by creating jobs in plant creation and operation; and
  • Solar Power: This energy source is completely renewable and the costs of installation are outweighed by the money saved in energy bills from traditional suppliers. Nevertheless, solar cells are prone to deterioration over large periods of time and are not as effective in unideal weather conditions.

In spite of all the global efforts invested into minimizing the use/production of oil, the following graph will highlight the magnitude of the current and previous years global daily crude oil that was produced by the top 10 countries:

Nonetheless, according to Trading Economies, the total for the previous year’s oil production for these 10 countries represents 56,137 million barrels per day whereas the current year’s oil production was 55,889, resulting 248 (56,137 – 55,889) million barrels per day less. This also means that the world managed to less produce/use 0.442 percent oil the current year which couldn’t necessarily be an encouraging news and unfortunately, it could very well be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, here is a sad reality – Canada has the following remarkable global background and physiognomies:

  • 38,337,692 Population – Canada ranks 37th by population, comprising about 0.5 percent of the world’s total, with over 38 million Canadians as of 2021;
  • 2.016 Trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – It is the 8th largest GDP by nominal and 15th largest GDP by PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) in the world; and
  • 10,300 Million Barrels Per Day Production of oil – Canada is the 4th. largest producer of oil in the world.

Despondently, Canada as a country doesn’t have an inspiring reputation when it comes to the consumption of fossil fuel – Canada was the top country in the world with 64,846 KWH for fossil fuel consumption per capita in 2020.

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 21 April 2022