After birth, all living things are destined to grow, mature, thrive, age, and eventually perish. Similar cycles generally apply to other areas of life, such as belief systems, businesses, and entire industries. Inevitably, the ways of humankind are also destined to transform in myriad ways.
In 1956 M. King Hubbert rightly predicted that US oil production would reach its peak in 1970, even though it “peaked” with much greater abundance than expected. However, the apparent downward spiral of oil reserves has been contradicted in the last ten years, and oil consumption and production has rebounded, leaving the profound question of when, if ever, we will deplete the planet’s oil reserves.
Regardless of how much we can still extract from the Earth, non-renewable energies are extremely detrimental to the health of the planet and our own well-being in so many ways. The burning of fossil fuels is the leading cause of global warming and a significant environmental risk factor in the incidence and progression of asthma, lung cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and low birth rate, among other diseases and complications.
Indeed, oil and other non-renewables seem to be far from depleted. But increasing environmental awareness, along with market forces, are turning the tide away from dirty energy. The world invested 47 billion US dollars in renewable energy in 2004. Within just over a decade that number increased by 600%, to 286 billion USD.
Clean energy investment has encountered a few recent setbacks, especially after the US’ abandonment of the 2015 Paris Agreement and the current administration’s efforts to keep oil and coal on the menu. But the long-term trend is crystal clear. The price of renewable energy continues to tumble, and green energy can now compete, on its own, with non-renewable sources.
Like a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly, change is happening quickly. Only time will tell if we manage to fully overcome the ecological problems facing us today. But one thing is certain, clean energy is on the rise and will be powering our evolving civilization for the foreseeable future.