Updated 4 weeks ago

Non-renewable energy resources

Written by Zeeshan Hyder

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In this article, I am going to look closer at the world’s non-renewable energy sources, why they are so heavily used, and why we need to leave them behind to conserve the earth for future generations.

What is non-renewable energy?

A non-renewable energy resource can be defined as an energy resource that cannot sustain its consumption rate. In other words, non-renewable energy is not sustainable. The energy reserves will inevitably be empty if we continue to use them.

Fossil fuel (such as oil, petroleum, natural gas and coal) and radioactive fuel (uranium) are the most common non-renewable energy sources. These resources are indeed renewable, but the fact that it takes thousands of years to grow or generate them, makes them non-sustainable and therefore non-renewable.

Nuclear is a good place to start if you want to read up on radioactive fuel.

You might think that resources such as timber and metal are non-renewable, but when harnessed in a sustainable manner and recycled, they are renewable. You get the picture.

World’s energy sources

If we look at the total energy reserves for non-renewable energy sources, including deposits that has not yet been verified, but are highly likely, we get the following chart:

Billion tons coal equivalent (2006)

The world’s energy consumption is 14 billion tons coal equivalent annually. I have covered the basics here, but for a complete list of non-renewable energy sources go to Wikipedia.

Advantages of non-renewable energy sources

There are a couple of advantages of using non-renewable energy sources. The biggest advantage of fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources is that the technology is already well developed and widely used.

These two factors, among a few others, are what make non-renewable energy as cost competitive as they are today. The transition to a civilization that is powered by renewable energy sources will require major changes in the way we harness and use energy.

Disadvantages of non-renewable energy sources

The first of the non-renewable energy disadvantages is that it is not renewable.  These sources will run out inevitably, resulting in disastrous consequences if we are not prepared for it.

Another significant drawback of fossil fuels specifically is that they release harmful emissions into the atomsphere, which contribute to the climate crisis. Nuclear power doesn't have this issue, but it does release other harmful pollutants into surrounding water ways.

It is clear that something needs to change. Non-renewable energy sources needs to be replaced by renewable energy alternatives.

Written by Zeeshan Hyder Content Specialist

Zeeshan is a solar journalist who has long been passionate about climate issues and developed a deep interest in solar power after witnessing its successful adoption in Australia. He has previously worked as a journalist for a major news organization, covering energy, climate, and environmental stories, among other topics. He also served as an organizer for the Pakistan Youth Climate Network, an advocacy group aimed at raising climate awareness...

Learn more about Zeeshan Hyder