Fossil Fuels Are Irreplaceable

i am also by no means an expert on these issues, specifically overpopulation, but i have to protest one of the statements you made about overpopulation and the ability to recycle all matter found on earth,* because we can't, some things are irreplaceable, fossil fuels, for one, are replaceable, but not within the life expectency of the human race, since it takes countless milleniums to reproduce these concoctions.



Dear Remy,

Thank you for your email. I agree that fossil fuels and many other things irreplaceable. However, would it not be true to say that fossil fuels are essentially a convenient form of stored solar energy? That is, many years ago plants capture solar energy by photosynthesis and either died or were eaten by animals who in turn either died or were eaten, eventually turning into fossil fuels.

When we eventually run out of fossil fuels - which may be quite a long time in the future - we will have to devise some other way of capturing solar energy. I have heard that in a single hour enough solar energy arrives at the earth to supply human energy needs for an entire year. Also we have an enormous store of energy in the subterranean fire below the earth's crust.

Fossil fuels are at present so abundant and so relatively inexpensive that not much effort has been put into alternative energy sources, but it seems they would be more environmentally friendly. What do you think?


Fr. Phil Bloom

P.S. As you recognize, replaceable and recyclable do not mean the same thing. Even after they are burned, the elements in fossil fuels (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, whatever) are recyclable in some form.

*The amount of resources in our world (land, water, minerals, energy, animals, plants) is enormous - about a trillion tons per person. It's all recyclable and some of it we are getting better at utilizing: for example, it takes less land now to feed the total world population that it did in the sixties. The question here is not how much is available per person, but how we choose to care for what has been entrusted to us - stewardship, sharing, overcoming envy, recognition of our ultimate dependence and interdependence. (See: What Is Overpopulation?)


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