Providing adequate energy for a growing human population that aspires to a higher standard of living while mitigating the effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide may be the defining issue of the twenty-first century. Presently, more than 92% of world energy comes from geologically based fuels (oil, gas, coal, and uranium), and this use has resulted in historically unprecedented increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Without major technological or scientific breakthroughs, this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Conventional oil resources of about 60 times current annual consumption are estimated in the form of reserves and potential additions to reserves. Significant opportunities exist for development of nonconventional hydrocarbon liquids. Proved natural gas reserves of more than 175 trillion cubic meters (TCM) are being consumed at a rate of about 3 TCM per year and numerous possibilities exist for new field discoveries, growth of reserves in existing fields, and development of unconventional resources. Coal reserves are adequate for hundreds of years of production at current rates, and nuclear fuels are abundant. Renewable energy sources have the potential to supply a large fraction of needed energy, but significant technological and logistical hurdles will first need to be overcome. As in the past, however, unforeseen technological advances may provide radical solutions to the world's energy needs.
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