The golden era of petroleum came to an end with the Arab Oil Crisis of 1973. Since then people have been dreaming of alternatives to fossil fuels that are not only renewable but also environmentally clean. As this desire slowly becomes more of a necessity, is bio fuel the answer to our hopes?
In the debate about different energy forms, as elsewhere, descriptive terms are so loosely bandied about that their meaning – and significance – can gradually become obscure, and with them the actual content of the discussion itself.
Ever since the emergence of environmental groups and a growing anti-fossil fuel lobby in the 1970s, there has been an ongoing battle between the beleaguered but as yet dominant oil industry, and those who wish to see the petroleum era replaced by alternative energy sources.
Terms such as ‘renewable’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ are the artillery of the ‘green’ movement, regularly parried with the ordenance of ‘oilers’º, which centres upon issues of economic viability, cost and economic impact.
What was once a philosophical debate between nurturing our planet and nurturing our economies is becoming an increasingly pressic topic, and one to which geopolitical concerns – not to mention a confusion of descriptions and available options – add further layers of complexity.
‘Alternative’ energy sources
Most of us are agreed that in an ideal world we’d like to replace smelly, costly and polluting fossil fuels with kinder alternatives. But what are the options available to us and how do they weigh up as viable replacements for the energy sources that have sustained our way of life for well over a century?
In truth, many possibilities have been put forward, ranging from the ludicrous to the extremely promising, but as time passes and oil remains surprisingly resilient and hard to push off top position it has become clear that, for now at least, we will need a combination of renewable sources to meet our ever-growing energy needs.
Words Michel Cruz