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Chapter 3:

The Global Energy Status

Energy is the ability to do work. [1] It can be converted but cannot be created or destroyed. In practical terms, it’s more than that … It’s the ability to live in the modern world.


Today, the human race consumes enormous quantities of fossil fuels in order to support its economic activity. What is central to the use fossil fuels is that they are the most concentrated, effective means we’ve found to produce heat, the essential force needed to generate the energy people use to power their lives.

Whether this heat takes the form of small explosions inside car and truck engines or creating the steam used to turn electric generators, producing heat is the critical ingredient that allow our tools to function.

The quantity of fossil fuels we consume has increased every year since the modern age of energy in began in 1859 when Col. Edwin Drake discovered the first commercially available petroleum supplies.

It's important to realize that there are 2 distinctly different purposes in which we use the energy today.

  1. Transportation [2]

  2. ​Electricity production [3],[4],[5]

While most of the energy we consume comes from fossil fuels, non-fossil fuel sources have consistently comprised approximately 12% - 15% of the global energy mix over the last 30 years. These include Hydropower, Nuclear, Wind, Solar and other “renewables” [6]


At today’s rate of consumption, the global economy consumes approximately 100 million barrels of oil, 24.6 million tons of coal, and 364 billion cu ft. of natural gas every single day.[ 7]

Industry estimates suggest we have approximately 50 years’ worth of oil and gas remaining.

One of the big challenges we face involves deciding how that fact will affect our future planning for transportation and electrical generation.


Interactive Energy Infographics courtesy:

Our World in Data


Discussions about energy and electricity can be confusing. Often, the root of this confusion lies in the choice of units and scale. Firstly, units are often quoted inconsistently: we switch between watt-hours, kilograms of oil equivalent, joules, and even more confusingly, units of power. Secondly, we begin quoting big numbers in the order of millions and billions without a sense of scale: is the unit equivalent to one, ten, or one hundred coal-fired power stations? Thirdly, we lose perspective on the equivalence between electrical energy production and consumption: how many people could a wind or solar farm provide for?


To make our full data entry on Energy Production & Changing Energy Sources as useful and clear as possible, we have standardized all of our energy data into a single energy unit: the watt-hour (Wh). The only variation on the watt-hour which we have used is in scaling large numbers into kilowatt, megawatt or gigawatt-hours (which are one thousand, million, and billion watt-hours, respectively). The base unit of the watt-hour, however, remains consistent. This should help to reduce confusion for the first of the three reasons described above.

Hover over graphic for interactive data display


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Enerby Production and Consumption chart



[1]  Energy, in physics, the capacity for doing work. It may exist in potentialkineticthermal, electrical, chemicalnuclear, or other various forms. There are, moreover, heat and work—i.e., energy in the process of transfer from one body to another. After it has been transferred, energy is always designated according to its nature. Hence, heat transferred may become thermal energy, while work done may manifest itself in the form of mechanical energy. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

[2]  Primarily petroleum

[3]  Primarily coal and natural gas

[4]  Used mostly for static environmental and industrial functions

[5]  While there is an overlap where electricity is used for some transportation, that is not meaningful for this overview’s purpose

[6]  Other renewables include geothermal, biomass, biofuels, and hydrogen

[7]   IEA, BP global data


Some of the more complex details surrounding this estimate and what they imply are explored in the following chapters. Ch4-Peaking Fossil Fuel Supplies, Ch5-Alternative Energy Sources, Ch6-Energy and Our Daily Lives, and Ch7-Hawai`i - Island Life is Unique. See why Hawaii must create its own solutions.

Next - Chapter 4 : Peaking Fossil Fuel Supplies

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