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Are Fossil Fuels On the Way Out?

All around the world, there are strong signs that the days of fossil fuels like oil and coal may be coming to an end, as the world shifts to power sources that are easier on the environment.

Fossil Fuels & Being Carbon Neutral
     The world is getting hotter, mainly because humans are burning “fossil fuels” like coal, oil, and natural gas to make energy. These fuels give off pollution which makes the climate crisis  worse. These kinds of pollution are often called “greenhouse gases” or “carbon emissions”.
     A country or company that is carbon neutral is no longer putting out more pollution than it removes.To become carbon neutral, it’s necessary to stop creating energy in ways that pollute, and instead use more “renewable” sources, like the sun, wind, and water.

Recently, renewable energy sources have been growing far more quickly than fossil fuel sources. In 2020, for the first time ever, renewable energy sources provided more of the power in Europe than fossil fuels.

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Renewable energy sources have been growing far more quickly than fossil fuel sources. In 2020, for the first time ever, renewable energy sources provided more of the power in Europe than fossil fuels. Above, solar panels and wind turbines in Germany.

Though the two were still close, most experts expect renewable energy sources to continue growing quickly, since the price of developing renewables is dropping quickly. The costs of creating energy from fossil fuels, on the other hand, are rising.

Even so, over the last four years, the United States government, under ex-President Donald Trump, worked hard to encourage the use of polluting fuels like oil and coal.

A view of the oil fields from the bluff on Panorama in Northeast Bakersfield.
Over the last four years, the United States government, under ex-President Donald Trump, worked hard to encourage the use of polluting fuels like oil and coal. Above, oil fields in Bakersfield, California.
(Source: Babette Plana, via Flickr.com.)

That came to a sudden end when Joe Biden became US president on January 20. Mr. Biden worked quickly to take action on the climate crisis.  Many steps Mr. Biden made were meant to undo actions taken by Mr. Trump.

On his first day in office, Mr. Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. This project was meant to bring oil from Canada down through the US. Another of Mr. Biden’s early moves was taking action to limit drilling for oil and gas on US public lands.

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When Joe Biden became US president on January 20, he worked quickly to take action on the climate crisis. Many steps Mr. Biden made were meant to undo actions taken by Mr. Trump.

Mr. Biden has also promised that the US would become carbon neutral by 2050. This will almost certainly require cutting back on the use of coal.

The actions of the US are important, because of the example they set. But many other countries are already taking strong action. Dozens of countries have agreed to go carbon neutral by 2050. In many of these countries, it’s not just a goal, it’s the law.

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On his first day in office, Mr. Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline. This project was meant to bring oil from Canada down through the US. Mr. Biden also took action to limit drilling for oil and gas on US public lands. Above, pipes for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Denmark, the biggest oil producer in the European Union, is one of those countries. Now Denmark says that by 2050, it will end all deals to remove oil or gas from the North Sea – one of the country’s biggest sources of money.

Norway has huge amounts of money – about a trillion dollars – in a special “fund” which is designed to earn more money. In the past, much of this money came from oil and gas companies. Now the fund has gotten rid of all of its oil and gas businesses.

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Denmark, the biggest oil producer in the European Union, now says that by 2050, it will end all deals to remove oil or gas from the North Sea – one of the country’s biggest sources of money. Above, an oil rig in the North Sea.

Even companies which are strongly tied to fossil fuel pollution are now taking steps to focus on other areas.

Many of Europe’s oil and gas companies, such as Shell and BP, have promised to become carbon neutral, and are already cutting back on how much they are exploring for oil. Instead, they are putting their money into solar and wind energy, battery technology, and other more climate-friendly energy ideas.

A Chevrolet Bolt EV being charged.
Almost all American car makers are making some electric and hybrid cars. America’s largest car maker, General Motors, says that by 2035, all of its cars will be “zero emissions” vehicles. Above, one of GM’s electric cars, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, being charged.
(Source: Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Most of America’s emissions come from transportation. Now, in addition to gas-powered cars, almost all American car makers are also making some electric and hybrid (gas and electric) cars. America’s largest car maker, General Motors, says that by 2035, all of its cars will be “zero emissions” vehicles.

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