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Why is it so challenging to abandon the use of fossil fuels?

In 2016, the Paris Agreement entered into force to " limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels," while some leaders continue to work toward the less achievable goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

To achieve the 1.5-2°C target, greenhouse gas emissions would need to be reduced by more than 40% by 2030. Many scientists believe that RCP2.6 (optimistic scenario) is no longer achievable, despite countries' efforts to reduce gases. In addition, there is already a strong perception that we are on a path between RCP6.0 and RCP8.5 (poor scenario), where temperatures are projected to rise between 2.0-3.7°C (RCP6.0) and 3.2-5.4°C (RCP8.5) compared to the 1850-1900 period.

It appears that the major players in Society and Business are not making any real effort to quickly wean us off fossil fuels. According to The Guardian, the fossil fuel industry received an additional £1 billion in support from the UK government in 2021 compared to 2020, and a significant portion of this money was specifically earmarked to support new fossil fuels. In contrast, renewables received an increase in support of just £1 million in the same year. In addition, major multinational oil and gas companies have scaled back their pledges to reduce their emissions by 2030 and have now committed to a much smaller percentage reduction. At the same time, major corporations and financial institutions in Canada continue to invest billions in fossil fuel projects to expand oil and gas pipelines.

But why is it so difficult in today's society to make a complete transition from burning fossil fuels to clean sources that have zero greenhouse gas emissions?

There are specific reasons why the use of fossil fuels is still necessary for today's society.

First, it is important to recognize that the modern lifestyle of the developed world is directly linked to the overuse of fossil fuels. For example, heating, transportation, computer use, food processing, and preservation systems, and all the activities of everyday life have developed and evolved through the burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal). If people did not use cars so much, travel so often, or consume so many goods, the fossil fuel footprint would be much smaller.

A strong alternative in the energy sector has not yet been found to sustain the modern human lifestyle, but with a reduced carbon footprint.

However, this behavior will not change and is instead expected to intensify in the future as the world population grows. Therefore, one or more alternatives must be found to maintain the modern human lifestyle, but with a reduction of its carbon footprint.

So far, no good alternative energy source has been found, compared to the availability and potential of fossil fuels. Although renewable energy sources (RES), have been in the spotlight for years, they have not been able to prevail over fossil fuels for a variety of reasons. These reasons include, for example, the dependence of renewable energy sources on the weather conditions of the particular region, the high installation costs, e.g. for wind turbines, and the impact of the infrastructure before and after installation on the flora and fauna of the region. On the other hand, the use of nuclear energy, which is more energy efficient than fossil fuels, may be a viable option in the future, but it is not yet at the current technological level to be widely deployed, in part because of its very high cost and waste disposal problems.

All energy infrastructure has been built using fossil fuels and is difficult to abandon if its costs are not amortised.

Even if a viable alternative is found, our entire energy infrastructure is built on the easy and cheap use of fossil fuels. Most facilities (refineries, pipelines) have payback periods of 15 years or more, and the payback on transmission line investments is 10 to 20 years. It is logical that investors do not want to stop operations before they have amortized the money they have given. Furthermore, a plethora of appliances and equipment that we use on a daily basis are made to run on fossil fuel-based energy. For example, the manufacture and use of most cars, household appliances, heating, and air conditioning systems, and larger-scale equipment such as power plants and fuel transportation all run on a primary source of fossil fuel combustion.

A final factor to consider is that many cities, such as Kern County in California, are heavily dependent on taxes from large oil and gas companies. Such multinationals have become so deeply entrenched in the daily lives of residents that they fund schools, cleaning services, and other social services. In addition, they provide jobs for local residents. There is therefore a link that can hardly be broken in the short term and without strong reactions from the citizens themselves.

The complete transition from burning fossil fuels to not burning them and using sustainable alternatives may take several years beyond 2050.

The complete transition from burning fossil fuels to not using them and using sustainable alternatives may take several years beyond 2050, which is the deadline for the Net-Zero target. Therefore, a solution beyond the ban on the use of fossil fuels is needed to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to achieve the Net-Zero Carbon target. One such solution that is being rapidly developed is carbon capture and storage (CCS-Carbon Capture and Storage) which will be developed in a later article.

The future of fossil fuels and energy consumption in Greece and around the world is something that at E-ON Integration we are closely monitoring as part of our activities. By offering consulting services, assessing potential risks and opportunities in the energy sector, and using data analysis to forecast trends, we can help a company achieve its Net-Zero Carbon goal. In addition, we have created a cloud platform that can provide all stakeholders, both inside and outside the business, with in-depth insights to help them develop their strategy.


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