We concern ourselves with loss of habitat — rain forests, wetlands, river pollution — even though these trends may be reversible. But expenditure of petroleum and coal falls into the irreversible category. When they are gone, they are gone.
The answer is not to discover and pump more oil or mine more coal to be used as fuel from the finite supply produced in nature over eons. Nor is the long-run answer atomic energy, for the availability of radioactive elements usable as “atomic” fuel is also finite.
The answer to our need for energy in the form of fuel must be in renewable sources — solar, wind, organic, hydrothermal, wave (which are largely solar energy stored in different configurations).
Petroleum and coal are not recyclable, like metals, nor can they economically synthesized as the chemical base for numerous products, much less as fuel.
We cannot presume that practical sources of unlimited energy, such as atomic fusion, will become available before we expend all our oil, coal and uranium — if ever.
Our legacy to the future must be that we recognized the finite aspects of natural resources and ceased their profligate dissipation.
Harvey A. Jetmore Jr.