Our Need to Solve the Energy Challenge

The global transition to clean, renewable energy is well underway with remarkable breakthroughs in sustainable energy production occurring every day. Wind power capacity has grown more than 20% every year over the last decade, the price of solar power has declined by 99% since 1972 and over 70 governments around the world have now introduced legislation that encourages investment in these technologies. For the first time in history, we have experience two consecutive years of declining CO2 emissions amid global economic growth. Even so, the transition has yet to reach the pace that will reverse the damage made by our current global energy system.

Today, burning fossil fuels accounts for 80% of the worlds total energy demand. This has led to 90 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) being spewed into the atmosphere every 24 hours. Even meeting the emission goals pledged by countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would still leave the world 13.7 billion tons of CO2 – or 60% above the level needed to remain on track for a 2ºC warming by 2035.

Pledges made in the UN COP21 Climate Summit have undeniably given impetus to the move towards a lower-carbon and more efficient energy system, but do not alter the picture of rising global needs for energy. Although the European Union, United States and Japan are expected to use less energy in the coming decades, the International Energy Agency estimate a 33% increase in global energy need for 2040. Rising populations in India, China, Africa and the Middle East drive are responsible for driving this increase.

Biofuel crops, such as wheat, corn and sugarcane, capture and store carbon dioxide in air so lowering greenhouse gas emissions. As a clean-burning alternative to gasoline, biofuels even reduce the emissions from cars. 10% of automotive fuel comes from ethanol, made from fermenting corn and sugarcane. Corn ethanol produces 34-44% less Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions than the equivalent amount of gasoline. Sugar cane ethanol reduces GHG emissions by more than 50% (with some studies suggesting the reduction can reach an impressive 82%).

Non-food based crops, such as neem, convert more sunlight energy into biomass energy than their food crop alternatives. Their deep, soil-binding root systems preserve precious topsoil and recycle nutrients. Because they don’t have to be replanted each year, perennial crops generate an even smaller carbon footprint than annual crops. Over the past 25 years, 14.8 million acres of land disappeared from crop production in the US alone due to farmers abandoning land that is not profitable for food crops. Non-food based crops thrive on this marginal land, as well as in the semi-desert and salty soils that remain unused across coastlines and arid regions worldwide.

Even meeting the emission goals pledged by countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would still leave the world 13.7 billion tonnes of CO2 – or 60% above the level needed to remain on track for just 2ºC warming by 2035.

These measures are expected to cost $4 trillion over the next 15 years, an increase of roughly 5% over the amount that would likely be spent anyway on new power plants, transits systems and other infrastructure.

The demand for energy supply in the world has increase tremendously due to increase in consumption rate. Report cited that the world non-renewable energy resources such as petroleum, gas and coal will soon be exhausted, hence there is need to act fast in other to start generating an alternative source of fuel that are renewable to replace the fossil fuel. The alternative fuel that is to replace the fossil fuel must be readily available, environmentally acceptable, economically competitive and technically feasible. Biodiesel is gaining increasing acceptance in the market as an environmental friendly alternative diesel fuel It is non-toxic, biodegradable, and free of sulphur or any carcinogenic compounds. The demand and cost of edible oils prevents its use in the production of biodiesel. So, a large variety of plants that produce non-edible oils are considered for biodiesel production.

Neem oil has also been used to create biofuels, as currently most of this industry is based on a limited number of crops such as corn, whose output is considerably more sensitive to climate. Since biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent biofuels will play an increasingly important role as countries try to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels and harmful gas emissions. In July 2014, Brazilian airline GOL flew aviation’s first commercial flight using biofuels while in 2008, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic flew a Boeing 747 from London to Amsterdam on a coconut biofuel mixture to demonstrate its viability.

There are clear signs that the much-needed transition in global energy supply is underway, but not yet at a pace that leads to a long lasting reversal of high CO2 emissions. In order to achieve a low carbon future, we must focus on renewable technologies that harness power in a clean and sustainable way. Innovations in wind, solar and hydropower generation look very promising, as does the latest research in biofuel production.