What will be the dominant energy source in the 21st century? Nuclear? Nope. Solar? Wind? No, and no.
It’s natural gas.
Robert Bryce looks at the numbers, and sees a growing reliance on natural gas as a primary energy source in coming decades. The world has huge reserves of the stuff, and the technology already exists to harness it.
What’s more, the molecular composition of natural gas means the world will be continuing its march away from carbon-based energy toward hydrogen-based energy.
From prehistory through the 1700s and early 1800s, wood was the world’s most common fuel. Wood has a carbon-to-hydrogen ratio (C:H) of 10 to 1. That is, it has about 10 carbon atoms for every hydrogen atom. But as the Western world industrialized, wood lost its dominance to coal. Coal was a dramatic improvement over wood with a C:H ratio of about 2 to 1. But coal was destined to lose out to oil, particularly for transportation, thanks to oil’s greater energy density and a C:H ratio of 1 to 2. Over the coming decades, natural gas will be the big winner, a result of its 1 to 4 C:H ratio. Thus, when compared to wood, natural gas has 40 times as many hydrogen atoms as carbon atoms.
In effect, this means the world’s economies will be reducing carbon emissions simply by following market forces, even without onerous government incentives.
Coal and oil will stay around for years, but the future belongs to natural gas.