Renewable energy is energy that is derived from renewable sources such as agricultural products, wind, sun, wastes etc. The generic name for some renewable energy sourced from raw material or waste products is Bio fuel.


Types of Renewable Energy

Some of the renewable energies are: Bio fuel, wind, solar, geothermal power, biogas etc.  The most popular types of Bio fuel today are Ethanol, Bio diesel and Biomass.


Bio diesel: It is the fuel derived from palm oil, vegetable oil, groundnut oil, canola oil and several other types of oil.  It can be blended with regular diesel or used 100 percent on any vehicle or diesel engines.


Bio mass: It is the energy obtained from biological materials and sources such as trees, grasses, plants etc.  It can be used in form of solid, liquid or gaseous.  Organic wastes from municipalities and industries can be used to produce biomass.


Ethanol: It is produced from starchy food crops such as cassava, corn and high sugar content plants like sugarcane and sugar beets.  The most popular mixture of ethanol is 10-20 percent with regular fuel.


The Need for Renewable Energy

The global clamour for Renewable Energy is based on two strategic issues:

1. Global Warming

2. Increase in the price of crude oil occasioned by diminishing sources and high demand.


Global Warming:  It is the increase of the average world temperature as a result of what is known as the green house effect.  The principle of the greenhouse effect simply means that certain gases in the atmosphere act like glass in a greenhouse, allowing sunlight through to heat the earth’s surface but trapping the heat as it radiates back into space.  The earth then gets hotter as the greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere.


Carbon dioxide (Co2) contributes over 50 percent to the greenhouse effect.  The other gases that exacerbate the greenhouse situation are: methane, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrous oxide (N2O). (The Kyoto protocol of 1997 which requires countries to cut their Co2 emissions is now rectified by 181 countries including the EU).



Methane:  It is released during coal-mining activities, oil exploration and by burning the vegetation during land clearing.


Nitrous Oxide:  It comes from both man-made and natural causes.  Man-made sources contribute about 45 percent and they come from fossil fuel combustion, power stations, use of nitrogenous fertilizers, burning of human and animal wastes etc. The gas contributes about 6 percent to the greenhouse effect.


Chlorofluorocarbons: They are found in fridges, air conditioners, aerosols etc. and are very dangerous greenhouse gases.  Though their concentration in the atmosphere is relatively lower than Co2 but they trap more heat.  A molecule of CFC is 10,000 times more effective in trapping heat than Co2 molecule while that of methane is about 30 times more effective.  Methane molecules survive for 10 years in the atmosphere and CFC for 110 years and this is why the Montreal Protocol of 1989 proscribed it from usage.


Carbon Dioxide:  It is the major cause of the greenhouse effect and contributes over 50 percent of the gas.  The concentration of Co2 in the atmosphere has increased by over 25 percent since the industrial revolution and half of this has been within the last 30 years.  It is expected to double within the next decade if it is not slowed down.  The major sources of Co2 are the use of fossil fuel in automobiles, industries, ships, machines etc.


The average European is responsible for nearly ten times as much atmospheric carbon as his counterparts in Africa and South America while the American is responsible for more than 20 times.  China, Japan and the “Asian Tigers’ are also contributing as their industrial activities increase. America has over 250 million cars on her roads and these contribute enormously to the Co2 emission.  China has about 50 million cars and her emission of Co2 from fossil fuel is also getting very high.


The United States of America is making very conscious and determined efforts to minimize the use of fossils fuels that emit Co2 to the atmosphere.  For instance, the State of California and 20 other states have banned the use of methyl/tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) an oxygenate that emits Co2 and contaminates drinking water.



The Effect of Global Warming

If the world does not take drastic steps to stop or slowdown Global Warming, the average global temperatures will rise by 1.5-4.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.  The rise will be greater towards the poles and less at the tropics and the warming will also be more in the winter than in the summer.  These temperature increases will make the world hotter than it has been for more than 100,000 years.  We should note that the ten hottest years since the 1860’s have been in the last 15 years.


Storms: Storms, hurricanes and floods will become more frequent and stronger as oceans heat up causing more water to evaporate. Evidence is building up at an alarming rate.  The hurricane that devastated New Orleans, U.S.A. a few years ago was unprecedented.  Also the hurricane Tsunami that happened in Indonesia was a bitter experience to the whole world.  The world rallied round to help the victims.  Even the Typhoon Murielle that happened in Japan in 1991, was their worst for 30 years.  China, U.S.A and several other countries have experienced unusual flooding and storms that destroyed lives and property.  Our own Lagos Bar Beach has over the years stormed and flooded the neighbourhood, blocking roads, pulling down fences and destroying structures.


Droughts:  Continental heartlands will dry out more in summer and dry seasons.  Desert encroachment will accelerate at a faster pace and inland lakes like lake Chad and others will experience more drought and rapid lose of water.  Global warming will effect the intensity of rainfall and thereby agriculture and food production.  The raging global food shortage may not be unconnected with global warming.


Floods:  Sea levels are rising at the rate of 1-2 mm per year due to the expansion of the top layer of the ocean and the melting of the polar ice caps.  This causes increased flooding in costal areas and river estuaries. The phenomenon has also increased the incidence of costal and inland erosion.


Global warming can be slowed down by using less fossil fuel and eliminating CFCs altogether.  Emphasis must be on Co2 because it is the major cause of global warming. Renewable energy that does not emit Co2 must be encouraged.  A United Nations panel indicated that we need to reduce global fossil fuel use by 60 percent immediately to stabilise the climate.  There is no silver bullet solution to this quagmire.


The world needs all the alternatives to fossil fuel it can find, especially those that are safe, renewable and sustainable.  There may be no single solution to fossil oil dependency, rather it would be a collection of strategies that will make up the energy of the future, ethanol, bio diesel, wind, solar, geothermal power, biogas etc.





Increase in the Price of Crude Oil occasioned by high demand, low supply and diminishing sources

Fossil fuel is the main source of energy globally.  It is used in driving cars, buses, Lorries, trucks, ships, trains, machines and different types of engines, tractors, planes and other moveable equipment.  The source of all fossil fuels is crude oil.


Increasing Price of Crude Oil

The price of crude oil hit an all time high of $140 per barrel in August 2008 from $120 per barrel in August 2001.  Experts are predicting that further rise in the future is inevitable because of the realities associated with the crude oil industry.


Demand for Crude oil

The demand for crude oil is about 85 million barrels per day and the major consumers are:  USA (24%), Europe and Japan (27%), China (9%), Asia excluding China and Japan (10%), Russia and Eastern Europe (6%), the rest of the world (24%).  Demand grew by 3% in 2004, 2% in 2005%, 1% in 2006 and 0.9% in 2007.


Demand in Europe has decreased by 2.3%, Japan 3.6% but increased in China by 5.2%, Asia 1.7%, and the rest of the world by 3.8%.  Demand in the USA was 0% in 2007 because of their Energy Independence and Security Act which addressed their foreign oil dependence and global climatic change.


Supply of Crude oil

While demand has been growing, supply has almost stalled: production increased to 84.63 million barrels per day in 2005 but has since declined to 84.598 million barrels per day in 2006 and 84.548 million barrels per day in 2007.  The two years progressive decline have made experts to fear that production may have peaked and that the world may never be able to produce much more than 85 million barrels per day.


Internal consumption is also increasing in most of the oil producing nations.  Mexico reduced its exports in April this year as internal consumption has upset increased production.  In the United Kingdom, internal growth of 2% and production decline of 3% have dried up their export and made them net importers of oil.  These situations make marketers to speculate that the quantity of oil available for trade may decline even faster than production.


The situation in Nigeria is totally different.  Our internal consumption stands at about 20 million litres per day but our combined internal refining capacity is only 445, 000 barrels per day.  We export almost all our crude oil and import almost our domestic oil needs. Our internal refining capacity must drastically improve if we are to maximize the benefits of rising crude oil price.


Diminishing Sources of Crude Oil

In the 1960s about 500 new oil fields were discovered, about 700 in the 70’s, 850 in the 80’s, 510 in the 90’s and from 2000 to date less than 100 oil fields have been discovered.


These disturbing data have compelled oil experts and marketers to predict that the sources of crude oil may be diminishing and therefore tarnishing the supply and driving up the price. The present down-turn in price is as a result of the global recession and not increase in production.



These facts coupled with the dangers of global warming have compelled nations all over the world to search for alternative energy that is safe, renewable and sustainable. Ethanol is increasingly being viewed as the product of choice in any strategy for energy independence, stability and climate change mitigation. It is formed by the fermentation of sugars from a number of types of organic materials such as cassava, corn, sugarcane etc  The UN ambitious goal of replacing 30% of 2004 gasoline demand by renewable fuels by 2030 to ameliorate global warming, depend on massive production and usage of ethanol.

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