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Episodes 1989; 12(4): 257-262

Published online December 1, 1989


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Two centuries of fossil fuel energy

John F. Bookout1,2

1Supervisory Board of Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, a Netherlands company
2Board and Executive Committe of Shell Petroleum, Inc.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The global demand for fossil fuel grew substantially over the 30-year period following World War II. After this, the oil price increases of the 1970s led to conservation and improved efficiency, such that we have seen a flattening of per capita energy consumption over the past 15 years.
In looking at the future of energy consumption, we must consider economic activity, population growth, and the costs of energy in forecasting whether the resource base will be sufficient to accommodate the projected increase in energy requirements over the next century. We also need to consider conservation, efficiency measures, and development of the resource base, as well as environmental acceptability.
As long as there is no obvious substitute, the world must rely on fossil fuels. However, producers need to develop the technology to assure that these fuels will remain an economically viable, environmentally suitable resource. In addition, consumers must reduce energy consumption through more efficient use of fossil fuels and the discovery of new technologies that require less energy consumption.