In the relatively short span of about 180 years, the world has moved from using almost exclusively biomass (i.e. wood, whale blubber, dung and other plants) to produce energy, to a wide diversity in the energy mix. Take a look at the chart below to see the shift in the world’s energy mix since 1850.
ExxonMobil’s Energy Factor explains that the shift is worth careful study.
Aside from manual labor, through most of the 19th century (indeed, for all of human history up until that point), humankind primarily relied on biomass for its energy needs, largely for cooking and heating. That soon gave way to coal, which helped power growing industrialization around the world.
In the 20th century, with the rise of the automobile and other transportation advances, coal’s dominance began yielding to oil. More recently the world has seen tremendous inroads in the energy mix made by natural gas for a variety of applications, including electricity generation.
It’s fair to say that gains in living standards over the past two centuries have been enabled in large part by a transition to modern energy sources. As the world’s population grew to more than 7 billion people, investment in the world’s energy system was critical, as demand reached a level about 20 times what it was in 1850.
The point is that the world’s energy system is in constant motion. Advances in technology and energy are ongoing, working together to provide practical, affordable, and convenient solutions for people everywhere. So what the world uses for energy today, and in what proportions, will likely be different years from now.
Read more here.