The acquisition of adequate energy resources has been of prime importance throughout human history. The advent of agriculture and the establishment of permanent places of habitation resulted in the first serious effort to harness various energy sources. Biomass in the form of wood burning was probably among the first renewable resource used for having access to controlled fire. Agriculture itself should also be listed within biomass as it is the energy form that we humans consume daily. As such it helped to provide muscle energy from human and animal labor for maintaining our first societies. The use of water, wind, and solar soon followed either as direct use applications or in conjunction with each other. Thus it is reasonable to say that human society commenced its development with a strong dependence on renewable energy resources.
Industrialization began with extended use of these renewable energies, especially biomass in the form of wood, water falls for mechanical energy, and wind for wind mills along with its use for ship transportation. However, the biggest leap within industrialization occurred with the finding of coal. Coal contained more btu of energy per ton than wood. It was readily transportable and thus allowed for greater concentration of population in cities. This in turn provided a large labor force for further industrialization and product development. The finding of oil and natural gas provided additional energy sources that could also be stored, transported, and refined into many of the products that we take for granted in society today. Oil and natural gas, as part of the fossil fuel triad, greatly expanded our technologically based society beyond anything previously seen, a development from which we are continuing to receive great benefit. This also developed a society highly dependent upon these same fossil fuels, with far less use by percentage of previously harnessed renewable energies.
Now, for the second time, human society faces the strong potential of the lack of adequate energy resources for maintaining our rapid technological and industrial pace. Between about 1560 and 1600 the advent of increased industrialization within England nearly decimated its hardwood forests. The switch to coal as a prime energy resource came at just the right time to avoid an industrial collapse. Today we face a similar situation when considering oil and natural gas production. Texas peaked in its oil and gas production in 1972, with oil over 1.2 billion bbls and gas nearly 10 billion mcf produced in that year (Texas Railroad Commission data). While still playing a vital part of the Texas economy, oil production has been on a nearly straight line decline, being just over 357 million bbls in 2003. Natural gas has held a steady production record of around 5.6 billion mcf per year for the last 20 years because of a large drilling effort that began in the mid-1970's. However, there are some indications that the natural gas production rate may again start to decline.
None of this means that oil and natural gas will cease in their importance as an energy resource. What it does mean, though, is that renewable energy resources are destined to again become increasingly important within human society. There are opportunities for Texas in establishing renewable energy industries. This was demonstrated in the late 1990's when the state legislature proscribed that 2% of electrical production must come from renewable energy. This dynamic helped to inaugurate the numerous wind farms that have been established around the state. Other renewable energy resources also have strong potential, and include geothermal and solar. Biomass is also possible farther north into the Texas Panhandle and other parts of the state where increased agriculture is supported. However, this website explores geothermal, solar, and wind resources for the West Texas region alone.