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A coal mine in Wyoming. Coal, produced over millions of years, is an inherently finite and non-renewable resource on a human time scale.

A non-renewable resource is a natural resource which cannot be produced, re-grown, regenerated, or reused on a scale which can sustain its consumption rate. These resources often exist in a fixed amount, or are consumed much faster than nature can recreate them. Fossil fuel (such as coal, petroleum and natural gas) and nuclear power are examples. In contrast, resources such as timber (when harvested sustainably) or metals (which can be recycled) are considered renewable resources [1].


Fossil fuel

A temporary oil drilling rig in Western Australia

Natural resources such as coal, petroleum, oil and natural gas take thousands of years to form naturally and cannot be replaced as fast as they are being consumed. Eventually natural resources will become too costly to harvest and humanity will need to find other sources of energy. At present, the main energy sources used by humans are non-renewable as they are cheap to produce natural resources, called renewable resources, are replaced by natural processes given a reasonable amount of time. Soil, water, forests, plants, and animals are all renewable resources as long as they are properly conserved. Solar, wind, wave, and geothermal energies are based on renewable resources. Renewable resources such as the movement of water (hydropower, including tidal power; ocean surface waves used for wave power), wind (used for wind power), geothermal heat (used for geothermal power); and radiant energy (used for solar power) are practically infinite and cannot be depleted, unlike their non-renewable counterparts, which are likely to run out if not used wisely. Still, these technologies are not fully utilized.[2]

Economic models

Hotelling's rule is a 1931 economic model of non-renewable resource management by Harold Hotelling. It shows that efficient exploitation of a nonrenewable and nonaugmentable resource would, under otherwise stable economic conditions, lead to a depletion of the resource. The rule states that this would lead to a net price or "Hotelling rent" for it that rose annually at a rate equal to the rate of interest, reflecting the increasing scarcity of the resources. The Hartwick's rule provides an important result about the sustainability of welfare in an economy that uses non-renewable resources.

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Non-renewable energy is energy, taken from "finite resources that will eventually dwindle, becoming too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve", [1] as opposed to renewable energy sources [2], which "are naturally replenished in a relatively short period of time." [3]

See also


  1. ^ Renewable Energy Basics
  2. ^ On site renewable energy options
  3. ^ Renewable and Alternative Fuels Basics 101


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