From small businesses to large economies, the long-term availability of energy worldwide is paramount to growth and development. Energy provides industry with a means to manufacture goods, generates the electricity and heat that we require on a daily basis, allows for the rapid transport of people and products, and enables food production and access to potable water.
The availability of energy in our current global framework relies extensively on the availability of fossil fuels: the oil, natural gas, and coal that together constitute 80 percent of global energy consumption.
Consumption of fossil fuels varies by region and by country. The biggest consumers are the United States, China, and the European Union, accounting for more than half of all fossil fuel consumption (see below). Coal, which is not easily transported long distances, accounts for a large percentage of consumption where it is locally available, while oil and natural gas can be consumed far from their source of extraction---in 2004, trade in fuels totaled US$715 billion worldwide (World Bank, World Development Indicators 2006).