We Need The PowerIt's just that simple. We need power. All of the time. We use one form of power to generate electricity. We use another form of power to run our cars. We even need power cook on the stove. Power needs are all around us but there are only a few types of power available to our society. You'll hear labels such as clean energy, non-renewable sources of energy, and renewable sources. While the news may focus on one or two types, developed nations use them all.
Non-Renewable SourcesThe name non-renewable should give you a hint about this energy resource. Once we use it all up. it's gone. Hydrocarbons are the big form of non-renewable energy in our society. It's all found underground and it is all being used up. The hydrocarbons have been created from a variety of extinct plant material from millions of years ago. It has been underground and changed by the pressures and temperatures down below. There are three forms of these hydrocarbons, neatly organized into states of matter. You get solid forms that include coal. The liquid form is oil. And yes, there is a gas form that bubbles to the surface in the form of natural gas. All of these resources are used in different ways, but they are all able to generate large amounts of energy to run society's machines.
Renewable SourcesWe think renewable is not the best way to describe these energy resources. They never really run out. It's not like we use them and then fill up the tank again. Wind power and solar power are easy to capture, just not that reliable. The sun is always shining. unless it's night time or a cloudy day. Wind is great. when it's windy. When you're trying to power a major city, you need energy flow that is reliable and consistent. So we'll probably never be completely dependent on these two types.
Even The Cleanest Have Some ProblemsLet's look at some 'clean' sources of energy. Hydroelectric power is excellent. It generates large amounts of electricity and doesn't give off any pollution. The water will always be there and won't run out like oil. Ummm. The problem is that you have to dam up a river and create a reservoir. When you dam up a river there is no end of trouble created for the local ecosystem and every ecosystem that is downstream. The Colorado River is a great example of a dammed river with problems.
Many people also think of nuclear power as clean energy. It goes back and forth, but at its soul, fission is clean. until you need to throw away the radioactive material. We really haven't figured out a way to take care of that problem so we just bury it in protected stockpiles deep underground. The real future is in nuclear fusion power that is a clean source of energy with no radioactive trash.
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Earth at Night (NASA/GSFC Video)
Useful Reference MaterialsEncyclopedia.com (Renewable Energy):
Wikipedia (Energy Industry):
Encyclopædia Britannica (Solar Energy):