With worldwide energy appetites at an all-time high, it is important that all the people of the world cooperate in the gathering of energy and its efficient use. Prior to the industrial revolution, obtaining energy sources and using them did not place a great strain upon the earth's resources. Wood was burned in stoves. Fields were plowed by horse power. The impact on the earth for energy demand was inconsequential, and competition for energy was nonexistent.
As the population grew and people moved to the cities, the demand for energy increased. With the development of the modern steam engine, steam was harnessed to perform work in factories and farms. To generate steam, coal became to fuel of choice.
With the inventions of Henry Ford, Walter P. Chrysler, and the Wright brothers, the internal combustion engine and oil came to the forefront. Oil was processed into gasoline which became the fuel for automobiles and airplanes, and remains so today.
Oil was a very inexpensive source of energy; there was little conflict between nations regarding its acquisition. The advent of World War II saw a spike in the demand in oil for power to fuel the machinery of war. Nuclear power was discovered during World War II and would later provide peaceful application in the development of power plants.
A wake-up call came in 1973 when Arab oil-producing companies of the Middle East refused to supply the United States oil. Oil became a scarce commodity and gas prices skyrocketed. Americans could no longer take the low cost of gasoline for granted, and consequently set in motion a movement towards environmental responsibility. Oil remains the centerpiece of energy consumption in the United States. Forty percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. comes from oil; the U.S. is responsible for about 25 percent of the world's oil consumption.
All nations in the world need energy to run factories, provide transportation for shipping and distribution of goods, power for houses and individual transportation, and for all the basics of human survival. Energy provides the means for industrial and economic development.
The demand for energy worldwide is increasing; the ever-growing world population exacerbates the issue. By 2042 the worldwide population is anticipated to be 9 billion people. The increased demand for energy will be considerable; the most efficient way to meet the demand will be with the wise application of renewable energy technologies.
Primary energy sources are sources of energy that exist in nature and can be used directly, or converted and redirected into a form of energy that satisfies a need. Primary sources of energy include both renewable and non-renewable sources. When going through an energy conversion process, primary sources convert into more convenient forms of energy, such as electrical energy. Primary sources of energy include coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar.
Secondary energy sources are obtained from the conversion of other less convenient and beneficial sources of energy, including those made available for use in a home, and generally include electricity, hydrogen, and heating oil. Liquid fuels used for transportation must also be included here, such as gasoline, methanol, gasohol, and other hybrids.
The term sustainable energy refers to the concept of energy sources that are renewable and also efficiently used. Renewable energy is an energy source that can replenish itself in natural ways within a time frame relevant to the human lifespan. Sustainable energy can be used today without depriving a future generation of that same energy source. Sustainable energy should also not do long-term harm to the environment. These practices represent a wise utilization of energy sources available to mankind, without decreasing the supply for future generations, and without polluting the air, water, and earth.
When sustainable energy sources are used, no carbon imprint is made on the environment. In other words, sustainable energy sources release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but the amount released is in balance to the actual amount used. There is no significant impact on the environment. Some refer to it as a carbon neutral source of energy.
Part of the overall sustainability of our energy sources is in the efficient use of them. It seems that when oil prices and gas prices are high, there is increased interest in conservation, mostly for the relief in the pocketbook. When oil and gas prices come down, interest wanes and energy conservation is not so important any more.
Another important reason to implement the use of sustainable energy sources is to create new jobs which help local economies. Converting the nation's energy supply to use renewable sources versus fossil fuels will create prosperity throughout the country. This issimilar to the automobile industry explosion at the start of the twentieth century, or the beginning boom of the aerospace industry.
There is one last issue to consider in converting to sustainable energy, which is the challenge for imported oil. Once energy supplies are converted to renewable sources, a nation becomes more secure.
The effect of disrupting the carbon balance in the atmosphere is called global warming. Global warming is defined as the increase in the average measured temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century. It is synonymous with the term climate change. Global warming affects many areas of health and the environment.