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Energy, Fossil Fuels & Alternative Energy


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Energy, Fossil Fuels & Alternative Energy

22 July 2012

In order to understand how energy is converted from one form to another we must first define energy as the ability to do work and “Energy can never be destroyed. Energy can be converted from one form to another but the total energy remains constant (Integrated Science)”. Now that we have defined energy we can go further as there are two types of energy. The first type of energy is Kinetic energy, and is related with motion. Examples of Kinetic energy would be wind, water, machines, and even thermal energy. Our second form of energy is potential energy or energy waiting to be used. To types of potential energy would be fossil fuels or nuclear. Within these two types of energy it can be converted into the same 5 different forms of energy: (1) Mechanical Energy: energy from machines; (2) Chemical Energy: energy produced through a chemical reaction (3) Radiant energy: energy in the form of radiation or in the absence of matter (4) Electrical energy: derived from electromagnetic interactions and (5) Nuclear: energy produced by a nuclear reaction. Energy can go from one type of energy to another through energy transfer and most energy becomes mechanical energy. An example of this would be a power plant. The plant first burns coal (Potential energy converted to kinetic energy) to boil water that in turn spins turbines that produces electricity. All the energy is transferred to the other but only 40% of the original energy produced becomes electricity the remaining 60% becomes radiant energy and unusable due to the multiple changes in the form of energy.
Power plants that use coal, are using a type of fossil fuel otherwise hydrocarbons resulting from dead animals and plants from our past; to be more specific from eras ranging from the Carboniferous through the Permian. The main types of fossil fuel that are mined for energy use are coal, natural gas, oil, and bitumen. These types of fuels are an abundant resource and are easily and cheaply mined throughout the world. Bitumen is the a type of fossil fuel being used for energy, with the largest reserve being found in Venezuela with some estimating that 1.2 trillion barrels is expected to be surfaced. The most plentiful source of fossil fuel is coal with the United States having the greatest amount, while most of the oil is located throughout the middle east lastly the largest amount of natural gas is located in Russia (According to The world’s peak supply is expected to be between 2013 and 2030 depending on whose study you follow.
With the peak supply so close we need to look at alternative resources. By way of many companies and scientists experimenting with alternative energy world governments has multiple options to choose from that will help slow the use of the fossil fuels and its dependency or depletion. Two of the upcoming sources of energy are the use of solar wind and thermo chemical water splitting which is the use of hydrogen based power. While most have heard of hydrogen powered vehicles, Thermal chemical water splitting is a relatively new idea that is being researched and tested throughout the world. The idea behind water splitting is to use runoff steam from nuclear power plants that will heat up water and split the water at a molecular level to make hydrogen that can power that facility. The reason that they need to use nuclear power is the fact it takes a large amount of heat to split the hydrogen from the water (over 900C to reach a 58% hydrogen rate). A couple of the downfalls that they are seeing with the use of the nuclear facilities are public fear of problems or explosions and the idea has not been proven in a large scale setting. Due to this scientists have developed another option to produce hydrogen; this is with the use of solar power. With solar the biggest downfall is there is only 8 effective operating hours to produce hydrogen due to the earths rotation. While the upside is there is no use of nuclear power to convert the water to hydrogen. This process also heats the water to a substantially higher temperature which should give the facility a greater amount of hydrogen but is still being developed to effectively and monetarily match the nuclear option. There is by products from this type of energy but neither are greenhouse gasses. The first is plain water and the second is oxygen. The oxygen can even be stored and sold for further profitability.
The second option that is actually becoming reality is the use of solar wind to produce energy. This process will involve the use of a copper type of string that will extrude up to 30 Kilometers from the satellite itself. The satellite will the gather the solar radiation (wind) and convert it to microwave that will be beamed to satellite dishes on earth. Some of the pitfalls that scientists are having with this process are that the beams of microwaves disburse over the distance traveled, so scientists are trying to correct this problem with the use of laser transfer instead. While both process of sending the energy to the earth seem promising the other obstacle is cloud cover which interferes with the transmission of the both types of energy transfer.
While energy is a daily part of our life the way we convert our potential energy to kinetic energy will either be the energy that brings us to a harmonic balance with the earth or the devastating effects of global warming through excessive use of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gasses.

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“Fossil Fuel”(n.d.). Retrieved from on July 17th, 2012, “How does a Nuclear Power Plant Work”. (n.d.). Retrieved from on July 17th, 2012,
Lipman PhD, T (May 2011) An Overview of Hydrogen Production and Storage Systems with Renewable Hydrogen Case Studies” Retrieved from on July17th, 2012,
Ogden, J “Hydrogen Applications: Industrial Uses and Stationary Power” Retrieved on from July 17th, 2012,
Whitney, G; Behrens, C; Glover, C “U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources: Terminology, Reporting, and Summary” Retrieved from on July 17th, 2012,
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