Energy 101

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Energy 101-by IEA Founding Member: Andrew Hunter


Energy is arguably one of the most important environmental topics to date. Although it is an important environmental issue entirely on its own, directly or indirectly, energy relates in some form to all environmental issues and concerns. Take urban planning for example. Direct involvement derives from the amount and type of energy source required to heat an office building. Indirect involvement includes the preliminary designs associated with choosing a geographically desirable location where homes and stores are in the near proximity to reduce a high consumption of energy typically required in commuting.

Listed below are important ideas that provide a basic understanding concerning energy, the focus of the IEA.

Non-Renewable Energy Sources

Non-renewable energy sources cannot be produced or used on a scale sustainable for future generations. Therefore, these energy sources can be completely depleted.

Examples of non-renewable energy sources include fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gasses.

Sustainable Energy Sources

Sustainable energy sources have long-term availability that will meet present and future needs. They also replenish on their own and are energy efficient, (we get a lot more energy out than we put into producing it).

Examples include nuclear fusion and burning (clean) household garbage.

Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energy sources are those that meet the same requirements as sustainable energy sources, with an additional responsibility to leave minimal impact on the planet. They do not pollute the environment and ecosystems, and lessen global warming. If an energy source is renewable, it is automatically sustainable.

Examples of renewable energy sources include biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, hydrogen, ocean waves and tides, river currentssolar, and wind.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is important when discussing renewable energy. In some cases, even though a new and interesting energy source is researched and proven sustainable, it may require almost as much energy to produce the sustainable energy as the sustainable source generates. Energy efficiency is not a new term and is used to describe many traditional technologies such as home insulation and car fuel efficiency.

Energy Independence

Energy independence is another energy issue. Most governments would very much like to be energy independent, and not require energy supplies from other nations. For example, the United States would rather it was not dependent on other nations for oil.

Energy Conservation

Energy conservation is especially important when using non-renewable energy sources. Essentially, conserving these resources will enable them to last longer. Somewhat less obvious and often overlooked is the fact that these sources create harmful greenhouse gases and acid rain. Conservation can be important for renewable energy sources as well. For Although hydroelectric power is generated from a dam and renewable, building a new dam can cause massive environmental changes upstream.