What Are The Practical sources Of Energy? Part 1
The practical sources of energy include the fossil fuels, natural gas, petroleum (or oil), and coal. Fossil fuels are referred to as nonrenewable energy sources because, once used, they are gone. Scientists are exploring the practicality of other sources called renewable energy sources. These include sun, wind, geothermal, water, and biomass. The renewable energy resources are important in long range energy planning because they will not be depleted.
Sometimes natural gas is confused with gasoline, the fuel in cars. They are not the same. Gasoline is a mixture of liquids, and natural gas is mainly methane and is piped into homes and office buildings where it is used as an energy source for heating, cooking washing, and drying. It is raw material to make other chemicals, and is the cleanest bumming fossil fuel. This means it contributes little environmental pollutants when bummed.
Petroleum or Oil
This is the black, thick liquid pumped from below the earth’s surface wherever you see an oil rig. To make it useful, it is refined. Refining separates the gasoline portion which is used in transportation. Products from the remaining portions include synthetic rubber, detergents, fertilizers, textiles, paints, and pharmaceuticals.
Geothermal energy refers to the energy deep within the earth. It shows itself in the fountains of boiling water and steam known as geysers. Geothermal energy was generated by the decay of natural radioactive materials within the earth. In addition it is the heat energy remaining within the earth from gravitational formation of the earth. This energy source is not popular in the United States, but Yellowstone has some geysers. Geothermal energy is used to heat some homes, greenhouses, and factories. The actual usable geothermal sites are few, but is considered a renewable energy source.
Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel. It is not a widely used energy source due to the cost of mining and its impurities, which cause pollution (acid rain). There are two ways to mine coal; underground mining and strip mining. Disadvantage to these methods is the environmental change caused in the process. New ways of using coal are being explored, such as liquefication, in which a product similar to oil is produced.
The sun is 93 million miles away and yet, this ball of hot gases is the primary source of all energy on earth. In the hi ugh temperature of the sun, small atoms of hydrogen are fused, that is, the centers of the two atoms are combined. Fusion releases far greater energy than splitting the atom (fission, see below). Without sunlight, fossil fuels could never have existed. The sun is the supplier of energy which runs the water cycle. The uneven heating of the earth produces wind energy. Solar energy can be used to cook food, heat water and generate electricity. It remains the cleanest energy source an it is renewable. It is the hope for the energy source of the future and scientists at NREL are actively working on ways for solar energy to supply more our energy needs!