Non Renewable Energy
Non renewable energy is energy that comes from non-renewable resources. These sources of energy are consumed by humans much faster than nature can reproduce them. Examples of non-renewable energies include crude oil, coal, natural gas and uranium. Crude oil, coal and natural gas are fossil fuels, and they supply around 80% of the world’s energy.
Oil is one of the most important non renewable energy resources in the world – it is a main source of the world’s energy. Due to the high level of energy stored in oil, this energy source became and currently is one of the main pillars of our industrial societies. In 2006 alone, 5.74 TW (terawatts) of energy was produced from oil.
Because of its importance, it has a deep impact in the world’s economies and politics. Oil became important mainly after the invention of the combustion engine, which in turn led to the invention of motorized cars and commercial aviation that use large quantities of oil on a daily basis. Oil is also used in the manufacture of plastic. Today, oil accounts for 90% of the world’s transportation fuels and is linked to many products that we use in our daily lives and activities.
Environmentally, oil is a menace. It has a high level of toxicity, and oil-related accidents like oceanic oil spills are responsible for ocean pollution and killing marine life on a large scale. The fumes that are produced from burning oil are responsible for acid rains which burn plants and acidify water bodies, air pollution and global warming.
Coal is another major non renewable energy source. It has been used since 3000 BC but it was only after the industrial revolution in the 19th century that coal became one of most precious energy resources. Today, it is primarily used to generate electricity. In fact, coal power plants provide 49% of the United States’ electricity and the world consumption of coal in 2006 was well over 6 billion tons. This figure is expected to increase to 10 billion tons by 2030.
Coal is the most polluting of all non renewable energy sources. Coal releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, one of the major green house gasses, into the atmosphere, and hence is a major contributor to global warming. It is also responsible for shortening the lives of 24,000 American a year, as well as causing about 2,800 cases of lung cancers a year. Like oil, the combustion of coal releases arsenic, mercury and selenium into the atmosphere, and contributes to acid rains that contaminate land and waterways.
Natural gas is a non renewable energy source that is becoming one of the major generators of electricity. The gas is used to produce steam, and electricity is generated when the steam passes through turbines. This process generates electricity for millions of homes all over the world. Natural gas is also often used for cooking and heating.
Environmentally, natural gas is the least polluting of all the fossil fuels but it still does contribute significantly to global carbon emissions and global warming. Natural gas does not just release carbon to the atmosphere but also methane, which can be worse than carbon.
Uranium, another non renewable energy source, is the fuel of the nuclear power industry. In nuclear power plants, uranium is used to cause nuclear fission reactions. The heat energy produced in the process of these reactions is used to heat up water, producing steam which turn turbines and generate electricity. Nuclear power today provides about 14% of the world’s electricity.
Nuclear power is very dangerous to the environment and victims of nuclear accidents such as those of Chernobyl can attest to it. Although nuclear plants do not release greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, they produce nuclear waste that are very dangerous and can have devastating effects to the environment if not managed correctly.
Non renewably energy sources have the benefit of being able to produce large amounts of energy through the simple process of combustion. However, the problem is that these energy sources are not renewable -- they become used up in the process. In addition, they pollute the environment and have lethal effects not only to plant and animal life but to human life as well. Many governments are now investing in renewable energy programs in order to find non polluting alternatives to fossil and nuclear fuels. Read about the advantage of renewable energy.
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