In the world today there are five different forms of energy available to us to use: mechanical, chemical, radiant, electrical and nuclear. (Tillery, 2009 p. 62) Each of these forms of energy can be converted from one type of energy to another. An example of this would be electrical energy turning into mechanical energy every time you use your blender. The electrical energy flows through the mechanical device providing it the power it needs to make the blade move in a circular motion and blend the items in the container.
Another example of converting energy is when we use chemical energy in the form of propane, which turns into radiant energy when ignited, to cook food or provide heat when using a gas grill. Currently, one of the major sources of energy today is fossil fuels. Fossil fuels contain the stored radiant energy of organisms that lived million of years ago. (Tillery, 2009 p67) Petroleum, natural gas and coal are all considered fossil fuels as they are all by-products of organisms that lived millions of years ago.
Both petroleum and natural gas form from organic sediment, materials that have settled out of bodies of water. (Tillery, 2009 p 66) Coal, on the other had, formed from an accumulation of plant materials that collected under special conditions millions of years ago. (Tillery, 2009 p 67) Fossil fuels are an attractive source of energy as they can currently be mined and converted to different energy sources at a lower cost to the consumers than some of the alternative energy sources.
In addition, they are easier to store and transport to different places of need across the world. Once mined and broken down into different forms, either liquid or powder, they can be used in many different ways and to power many different things. For example, when petroleum is sent to the refineries it can be turned into a liquid gas, like propane which is what can be used to cook food, or heat homes or it can be turned in to gasoline or diesel to fuel our vehicles, boats, or aircrafts.
Currently coal is the most used fossil fuel by utility companies to provide energy and power to our homes and business. The down side to the fossil fuels is the amount of time it takes to replenish our resources. As our need for these fuels have increase because more and more people live on this earth, it is quite possible that we may run out of fossil fuels before we are able to create more resources based on the time needed to create additional supplies. The other down side of fossil fuels is they add to the pollution levels every time we use them.
Researchers are currently exploring alternative sources of energy which include solar, geothermal, hydrogen gas and fusion. Among these alternative sources I think solar and geothermal energy are probably the most well know and most realistic of possible replacement of fossil fuels. Solar energy is used to describe a number of technologies that directly or indirectly utilize sunlight as an alternative energy source and geothermal energy is energy from beneath Earth’s surface, like the geysers, hot springs and venting steam of Yellowstone National Park. Tillery, 2009 p 69-70) Solar energy, although currently an expensive alternative to the more common energy sources today as the solar panels are basically made by hand, is probably the most possible of replacements of fossil fuels as sunlight is definitely a common resource across the country. We currently have solar technology around us in items like watches and calculators and I’ve even seen solar panels on some school zone signs or on highway call boxes. Wind energy is considered another type of solar energy as it indirectly utilizes sunlight.
Radiant energy from the sun heats some parts of the Earth’s surface more than others resulting in a pressure differences and the horizontal movement of air, also know as wind. (Tillery, 2009 p70) Although wind seems to me a great source of energy, as there are many windy places across the country, it is currently an unreliable source because it’s unpredictable. I do believe though that with continued research this is another one of Mother Nature’s natural resources we can use as a source of power and energy. Geothermal energy can be broken up into 4 different categories; dry steam, hot water, hot, dry rock and geopressurized resources. Tillery, 2009 p. 70) Geothermal energy is found towards the earths inner surfaces where the temperatures are higher than what we feel on earth’s surface. When water or lava come up from the earth’s inner core either from a volcano or from a geyser, the temperature of the liquid it produces would probably produce the same result we get from burning the fossil fuel we do today to run our power plants and with less pollution as we wouldn’t need to burn the source to produce the heat needed to run them. Overall, in my opinion, solar and geothermal energy would be a good replacement for fossil fuels.
They are both a resource that could be replenished and it wouldn’t take a million years for it to happen. Also, as they are not chemical sources that need to burn, they would be less likely to add to the pollution we currently deal with because of the fossil fuels. The only disadvantages, or issues that need to be addressed, is our ability to mine and store the alternative resources in an equivocal monetary way as we currently do with fossil fuels. RESOURCES Tillery, B. W. , Enger, E. E. , & Ross, F. C. (2008). SCI110: Integrated science: 2009 custom edition (4th ed. ). New York: McGraw-Hill