A Brief History of Human Energy Use

Topics: Petroleum, Peak oil, Natural gas Pages: 100 (21026 words) Published: August 24, 2014
15

Nonrenewable Energy

A Brief History of Human Energy Use

Core Case Study

Everything runs on energy. Some sources of energy, such as oil, coal, and natural gas—also called fossil fuels—as well as uranium used to fuel nuclear power plants, are nonrenewable because
they take millions of years to form in the earth’s crust. Other energy resources such as the sun, wind, flowing water, wood, and heat from the earth’s interior are renewable because they can be replenished by nature within hours or decades.

Human use of energy has grown dramatically throughout history, but especially since European countries began the industrial revolution about 275 years ago. At that time, wood harvested from forests was burned to provide most of the energy used

for heating buildings and running steam engines. By 1850, Europeans were harvesting firewood faster than nature could replace it, and thus they depleted many of the forests that surrounded their rapidly industrializing cities.

European nations, and later the United States, survived
this early energy crisis by learning how to mine and burn coal in homes and in industrial plants. In 1859, raw petroleum was

pumped out of the ground from the first oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania (USA) and later, we invented ways to convert it to fuels such as gasoline and heating oil. We also learned how to burn natural gas, usually found underground over oil deposits. Then we began burning coal in large, central power plants to produce electricity. In 1885, Carl Benz invented the internal combustion engine that ran on gasoline to power cars and other vehicles. By 1900, we were getting 40% of our total energy

use from oil (mostly from gasoline derived from oil), and in the 1950s, we learned how to produce electricity in nuclear
power plants.
Today, we continue to live in a fossil fuel era, as most of the energy used in the world and the United States comes from
oil, coal, and natural gas resources (Figure 15-1). These energy resources, like all energy resources, each have advantages and disadvantages that we examine in this chapter. In the next chapter, we look at the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of renewable energy resources.

Nuclear power
6%
Geothermal,
solar, wind
1%

Nuclear power
8%
Geothermal,
solar, wind
1%

Hydropower
3%

7

EWABLE
REN %

Biomass
11%

Coal
24%

Hydropower,
3%

Natural gas
23%

ABLE 15%
NEW
RE

Natural gas
21%

Coal
22%

Biomass 3%

EW
AB
LE

EW
AB
LE

85%

World

Oil
40%

EN
NR
NO

EN
NR
NO

Oil
34%

93%

United States

Figure 15-1  We get most of our energy by burning carbon-containing fossil fuels (see Figure 2-14, p. 46). This figure shows energy use by source throughout the world (left) and in the United States (right) in 2008. Note that oil is the most widely use form of commercial energy and that about 79% of the energy used in the world (85% of the energy used the United States) comes from burning nonrenewable fossil fuels. (These figures also include rough estimates of energy from biomass that is collected and used by individuals without being sold in the marketplace.) Question: Why do you think the world as a whole relies more on renewable energy than the United States does? (Data from U.S. Department of Energy, British Petroleum, Worldwatch Institute, and International Energy Agency)

Copyright 2011 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.

Key Questions and Concepts
15-1  What

is net energy and why is it important?

15-4  What

C o n c e p t 1 5 -...

Links: Net Energy Analysis, 1976; and Howard T. Odum and Elisabeth
C
McGraw-Hill, 1981)
Space Heating
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