Harnessing fossil fuels to generate energy –for electricity, transportation, heating and cooling– has enabled our huge growth over the past 250 years. Simultaneously, burning those fossil fuels has released, and continues to release, the CO2 that is the major cause of global warming and all its consequences.
We need both energy experts and environmental experts to collaborate in shifting from a fossil-fuel-based energy system to one based on renewables. Stanford University released one such plan.
There are a wide variety of energy-related topics that we need to understand and acknowledge in our quest to preserve a livable planet. They include the development of renewables, of course, and the quest for safer nuclear (a clean energy source as far as CO2 is concerned). Natural gas, which burns “cleaner” than coal or oil (and cheaper), has become a major player but, if safety measures aren’t carefully in place, it also releases methane (among other things), a powerful greenhouse gas, making it no kind of real solution.
This ENERGY section intends to explain the way energy currently works (explaining the sources, the role of utilities and transmission, and its uses, such as transportation, electricity, cooling and heating). It also explores the way a transition to renewables could look as we modify the grid, create energy storage through new battery technology and more exotic techniques, shift to electricity as our primary form of energy and, of course, find ways to conserve, one of the most important “sources” of energy-needs reduction — from light bulbs to smart thermostats and just plain reduction of use.
There are various emerging “drawdown” techniques, which promise to reduce the CO2 load, but also involve capturing and storing carbon. Many of these NEW TECHNOLOGIES are covered here.
Every year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of Energy produce Sankey flow diagrams showing where energy in the U.S. comes from and where it’s going….The first thing that grabs attention every year is how much of this energy consumption is “rejected energy.” That’s what is wasted as heat going up the chimney or out the exhaust pipe. ..The most obvious and disturbing number on the chart is the total of petroleum, coal, and natural gas….Our biggest problems are fossil fuel-powered cars, cars, and cars. They are grossly inefficient, and our world is designed around them. When we electrify them, the total energy going to them is only a quarter of what it is now.
The 2021 energy flow chart released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory details the sources of energy production, how Americans are using energy and how much waste exists. (click image to enlarge or download a PDF version).