Thursday, February 17, 2011

Energy Intelligence 101: Understanding the nature of energy

Sir Isaac Newton gave us the current understanding about energy

Any student of physics will tell you that energy cannot be created or destroyed, which means that there is a fixed amount of energy that is available in the universe and there is nothing that we can do about it.

That may sound like bad news but in reality, the sun releases more energy than the human race can use every day so why is everyone saying that we are facing a serious energy crisis.

Actually what they mean to say is that we are facing an oil crisis, for the past 100 years we have been conditioned to accept oil, gas and coal as the primary sources of energy and the reason for this is quite simple; oil is relatively cheap and can be easily carried to power cars, trucks, aircrafts and all modern transportation.

Oil is basically stored solar energy, it is the energy soaked up by ancient plants and animals that were buried deep under the earth and became oil. In a sense it is concentrated solar energy.

While the human world relies almost exclusively on fossil fuel, the natural world lives entirely on solar energy and many scientists believe that the time has come for us to join the rest of the natural world if we want to continue to enjoy sustained living on this planet.

The crisis is brought into sharp focus in 2008 when oil hit USD150 per barrel and now is trading near the USD100 mark.

Energy experts have long argued about when peak oil will occur. Peak oil is the point in time when oil production will peak and then continue into decline.

Predictions of peak oil range from a few years from now to between 10 and 20 years from now. Although there are those who expect peak oil to occur further in the future, general consensus is that it is on our doorsteps and the world is genuinely unprepared.

The current scramble for Hybrid drivetrains and electric cars is a hint at the inadequacy of our response to the situation.

Alternative fuels at affordable prices are still far from the horizon but if peak oil occurs in the next few years, humans may have no choice but to radically change out lifestyles and the consumer culture that has been developed since the industrial revolution.

As individuals we may not be able to change the way big business is run but everyone has the opportunity to reduce our own energy consumption.

Using energy more efficiently is not only good for the environment but also helps us to reduce our daily costs.

It is the duty of every person to reduce waste because each ounce of waste represents wasted energy in production, transportation and other activities involved in delivering the food or product to your home.

In two weeks time, we will look at how everyone can help reduce energy consumption with simple steps that will not feel like a sacrifice that you cannot bear.

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