19,20 - Fossil Fuels and Conventional Energy Alternatives

19,20 - Fossil Fuels and Conventional Energy Alternatives -...

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Fossil Fuels and Conventional Energy Alternatives Environmental Problems Biol 1305
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Fossil fuels are our dominant source of energy n We use oil, coal, and natural gas n Fossil fuels have replaced biomass as our dominant source of energy n The high-energy content of fossil fuels makes them efficient to burn, ship, and store n These fuels generate electricity = a secondary form of energy that is easier to transfer and apply to a variety of uses
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Resources are renewable or nonrenewable n Renewable energy = supplies of energy will not be depleted by our use n Sunlight, geothermal energy, and tidal energy n Nonrenewable energy = at our current rates of consumption we will use up Earth’s accessible store of these sources in a matter of decades to centuries n Oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear energy n To replenish the fossil fuels we have depleted so far would take millions of years
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Fossil fuels are indeed created from fossils n Fossil fuels we burn today were formed from the tissues of organisms that lived 100-500 million years ago n Organic material is broken down in an anaerobic environment n Bottoms of deep lakes, swamps, and shallow seas n Organic matter is eventually converted into crude oil, natural gas, or coal
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Fossil fuel reserves are unevenly distributed n Some regions have substantial reserves, whereas others have very few n How long a nation’s reserves will last depends on: n How much the nation extracts, uses, and exports n Nearly 67% of the world’s proven reserves of crude oil lie in the Middle East n The U.S. possesses more coal than any other country
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It takes energy to make energy n To harness, extract, process, and deliver energy requires substantial inputs of energy n Roads, wells, vehicles, storage tanks n Energy returned on investment (EROI) = energy returned/energy invested n Higher ratios mean we receive more energy than we invest n Ratios decline when we extract the easiest deposits first and now must work harder to extract the remaining reserves
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Coal n The world’s most abundant fossil fuel n Coal = organic matter (woody plant material) that was compressed under very high pressure to form dense, solid carbon structures n Very little decomposition occurred
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Coal use has a long history n The Romans used coal for heating in the second and third centuries in Britain n The Chinese have used coal for 2,000 - 3,000 years n Commercial mining began in the 1700s n The invention of the steam engine expanded coal’s market n Coal helped drive the Industrial Revolution and the steel industry n In the 1880s, people used coal to generate electricity
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Coal varies in its qualities n Coal varies from place to place n Water quantity and amount of potential energy it has n Peat = organic material that is broken down anaerobically but remains wet, near the surface and not well compressed n Widely used as a fuel in Britain n Additional pressure turns peat into coal n Lignite = least compressed n Sub-bituminous and bituminous n Anthracite = most compressed; has the most energy
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19,20 - Fossil Fuels and Conventional Energy Alternatives -...

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