We depend on a variety of energy resources, both renewable (R) and nonrenewable (NR), to meet our energy needs.

Most used energy sources in the world:

  • oil: NR; 50-year life expectancy
  • natural gas: NR; 125-year life expectancy
  • coal: NR; 200-300 year life expectancy
  • water power: R;
  • uranium (nuclear power): NR; ??

*The top 3 energy resources used in the world are all fossil fuels and are NR!!

The 4 main NONrenewable ENERGY (NR) resources:

Fossil Fuels: formed from the remains of organisms that lived millions of years ago

  • coal– the most abundant fossil fuel; solid
  • petroleum–  gasoline or oil; liquid
  • natural gas– often occurs with petroleum, overlying it; gas

How do we get energy from these sources?

We burn them to release the carbon they contain! Remember, all organic/living things contain Carbon.  As these living things die and decay, they lose all their other elements, but Carbon becomes concentrated!  Over time, the Carbon becomes so concentrated, that we can burn it as fuel! The higher % of Carbon, the greater amount of energy is released when it is burned!

  • Major Uses of fossil fuels: electricity and fuel oil/gasoline
  • Pros: abundant; cheap; can use them anywhere
  • Cons: acid rain; air pollution; global warming; mining destroys homes/habitats; oil spills can pollute the sea, soil, and kill organisms

Uranium– a metallic element found inside the Earth (NOT a fossil fuel) that releases energy through nuclear fission (the splitting of atoms), which releases a huge amount of energy The fission of 1 g of uranium releases as much energy as the burning of nearly 3 tons of coal or 14 barrels of oil.

  • Major Uses: electricity
  • Pros: burns clean/nonpolluting; produces huge amounts of energy; unknown supply
  • Cons: highly toxic byproduct (radioactive- can cause cancer); no way to safely store or dispose of waste; mining destroys homes/habitats

The 4 main Renewable ENERGY resources:

Only 7% of our energy use comes from renewable resources, that means 93% of our energy comes from NR resources!

Hydroelectric– electricity produced by running water! The most efficient way of producing electricity!  Why? The turbines used to generate electricity are turned DIRECTLY by the moving water.  No “middle-man”.

  • Major Use: electricity
  • Pros: renewable; nonpolluting; free; also gives us water recreation
  • Cons: only in areas available for a dam; affects river flow; disturbs ecosystems

Wind– unequal air pressure in the Earth’s atmosphere causes wind, which is used to turn windmills.

  • Major Use: electricity
  • Pros: renewable; nonpolluting; free
  • Cons: only in areas with strong, steady wind; uses a lot of lands; interferes with bird migration and TV & radio reception; no reliable storage of energy

Solar– energy from the sun’s rays; Sunlight is captured using panels which absorb, store, and convert sunlight to electricity.

  • Major Use: electricity; fuel replacement
  • Pros: renewable; nonpolluting; free
  • Cons: only in areas with lots of sunlight; no reliable storage of energy

Geothermal– Heat from the Earth’s interior! Highly pressurized steam rising out of deep, hot rock is controlled much like an oil well.

  • Major Use: electricity
  • Pros: renewable; nonpolluting; free
  • Cons: only in areas with hot bedrock near the surface; expensive; cave-ins; chemical-rich water can pollute lakes and streams
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0


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