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Submitted by: Dominik Hussl
The term energy industry actually refers to a group of fuel and power industries. It includes all forms of fuel extraction, fuel refining, fuel manufacturing, power distribution, and power sales. This often refers specifically to fossil fuels like petroleum, natural gas, and coal.
In many instances too, the term refers specifically to the supply of electricity to the grid that powers our businesses and residences. Electrical power production is tied to fossil fuel businesses because these sources are used to power electrical power plants. Other sources of power used to make electricity include nuclear power and renewable sources such as wind, hydroelectric dams, and solar power.
The environmental impact of the energy industry depends, therefore, upon the source material used to make the energy. As previously noted, electricity is produced in plants. These plants actually use massive magnetic fields to create electricity. A source fuel is needed to power the turbines that create these magnetic fields.
When fossil fuels are burned for this purpose, they emit carbon dioxide. This has a damaging effect on the Earth s atmosphere. While there are many people in the world who deny that this has anything to do with global warming, or that there even is such a thing as global warming, it is clear that there has been a negative environmental impact resultant from high CO2 emissions.
The nuclear energy industry does not produce CO2, but it does create radioactive waste. This waste has a nasty habit of lasting longer than the containers in which it is stored and disposed. This is a separate environmental issue which we will be facing when the containers decay in a hundred years or less.
Wind, water, and solar powered electricity are the only truly environmentally sound methods of generating electricity. They are both renewable and nontoxic, because they rely on cycles of nature and require no combustion to power electrical turbines.
It is always a surprise to people when they learn how much of our electrical energy industry still depends on the burning of fossil fuels.
In 2009, 44.9 percent of the electricity produced in the United States was made by burning coal. 23.4 percent came from burning natural gas. Coal pollutes the air far more than natural gas, but natural gas is still nonetheless a fossil fuel that releases CO2 when burned.
Only 10.5 percent of our power in 2009 came from hydroelectric and other renewable sources.
In spite of our new reputation as a consultant nation, we are still very much an industrial country. One third of all energy production in the United States is dedicated toward powering our industries. Many factories, in fact, are directly powered by natural gas and petroleum. Others are powered by electricity, which we have already noted is produced by fossil fuels over 60 percent of the time.
The energy industry in this country leaves a huge carbon footprint. However, it is possible to shift things toward more renewable power if we take the right steps.
Things have to be made cost effective to work in America. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy s Industrial Technologies Program works to create competitive solicitation process flows that provide financial assistance to different research and develop projects in sustainable technology advances. The OEERE also helps distribute new, energy efficient technology, and it works to reduce dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuel impacts on the environment.
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