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The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

What You Need To Know About Energy

The Cost of Energy

Energy use can carry a hefty price tag—and not just in money. The cost to our environment, to national security, and to the prospect of future sustainability is sometimes hard to calculate in dollar terms, but nonetheless very real in practical terms. What factors should we consider as we make decisions about energy options for the future?

Environmental Impact

Environmental Impact

Compared to the period 1986–2005, average global temperatures will likely rise—between 0.3°C and 1.7°C in the low estimate and 2.6°C to 4.8°C in the high estimate—during the next 100 years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Our understanding of the world’s climate and how it has varied over time is advancing rapidly as scientists acquire more and more data and employ new instruments and methods for their analysis.

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At present, about 24% of our oil supplies come from foreign sources, as do many other vital resources. But expanding the domestic supply has recently reduced net petroleum imports. And the United States will soon become a net exporter of natural gas.

Despite these developments, many planners argue that dramatic anticipated growth in worldwide energy demand, coupled with volatility in global markets and the interconnectedness of national economies threatens the prospect of U.S. energy independence. 

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We are using fossil fuels many times faster than they are formed, a situation that cannot continue indefinitely.

The total contribution of renewable sources to our energy supply is projected to remain small unless we take aggressive steps toward accelerating their development. What are the consequences of continuing to depend on fossil fuels for our energy?

More about sustainability

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Global Warming

A term used to describe the phenomenon of Earth’s rising average near-surface temperature. Although such fluctuations have occurred in the past due to natural causes, the term is most often used today to refer to current warming trends. Most scientists have concluded that this is very likely due to the observed increase in human-generated greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

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