The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Energy

Security

Our society relies on energy that is available when and where it is needed, is generally affordable at stable prices, and can be counted on in the near future. Yet we are dependent on foreign sources for two-thirds of our petroleum supplies as well as many other resources, and the world is an uncertain place. As a result, access to some critical energy sources is beyond our direct control. Many planners argue that this situation threatens the economic and military security of the nation and urge policies that maximize the use of domestic resources. This is a difficult objective and will likely require many years to address thoroughly.

We are dependent on foreign sources for two-thirds of our petroleum supplies as well as many other resources, and the world is an uncertain place.

Fortunately, a number of public and private organizations actively support energy research in the United States. There is also growing technical and financial interest in developing alternatives to oil, such as biofuels and liquid transportation fuels derived from coal and natural gas. Renewable and sustainable sources of electricity, such as advanced nuclear power, wind power, and solar power, could further reduce dependence on foreign energy sources, particularly if all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles take hold.

Such efforts are especially consequential as worldwide consumption trends put increasing pressure on traditional energy sources. In the United States alone, energy consumption is projected to rise 13% above present levels over the next two decades. Worldwide demand could increase nearly 50% by 2030, driven by the rapidly growing energy needs of developing nations like China and India, which between them contain more than one-third of the world’s population. Unprecedented competition for limited conventional resources will almost surely challenge our—and other nations’—security in coming decades.

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Energy Hands-on

What do you know about energy?

True or False: Lighting accounts for 18% of all electricity used in the United States.

  • Correct!

    Lighting accounts for 18% of the electricity used in the United States. A 12% decrease in overall electricity use in buildings could be realized if incandescent bulbs were replaced with CFL or LED bulbs.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Lighting accounts for 18% of the electricity used in the United States. A 12% decrease in overall electricity use in buildings could be realized if incandescent bulbs were replaced with CFL or LED bulbs.

Energy Defined

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

A colorless, odorless, non-poisonous gas consisting of one carbon and two oxygen atoms. A by-product of fossil fuel combustion and other industrial processes, it is considered a greenhouse gas because it traps heat (infrared energy) radiated from Earth within the atmosphere. For this reason, CO2 is believed to be a major contributor to human-induced climate change.

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