Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors. Currently, the primary sources of energy used by humans include fuels, like coal, oil, natural gas, uranium, and biomass. All these fuels—except biomass—are nonrenewable. Primary sources of energy also include renewables, such as sunlight, wind, moving water, and geothermal energy.
Fossil fuels contain energy captured millions of years ago from sunlight by living organisms. The energy in fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal comes from energy that producers (plants and algae) captured from sunlight long ago. Energy stored in these fuels is released by burning them, which also releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Human demand for energy is increasing.
For resources in addition to those featured below, follow these links:
- U.S. Energy Information Administration Electricity Data Browser
- Climate Change and Particles in the Air
- It's All About Carbon—Breaking Bonds: NPR Climate Connections
- It's All About Carbon—Burning Carbon and CO2: NPR Climate Connections
- Energy Issues—Foundations of Life: Switch Energy Project
- Energy Issues—Efficiency: Switch Energy Project
- Energy Issues—Environmental Impacts: Switch Energy Project
Humans harness energy from any available resource and the demand for that energy is ever increasing.
Be efficient and economical with your energy use. This leaves more energy for all—including you—in the future.
The Kill-a-Watt Competition
At the University of Central Florida, the Department of Sustainability & Energy holds an annual competition to reduce the energy used on campus. The offer incentives and pit dorms against each other in a friendly contest. They are saving tens-of-thousands of dollars!
U.S. Energy Information Administration
This is the landing page for the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It offers the most extensive and accessible collection of energy related information for the United States.
Carbon and Climate Change in 90 Seconds
Energy powers all living systems and this NASA video shows how energy flows from the Sun, to the Earth, through humans, and through the technology humans use.
Video length: 2:21 min.
Humans and Energy—Earth: The Operators’ Manual
A look at how humans use energy, the sources of our energy, and why a growing population needs more, clean energy.
©EARTH: The Operators Manual
Renewables Roundup—Earth: The Operators’ Manual
Just how much energy can Sun, hydropower, biomass and geothermal offer? This video sets a target of seeing whether, in principle, renewable energy resources could meet today’s global energy needs of about 15.7 terawatts.
©EARTH: The Operators Manual
Transmission: Switch Energy Project
The U.S. electric grid has been called the largest machine in the world. It’s also one of the oldest in continuous operation. Upgrading transmission in developed countries, and building more of it elsewhere, will be expensive but necessary to reduce power loss, inefficiencies and instability, and to accommodate renewables and distributed power production—a place where governments can help.
Oil: Switch Energy Project
Oil goes into myriad products that have transformed our modern world, but none so much as gasoline and diesel. They provide a level of mobility for people and products never before known, creating the first global economy, which is now so dependent on oil that price shocks have global impacts. A wise economic response is to diversify into other transport fuels. This could also bring environmental and political benefits.