Various sources of energy, and the different ways energy can be transformed, transported, and stored, each have benefits and drawbacks.
Earth has limited energy resources. Increasing human energy consumption places stress on the natural processes that renew some energy resources; it depletes those that cannot be renewed.
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Earth has limited energy resources.
Keep your energy footprint small—not just the electricity you use but also the energy used to extract, produce, and transport the items you use every day.
Keeping Up with Carbon
Carbon forms living organisms, dissolves in the ocean, mixes in the atmosphere, and is stored in the crust of the planet. The ocean plays a critical role in the carbon cycle and is key to understanding Earth's changing climate.
Video Length: 5:39 min.
It's All About Carbon—Burning Carbon and CO2: NPR Climate Connections
NPR's Robert Krulwich and Odd Todd, in partnership with Wild Chronicles, present an animated cartoon series on carbon—the atom at the heart of global warming.
Episode 4: When carbon falls in love, the whole world heats up
Energy Issues—Environmental Impacts: Switch Energy Project
Energy drives the modern world and underpins every other issue.
We choose our energy based on four attributes: affordable, available, reliable and clean. But defining clean is complicated. All energies have environmental impacts that need to be managed effectively and affordably. Even so, the biggest challenge of energy is scale—the enormous amount of energy we demand. And the only way to counter scale, is with efficiency.
Electricity Storage: Switch Energy Project
Storing electricity in huge quantities, in a giant battery or by some other method, is cost prohibitive today. Yet solving this challenge would forever change our energy world, by turning intermittent sources, like wind and solar, into on-demand sources; making electric cars more affordable and better performing; and reshaping electricity use across the system. We’ve been working on better storage technology for more than a century, but progress has been slow.
Nuclear: Switch Energy Project
Nuclear is thousands of times more powerful than every other energy. And it’s our only baseload electricity generation that produces no CO2. With populations growing and concentrating in ever-larger cities, this super-concentrated energy has many benefits; but comes with some unlikely, but potentially very damaging, risks of radiation leaks and proliferation. And we still don’t agree on a waste management plan.
Wind: Switch Energy Project
To get a substantial portion of our electricity from wind means building hundreds of thousands of turbines. They’re affordable, so we could do that. But we usually don’t live in the windiest areas, so we’ll also need to build transmission lines—which is harder than building the wind farm itself. If the wind stops blowing when we need the power, we’ve got to replace it quickly with some other generation. Hopefully, challenges of siting, transmission, and backup generation won’t make this clean, affordable resource, unaffordable.
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.