energy/environment/climate change
energy/environment/climate change
Energy is a scalar physical quantity and is often defined as the ability to do work. In physical terms, the conservation of energy describes the conversion from one (status, object) to another. In social terms, energy is converted to other 'products' such as heat, steam, electricity. Energy becomes less useful to society when transformed to heat or electricity as it will be used-up after conversion.
In society, the use of energy is one important aspect for development. With the use of usable energy resources (such as fuels, petroleum products and electricity in general) human society can adapt to the environment (e.g. darkness, heat, cold) and expanded technological development. A developed society relies on energy supply and energy management.
The increasing use of energy since the Industrial Revolution has initiated serious problems. Whenever usable energy resources are consumed, e.g. by turning on light, running an industrial machine or a car, new energy must be produced to sustain human basic and/or secondary needs. Many electric power plants burn fossil fuels in order to generate electricity for energy needs. This process generates air pollutants and Green House Gases.
Oil, Coal, and Gas take the highest share in the global energy mix (at the given ranking) and the largest resources of fossil fuels (at the given ranking). The industrial sectors electricity generation, steel, non-ferrous metals, construction materials, oil processing and chemicals account for nearly 70% of the global energy use. In the construction materials sector, China produced about 44% of the world's cement in 2006.
Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of crude oil (507mt in 2006, equaling ~13% of the world production) and exporter (306mt p.a.). The US is globally the largest consumer of fossil fuels and producer of nuclear power. The US consumes 25% of the world's energy (with a share of global productivity at 22% and a share of the world population at 5%). For electricity consumption, China is ranking two on the global scale behind the US. Russia is the largest producer and exporter of natural gas whereas China is the largest producer of coal and hydroenergy. Japan is the largest importer of coal.
The most significant growth of energy consumption can currently be measured in China, which has been growing at 5.5% per year over the last 25 years. Its population of 1.3 billion people is currently consuming energy at a rate of 1.6 kW per person. Despite headlines about global warming and campaigns urging consumers to consider conservation, Americans continue to use resources at a rapid rate. Over the past four years, electricity consumption in the US has risen 1.46 percent between 2004 and 2008 (mkwh/a). Power consumption is projected to hit 4,333,631 mkwh by 2013 resulting in a growth rate of 1.93 percent over the next five years. The US should be mature to tackle this conflict, unlike developing or transformation countries such as China, India, and Indonesia.
As described above, the use of energy is one important aspect for development. Therefore, focus shall be on China, the 'growing energy eating dragon', and the EU, the growing 'energy importing community'. China is facing environmental problems as the energy production is consumed within China; the EU is decentralizing this problem by importing energy. Nonetheless, when burning fossil fuels, pollution will take place within the EU and Green House Gas Emissions will have a global effect.
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Dr. Marco Gemmer, latest update 01/2009