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ecology: energy sources

I continue my ecology theories, in another short post, concentrating issues regarding the energy sources used by humans, continuing the previous post regarding global warming.

From an economical point of view energy has two vital characteristics: the source and the form. With the source we are familiar: coal, oil, hydro-electric, nuclear, solar, eolian. The form though is more important.

The best form of energy for current use is electric energy. It has one huge advantage: using the power grids it can be distributed almost instantly on a continental scale. Using just one step of processing, energy from all sources can be converted to electric energy. And when it is consumed it produces absolutely no residue (imagine your fridge having an exhaust pipe for smoke …) It is such a good form of energy that everything was converted to use it (home appliances, city lights, factories, office equipment).

Only in the case of machines used for transport it was not used, because as for instance a truck circulates unpredictably on a huge network of roads, it is impossible to supply it with electric current. Transportation uses lots of energy and there is no efficient technology to store huge amounts of electric energy, and also concentrated energy tends to be unstable (remember the stories about batteries that explode?). Some transportation means have been successfully converted to electric current, by making them run only on fixed paths having electric lines that allow suppling them electric current as they move: trains, tubes, tram, electric buses. But most transportation works by burning carbohydrates, which are obtained from refining oil (ro: petrol) or in recent years by growing oil or sugar cultures.

The two forms of carbohydrates used are: diesel-oil (motorina) – by diesel engines and petrol (benzina) by otto engines. Diesel is much more efficient for large engines, so it is much more important than petrol, because all economical activities use it: ships, trails (ro: tiruri), trucks, buses, coaches, tractors etc. Petrol (benzina) allows busts of power over a short period of time, and for this it is used by airplanes as kerosene, which is petrol with higher octanic value, and by many automobiles (people find acceleration very pleasant – motor bikes are a good example) and most racing cars.

The big problem with diesel and petrol for transportation is that they pollute. The burning produces lots of CO2, and also a big variety of toxic chemicals. Over the years filters were developed to clean the exhaust gases, but no technology exists to filter all CO2 ( the problem is that stronger filtering slows down the engine, so from a certain point it is difficult to make progress).

In correlation with my previous post regarding global warming, there are some clear directions in which progress should be made in order not to pollute any more:

  • green transport by:

finding a way to use electricity for most means of transport (by developing highly efficient batteries)

or by finding another source of energy for transport, that does not pollute (hydrogen engines is a promising prospect)

or by developing a method to eliminate CO2 from the exhaust gases or atmosphere

  • green energy sources

by only using non polluting energy sources to generate electricity, no coal and no oil

The good news is that oil sources have started to deplete, while the demand for energy, due to planetary economical growth, is constantly increasing. Increasing demand vs decreasing offer has and will make the price of oil higher and higher, thus green energy sources will become very profitable, so companies have started to invest huge amounts of money in technology research. More on this subject, in a following post.

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