Monday, November 20, 2006

Pop Quiz: What two sources of energy account for nearly all the world's energy use?

Answer: Solar and Geothermal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about energy lately, and this is just a curious factoid I've been pondering. When discussing energy, careful people distinguish photovoltaic power from the more general term of solar, because really when you think about it, nearly all the energy we use is solar, except for the stuff that’s geothermal. Basically, there you can think of energy as coming in the form of 4 forces, the weak and strong nuclear, gravity and e&m. And I’m basically say it is gravity and the sun's strong nuclear as the source of everything.

Hydropower – Powered by the water cycle which is powered by the sun.
Photovoltaic – Directly solar powered
Ethanol and other Biofuels – From the plant matter that got its energy from the sun
Oil – From the plant matter that got its energy from the sun that was converted into oil by geothermal pressures.
Natural Gas and Coal - Ditto.
Geothermal – Well geothermal.
Wind – Powered by temperature gradients crated by the sun.
Fission – Powered from the energy stored in uranium atoms, which were created not by our sun, but the previous star of our solar system. So given that it is also powered by a star of our solar system, I’d say that’s also solar power.
Tidal – Actually, this is different as this is lunar powered, but no one really uses it so its ok.
Fusion – This is actually different two, fusion is powered from the hydrogen remnants of the Big Bang, but there are no real fusion power plants either, so I’m ok on this one for now.
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