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Energy is generated from the four fundamental forces, with commercial energy coming in six familiar forms:1. Mechanical energy is associated with motion. Falling water resulting from gravity can turn a grinder, wind resulting from temperature differentials through electromagnetism can turn a wind turbine, and human and animal power can be used to move objects fueled by the chemical reaction of food.Chapter 1 Introduction to Our Journey 52. Chemical energy is released when molecular bonds are broken or changed, as in the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, or with biomatter, such as dung, wood, and crop residues. Such chemical energy from the electromagnetic force may be turned into mechanical energy, as in the internal combustion engine.3. Thermal energy is a measure of the heat in the vibrations of molecules. It may result from friction. It may also be a product of the chemical energy of combustion. Geothermal energy, which is heat from within the earth, may be heat stored from the formation of the earth, supplemented with heating from pressure and radioactive decay (Cornell Center for Materials Research 1999).4. Radiant energy is all forms of electromagnetic radiation. Solar energy is a critical source of radiant energy, with about 40% in the infrared and longer wavelength range, about 50% in the visible range, and about 10% in the ultraviolet or shorter wavelength range (University of California Museum of Paleontology, n.d.).5. Nuclear energy from fusion and fission results from the strong nuclear force. It is changed to mechanical and other forms of energy in nuclear submarines, the explosions of nuclear weapons, and in nuclear power plants.6. Electrical energy is the movement of electrons caused by the electromagnetic force. If the electrons travel one way through a wire, we have direct current. If the electrons continually reverse directions flowing back and forth, we have the more common alternating current.In any system, we can transform energy from one form into another; for example, the mechanical energy of a stream can be turned into electricity by a hydro unit. The resulting electricity can be turned into heat and light in a home or can run a machine in a factory. With these changes, the first law of thermodynamics requires that the total amount of energy in an isolated system will always remain constant. Why then is energy scarcity a problem? The reason lies in the second law of thermodynamics, which requires that when energy is converted, it is reduced in quality and in its ability to do work. Thus, with each energy conversion, we have the same total amount of energy, but we have less available energy to do work. For example, the generation of electricity using a conventional thermal plant produces both heat and electricity. Although the heat generated may be used to warm oyster beds or might even provide district heat, it is often at too low a temperature or too far from a market to be otherwise usefully captured for work (Georgescu-Roegen 1979; Hinrichs 1996).An understanding of the economical use of energy is interdisciplinary. Hence, in this book, we will combine knowledge of economics and mathematical analysis with institutional and technical information to better understand various energy markets. A discussion of the topics covered follows.


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