Apr 09 2010
Great American Energy–Coal, Oil, Natural Gas
Who wants to be destroyed by vicious renewable energy? Not me! So here’s what we discussed in class about the other side…NONrenewable energy.
There are four types of nonrenewable energy: Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, and Nuclear Energy. We only want to focus on the fossil fuels, which excludes Nuclear Energy.
First, lets define fossil fuels: ancient organic matter (usually plants and animals) formed by decomposition over millions of years.
A cool 85% of US energy is nonrenewable fossil fuels, and the breakdown of that is
- 23% Coal
- 39% Oil
- 23% Natural Gas
There are six categories we compared:
- Top 3 Reserves
- Primary Uses
- Projected to Last
- Composition: Coal is a Solid, and it is formed by anaerobic decomposition of swamps that “fold” into the earth by the shifting of tectonic plates. It is almost always found on land–you wont find any in the ocean. Every living organism is made up of Carbon, and since coal is made by the decomposition of organisms… coal is also mostly Carbon. There is also Sulfur in coal.
- Top 3 Reserves: 1. USA (27%) 2. Russia (17%) 3. China (12%)
- Primary Uses: Electricity and Steel
- Advantages: Ample Supply (225-900), High Net Energy Yield, Low Cost, Developed Tech
- Disadvantages: Land Disturbance, Air Pollution, Environmental Cost not included in market price, Gov’t Subsidies, CO2 Emissions
- Projection: 200-900 years
- Composition: Liquid (aka Crude Oil). The stuff we pull out of the ground is nowhere near what you put in your cars. It is a very impure substance, mixed with hundreds of HydroCarbons. A big difference between coal and oil is HOW its formed. While coal is formed under the stress of hyper-compression from tectonic plates over land, oil is formed in the ocean. A
- Top 3 Reserves: Saudi Arabia (25%), Canada*** (15%), Iran (10%)—- ***Most of Canada’s oil is found in an unconventional form. As in, its locked up in Oil Shales, or rocks with oil trapped in them. This makes it very difficult to extract the oil… so it takes a lot of energy to extract, and therefore there is a low Net Energy Gain.
- Primary Use: Transportation. Minor Uses: Plastics & Asphalt
- Advantages: Ample Supply for 42-93 years, Low Cost, High Net energy yield, low land use, Developed Tech, Efficient distribution.
- Disadvantages Need to find substitute, large gov’t subsidies, Environmental costs, Artificially Low Costs, Release CO2
- Projected to Last: 42-93
- Composition: Gas. Mixture 50-90% methane…some Butane (like in lighters) and Propane in there as well. Note that Gasoline is NOT a natural gas.
- Top 3 Reserves: Russia (27), Iran (15), Qatar (14)
- Primary Uses: Heating Space, Cooking
- Advantages: Cleanest, Ample Supplies (Although we only have 3% of the world’s reserves), low land use
- Disadvantages:Nonrenewable Resource, Releases CO2, Gov’t Subsidies
- Projected to last: 62-125 years