Chapter 15: Nonrenewable Energy. By: Cari Spivey. What Is net energy and why is it important?. T he two laws of thermodynamics govern all physical and chemical changes involved in the use of fossil fuels and other energy alternatives.
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By: Cari Spivey
The usable amount of high-quality energy available from a given quantity of an energy resource is its net energy.
Any energy resource with a low or negative net energy yield cannot compete in the open marketplace with other energy alternatives with higher net energy yields unless it is subsidized by the government or by some other outside source of funding.
Proven oil reserves are identified deposits from which conventional crude oil can be extracted profitably at current prices with current technology.
Russia, the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, has about 25% of the world’s proven natural gas reserves, followed by Iran and Qatar.
Another is natural gas trapped in underground shale beds that are found in many parts of the United States and that could meet U.S. natural gas needs for up to 100 years.
The problem is that coal is by far the dirtiest of all fossil fuels and before it is even burned, the processes of making it available severely degrade land and pollute water and air.
The use of coal is growing, especially in China, which has relied on coal to help fuel its rapid economic growth.
A nuclear power plant is only one part of the nuclear fuel cycle, which also includes the mining of uranium, processing and enriching the uranium to make fuel, using it in a reactor, and safely storing the resulting highly radioactive wastes, in the form of depleted or spent fuel rods, for thousands of years until their radioactivity falls to safe levels.
Chernobyl is known around the globe as the site of the world’s most serious nuclear power plant accident.