For the past hundred years, our homes, businesses and schools have been powered mostly by fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas. Now, interest in conserving these fuels, and using renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy, is increasing. More and more people are worried about:
To get energy from fossil fuels like oil and coal, we need to burn them. When we burn them, they give off gases into the air. Some of these gases—including carbon dioxide and methane—trap heat from the sun in our earth’s atmosphere, making temperatures higher. These “greenhouse gases” keep heat from escaping out into space, just the way the inside of a car with the windows closed gets very hot when it’s parked in the sun—even on a cool day.
Increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are causing temperatures around the world to rise. This is called “global warming,” and it worries many scientists. Higher temperatures are expected to melt polar icecaps and increase sea levels. In addition, rising temperature can harm many ecosystems, which are sensitive to temperature and rainfall.
Burning fossil fuels also leave other forms of pollution in our air, water and soil. By-products from fossil fuel plants include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead and particulates, which are harmful to plants, animals and humans.
Renewable sources like solar and wind energy are friendlier to our environment. The wind can produce electricity with no toxic pollutants and no greenhouse gas emissions.
Renewable sources like solar and wind energy are friendlier to our environment. The wind can produce electricity with no toxic pollution and no greenhouse gas emissions.
Fossil fuels were created more than 65 million years ago from the “fossils” or remains of ancient plants and animals. These fuels sit deep underground. Oil and gas are pumped out of the ground and mines are created to dig coal out. Once we extract these fuels, they’re gone. They don’t grow back like the leaves of a tree or come up every day like the sun.
Some energy experts estimate that the world will start to run out of fossil fuels within the next hundred years. We can make fossil fuels last longer by using less energy or “conserving” it. Some things you can do are:
- Turn off lights when you’re not using them
- Turn the heat down when you’re not home or when you’re in bed at night
- Close your shades in summer, and keep as many lights off as possible, to keep your home or school cooler without air conditioning
- Recycle paper and packaging materials that take lots of energy to make
And by using renewable energy sources like wind and solar we can ensure that there will be enough energy for many generations to come. Clean wind energy could meet 10% or more of our electricity needs without using up any fossil fuels.