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As more and more input energy is required per unit of output energy, we also need to do more work with more and more impurities and toxic waste.Remember now that from our species standpoint the planet is a closed system with respect to nonrenewable forms of usable energy.It is not that the planet cannot renew fossil fuels in geologic time—that is, over millions of years—but for all practical purposes, given human life span and our limited abilities, renewal is far beyond our technical and scientific capabilities.
In the understanding of the material world provided by physics, energy is defined as the ability to do work.
Work in this sense means the displacement of an object (“mass”) in the direction of a force applied to the object.
Because the stocks of fossil fuels took millions of years to create, the ability to extract them is inherently short-run when there is no strong social planning to provide for a human future on other than a very short-range basis.
We commit the same error with fossil fuels that we commit with fish stocks—as ocean fish dwindle in numbers, and species after species significantly declines, the main response has been to develop more and more efficient methods and machines to kill and extract the remaining fish. As abundance disappears, and the cost of extraction continues to increase, the primary response has been to find more efficient methods of extraction and to open up previously protected areas for extraction.
Under the rules of the neoliberal market system, resources are provided to those who have the ability to pay for them.
This is the kind of human behavior that an unregulated or weakly regulated market system rewards.
In everyday life, we use the word energy more generally to indicate vitality, vigor, or power.
Here, we focus on another definition of energy: a source of usable power. Conclusion Alternative Fuels There are many sources of usable power on our planet, including natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear energy, manure, biomass, solar power, wind energy, tidal energy, and hydropower.
As a general pattern, Georgescu-Roegen and others have pointed out that resources are exploited sequentially, in order of concentration, the easy sources first.
After the easy sources of fossil fuels are exhausted, moderately difficult sources are exploited. Each more difficult source requires the input of more energy (input) in order to extract the sought-after energy resource (output).