Economic development and standard of living
are tied to energy use. Until the 1800s, this
energy came from humans and others animals.
Industrialization was made possible by the use
of steam to power machines to sow, harvest,
and process plants. And the steam was generated
by burning wood, then fossil fuels. This ushered
in the internal combustion engine and…the
automobile. Burning fossil fuels generates air
pollutants, and "considering the many productive
uses of petroleum, burning it for fuel is like
burning a Picasso for heat." This statement,
attributed to a big oil executive, is a warning
that we need to rethink our energy sources.
Energy is the ability to do work. While energy
surrounds us in all aspects of life, the ability
to harness it and use it for constructive ends
as economically as possible is the challenge
before mankind. Alternative energy refers to
energy sources that are not based on the burning
of fossil fuels or the splitting of atoms.