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Fossil Fuels - These constitute the main forms of energy used worldwide. They are formed over a period of millions of years by the decomposition of animals and plants. As such they are not renewable as it would take too long to for them to form again. They generally consist of carbon, sulphur and hydrogen and therefore upon combustion form carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and water vapour (h2o). Whilst the latter is relatively harmless the previous two are responsible for global warming and acid rain.
Oil - Maybe one the most controversial issues that dominates the news almost continuously. It has far ranging effects and can easily disrupt the global economy. Although it a non renewable resource there will most likely be enough to supply our expected energy needs for most of this centaury, weather the environment will be able to survive the burning of the oil is another question.
Coal - This is the most common fossil fuel that is used. It is also the one that has been depleted the most. Coal is relatively cheap to mine and burn but is very harmful for the atmosphere and was responsible for the black smogs that enshrouded London in the 60s.
Gas- This is the cleanest burning fossil that is now increasingly being used as a source of electricity. However like all other carbon based fuels it does still pollute .
HEP - Hydroelectric power uses the force of water energy to power turbines. It works by damming up a river effectively killing the river. The water that also comes out from the HEP plant is also hotter than the surrounding river temperature and therefore kills much of the river life.Biomass - This biological production method of energy capture works by harvesting the methane that organisms give of when decomposing natural waste. This is perhaps the cleanest method of manufacturing energy but is still to be widely used.
Geothermal - This is a fairly recent form of technology that taps into the earths crust and uses the heat found there to boil water that provide steam that will drive turbines that will produce electricity.
Wave - A recently developed technology that harnesses the power of the tide to produce energy. A lot of experimental work has been taking place namely in Scotland but as yet has not gained prominence.
Wind- Wind energy is another resource that is recently coming more into focus. It is a non polluting and fairly inexpensive way of producing energy. Its drawbacks are that it requires vast open spaces on which turbine farms can be laid (although recently they have been put in the sea). Wind turbines are also fairly inefficient and very noisy, the latter factor making them unpopular with those living near a turbine farm.
Solar energy - this consists of converting sunlight directly into electricity by the use of solar panels (photovoltics). Although the obvious advantages of this method is that it is free, inexhaustible and non polluting solar panels are extremely expensive to manufacture and install and will only work effectively in areas that receive a high proportion of sunlight.
Wood - this is the oldest form of energy having been used as a source of heat for ancient man. Although still fairly common has been declining as a major source of fuel as it is less efficient than fossil fuels
Nuclear - Out of all the renewable energy sources this is probably the most effective. It uses Uranium to form energy and herein lies the main problem as accidents can be disastrous most notably Chernobyl. Nuclear enery works by seperating an atom (fision) and harnessing the energy relaesed by the reaction.