United States currently relies heavily on coal, oil and natural
gas for its energy. Fossil fuels are nonrenewable, that is, they
draw on finite resources that will eventually dwindle, becoming
too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve. In contrast,
renewable energy resourcessuch as wind and solar energyare
constantly replenished and will never run out. Most renewable energy
comes either directly or indirectly from the sun.
Sunlight, or solar energy, can be used
directly for heating and lighting homes and other buildings, for
generating electricity and for hot water heating, solar cooling
and a variety of commercial and industrial uses. The suns
heat drives the winds, whose energy is captured with wind turbines,
which are used to generate electricity.
Sunlight also causes plants to grow, and the organic matter that
makes up those plants is known as biomass. Biomass can be used to
produce electricity, transportation fuels or chemicals. The use
of biomass for any of these purposes is called bioenergy.
But not all renewable energy resources come from the sun. Geothermal
energy taps the earths internal heat for a variety of
uses, including electric power production, and the heating and cooling
Another form of renewable energy comes from the energy created by
flowing water, which can be captured and turned into electricity.
This is called hydropower.
Finally, theres also ocean energyenergy that
comes from a number of sources. One source is tidal energy, including
the energy of the oceans waves, which are driven by both the
tides and the winds. The sun also warms the surface of the ocean
more than the ocean depths, creating a temperature difference that
can be used as an energy source. Both these forms of ocean energy
can be used to produce electricity.
Why Its Important
Renewable energy is important because of the key benefits it provides:
* Environmental benefitsrenewable
energy technologies are clean sources of energy that have a much
lower environmental impact than conventional energy technologies.
for our childrens childrens childrenrenewable
energy will not run out. Ever. Other sources of energy are finite
and will some day be depleted.
* Jobs and the economymost
renewable energy investments are spent on materials and workmanship
to build and maintain the facilities, rather than on costly energy
imports. Renewable energy investments are usually spent within the
United States, frequently in the same state, and often in the same
town. This means a consumers energy dollars stay home to create
jobs and fuel local economies, rather than going overseas. Meanwhile,
renewable energy technologies developed and built in the United
States are being sold overseas, providing a boost to the U.S. trade
* Energy securityafter
the oil supply disruptions of the early 1970s, the U.S. has increased
its dependence on foreign oil supplies instead of decreasing it.
This increased dependence impacts more than just our national energy
Source: National Renewable
Energy Laboratory (www.nrel.gov)
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Wise Energy Strategy