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Alternative Energy Sources – Hybrid Cars, Solar, Wind and Geothermal

Greenhouse gasses, mainly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, are the primary cause of global warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC). Mixed with water vapors, these trapped gasses trigger a “greenhouse effect” in which heat from the earth is prevented from dissipating into space and then reflected back, raising the temperature further. Carbon dioxide, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the total greenhouse gas, is emitted from burning non-renewable fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal. Alternative energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal emit far less carbon dioxide and do not contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Alternative energy sources are both renewable and eco friendly, unlike finite sources of fossil fuels which emit dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. In the early 2000s, automakers introduced hybrid vehicles that run on a combination of gas and battery-generated electricity. While not eliminating the need for petroleum-based fuel, hybrid vehicles are significantly more energy efficient and represent a positive step forward. By the end of 2009 nearly 35 million cars, roughly 5 percent of all cars in the world, were powered by advanced technology. Development continues on cars that are fully electric or run on alternative fuel cells, including energy from compressed air.


Solar power generates electricity from sunlight either directly through photovoltaic (PV) cells or indirectly through concentrated solar power (CSP) in which the sun’s energy creates steam which then produces electricity. PV cells have been used for decades to power calculators and outdoor lights. Solar is one of the most popular alternative energy sources because of its potential to generate a thousand times the amount of energy the world consumed in 2008. Current annual solar energy use is well below one-tenth of one percent, but doubles in use every three years meaning it could become the primary world energy source by 2100.

In addition to solar, two other alternative energy sources are being studied intensively for their potential to replace the need for carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels: wind and geothermal. Just like windmills of old, giant wind turbines produce electricity and mechanical power. By late 2009, wind-powered generators produced enough electricity to sustain two percent of the world’s use and capacity doubles every three years. Geothermal (heat from the earth) energy, responsible for geysers and hot springs, is now being harnessed to produce electricity. Current capacity is just three-tenths of one percent of the world’s consumption and growing by three percent every year.

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