One of the most essential laws of physics is the conservation of energy. According to this law, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can be transformed from one form to another (Long, 1989). Einstein, in his theory of relativity, illustrated how mass and energy relate. Scientists have established that energy can exist as kinetic, potential, chemical, heat or electromagnetic energy. Naturally, the sun converts mass to light and heat energy. Through the combustion of fuels, chemical energy can be converted into heat and light energies. Furthermore, alkaline cells convert chemical energy to electrical energy and light energy respectively. In a hydroelectric facility, water is used to convert kinetic energy into electrical energy.
Fossil fuels form through the anaerobic decomposition of buried organisms. Examples of fossil fuels include oil, coal, and natural gas. Throughout history, fossil fuels have been the main source of fuel as they generate huge amounts of energy per unit weight (Knelman, 1975). Despite their importance, fossils fuels significantly contribute to environmental degradation. When burned, these fuels produce excess carbon dioxide, which causes the ozone layer depletion. The depletion of fossils fuels is non-reversible since they are non-renewable.
With the advancement in technology, man has been able to harness sun light and heat rays to realize energy. Depending on the harnessing and distribution of the solar energy, solar technologies can be categorized as passive or active solar. Scientists have noted that the proper utilization of this form of energy can help resolve the current energy crisis (Tester, 2005). Solar energy has several advantages over other forms of energy. It is clean, renewable, and affordable. The adoption of this form of energy will considerably enhance energy security. Moreover, it will facilitate the reduction of pollution leading to a better environment. However, this form of energy has several setbacks. First, its high installation cost limits its adoption especially for domestic use. In addition, its operation is significantly dependent on the weather conditions, which may vary.
By the use of windmills and wind pumps, man has been able to realize the mechanical conversion of wind energy. Similarly, wind turbines convert wind energy into electrical energy. Since wind power is renewable, it serves as an alternative source of energy to the fossils fuels. Furthermore, wind energy is a clean form of energy that reduces the levels of greenhouse gases. However, due to its high installation cost, several countries have not adopted this form of energy
despite their potential.
Hydroelectric power is generated through the harnessing of flowing water. This form of energy accounts for 16% of all global energy (Gunkel, 2006). Hydroelectric power is more preferred over the fossil fuels due to its low costs. Since its commercialization in the United States, hydroelectric power has emerged as the most competitive and flexible source of energy because it can be electrically manipulated to meet its demand. However, the construction of hydroelectric facilities adversely affects the local ecosystem. Most of the people and wildlife around the dams are displaced to create space for the construction. Similarly, the reduction of water levels in dams during droughts causes the underutilization of the facilities.
Bio-fuel energy is generated from biological carbon fixation. The European Union is the largest bio-fuel producer in the world. It generates 54% of the global bio-fuel production. This form of energy is clean and renewable. Unlike the fossil fuels, Bio-fuels feedstocks are continuously renewed. However, critics argue that the use of food crops in the production of bio-fuel may lead to food insecurity in the future (Cothran, 2002).
In the United Sates, The federal policy act of 2005 was signed into law to provide manufactures and consumer with tax incentives enabling progressive energy saving technologies. Another energy provision brought about by the law was the minimum energy efficacy standards on 16 products. Through these provisions, the tax incentives provided $2 billion for all advanced energy saving technologies between the year 2006 and 2009.