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Powering Planet Earth: Energy Solutions for the Future

ISBN: 978-3-527-33409-4
254 pages
April 2013
Powering Planet Earth: Energy Solutions for the Future (3527334092) cover image
In their book Nicola Armaroli, Vincenzo Balzani and Nick Serpone uncover the background details associated with a transition to sustainable energy production that are routinely swept under the table in public discussions. They are not only concerned with the (alleged) advantages
and disadvantages of any one energy generation technology from a technical viewpoint, but also with the ecological, economic, political and social consequences of an inevitable transition. In a highly readable manner aimed at an international audience, the authors introduce the often misused and sometimes abused term 'energy' and give a lucid account of the development of energy production from timber to nuclear energy and renewable energies. They compare various energy generation methods with respect to their efficiency and practicability for large-scale implementation and examine if, and how, these methods live up to the expectations and promises their proponents make. In addition, the authors juxtapose the political and economic prerequisites in different regions of the world that advance, or hinder, an energy turnaround. They round off their book by debunking the seventeen most popular myths often cited in discussions on energy issues. As a result, the authors provide ammunition for debate, underpin (and unsettle) opinions using facts, and challenge comfortable and popular chains of reasoning.
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Preface XIII

Introduction 1

1 What Is Energy? 5

Energy and Related Terms 6

From One Energy Form to Another 7

Sources of Energy 8

The Pillars of the Universe 9

Particles in Motion 9

Heat (Warmth) – an Exchangeable Energy 10

You Can’t Run Away from Them – the Principles of Thermodynamics 10

Einstein’s Equation: E = mc2 13

From Kilowatt-hour to the Barrel of Oil 14

From a Chemical Bond to a Tsunami 15

2 Yesterday and Today 17

The Energy Slaves 17

From Coal to Coal? 19

Hidden Energy 21

From Faraday to Blackouts 22

From Muscle Work to Jet Aircraft 22

Petroleum to Food 24

From Fire to Air Conditioning 25

From Horseback Messengers to E-mails 26

From Gunpowder to the Atomic Bomb 27

Emerging Issues 29

3 How Much Energy Goes to Waste? 31

The Largest Explosion of All Time 31

Obese and Miserable 32

Fruits Out of Season 33

From Whale Oil to Pollution by Light 33

At Full Throttle 35

A Desperate Case – the Transportation System 36

Let’s Get a Move on 38

4 Energy in the Spaceship’s Hold 41

Crude Oil 41

Peaking of Oil Production? 43

Natural Gas 44

Coal and CO2 Rise 45

The Most Traded Commodities 45

The Hidden Treasure 48

Energy Also Travels 50

Costly Energy Invoices 51

Alliances, Tensions, Wars 52

5 Collateral Damage 55

The Planet Overheats 56

Agreements and Disagreements 57

Jailing the Offender? 59

A Subtle Danger 59

Rain Is No Longer What It Used to be 61

Financial Compensation 62

Minimize! Save the Planet 63

6 Energy from the Atom 65

Splitting the Atom 66

Nuclear Accidents 68

An Inconvenient Legacy 71

Where Do We Store Nuclear Wastes? 71

We’ll Settle the Bill Later 73

Current Nuclear Power Plants 76

Tomorrow’s Nuclear Power Plants (Maybe) 78

The Harsh Reality of the Marketplace 79

Solution or Problem? 80

Nuclear Fusion: if Not Roses . . . Then What? 81

7 Energy from the Sun 83

Conversion and Exploitation of Sunlight 84

From Light to Heat 84

From Light to Electricity 85

Concentrating Sunlight 88

Light to Chemical Energy – Natural Photosynthesis 88

Light to Chemical Energy – the Sunshine Vitamin 89

Biomass and Biofuels: Yes, but . . . ! 92

Artifi cial Photosynthesis 93

The Hydrogen Myth 95

8 Energy from Air, Water, and Land 99

Wind Changes 99

Wind Farms 101

Water – between Past and Future 105

Geothermal Energy 108

Sea Power 111

9 Fukushima and the Future of Nuclear Energy 115

What Happened at Fukushima Daiichi? 115

The Consequences for the Population 117

A Lesson from the Fukushima Disaster 118

What Is Today’s Cost of Nuclear Energy? 120

Should Italy Go Back to Nuclear Energy? 121

The Fate of Nuclear Energy 123

Global Expansion of Nuclear Power? 125

Is It Worthwhile to Get Energy Using Technologies Exposed to Great Risks? 126

10 Energy Italy 127

Stop Navigating Blind 127

Conserve Energy! Where? How? 128

Italy – a Country with an Abundance of Sunlight 129

Wind, Geothermal Energy, Biomass 131

Conservation and Renewables – a Summary 132

11 Energy Canada 133

Primary Energy Resources 133

Oil Sands or Tar Sands? 136

Oil Sands and Their Environmental Impact 138

Water Usage 139

Natural Gas Usage 139

Greenhouse Gases 139

Coal in Canada 141

Natural Gas 142

Nuclear Energy and Electricity 143

Electricity 146

Renewable Energy – Wind Power 148

Renewable Energy – Solar Power 150

Renewable Energy – Biomass Energy 150

Renewable Energy – Geothermal Energy 151

Renewable Energy – Sea Power 151

Canada and Energy – Doing More 151

12 Energy USA 153

Primary Energy Resources 153

Coal – Supply and Demand 156

Natural Gas – Supply and Demand 159

Nuclear Power 161

Historical Notes 161

Present Situation 162

Nuclear Renaissance 164

Water Usage in Nuclear Reactors 165

Plant Decommissioning 165

Renewable Energy 166

Renewable Energy – Wind Power 167

Renewable Energy – Solar Thermal Power 170

Renewable Energy – Solar Photovoltaic 173

Renewable Energy – Geothermal Energy 174

Renewable Energy – Biomass 176

Renewable Energy – Biofuels 179

13 Energy UK 181

Primary Energy Resources 181

Fossil Fuels 183

Fossil Fuels – Coal 184

Fossil Fuels – Natural Gas 184

Nuclear Power 185

Nuclear Waste Management and Disposal 188

Windscale Fire and Decommissioning 188

Renewable Energy 190

Renewable Energy – Wind Power 191

Some Historical Notes 191

Renewable Energy – Solar Power 194

Renewable Energy – Geothermal Energy 196

Renewable Energy – Wave and Tidal Power 197

Renewable Energy – Biofuels 198

Electricity in the United Kingdom 198

14 Global Trends 201

A Shot at the Wrong Target 202

Sustainability of the Photovoltaic Option 204

Will Renewable Energy Sources Suffi ce? 205

But There Is Always a Limit 206

15 Scenarios for the Future 209

(Un)Sustainable Development 209

America’s Big Footprint 210

The More We Consume, the More We’re Happy? 211

That’s Enough! 212

Strategies 213

At the Crossroads 214

Transition to Renewable Energy Resources 215

The Scientist’s and the Politician’s Responsibility 216

Challenges and Opportunities 216

Appendices 219

Appendix A: 17 Myths to be Dispelled 221

Appendix B: Maybe You Didn’t Know That . . . 225

Consumption 225

Transportation 226

Nuclear Energy 226

Renewable Energy Sources 227

Wastes and Pollution 227

Disparity 228

Appendix C 229

Appendix D: Bibliography 231

Useful Websites 232

General Energy Databases 232

Data on Resources, Pollution and the State of the Planet 233

Renewable Energies 233

Nuclear Energy 234

Efficiency and Energy Education 234

Climate Changes 234

For Children and Teachers 234

Index 235

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Nicola Armaroli is Research Director in the Italian National Research Council (CNR) at the University of Bologna, Italy. He obtained in PhD in chemical sciences in 1994 and was post-doc at the Center for Photochemical Sciences at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA. His current research is concerned with the photochemistry and photophysics of coordination compounds, carbon nanostructures and supramolecular materials, with focus on luminescence and photoinduced energy- and electron-transfer. This work is of interest both in fundamental science and technological applications, such as solar energy conversion and lighting devices.

Vincenzo Balzani is Professor Emeritus at the University of Bologna where has been doing research and teaching in chemistry since 1973. He was visiting Professor in Canada, Israel, France and Belgium, headed various scientific committees and institutes and has held over 300 lectures worldwide. Alongside his membership of several editorial boards, Vincenzo Balzani has six books and more than 500 papers to his name. His research interests include photochemistry, photophysics, supramolecular chemistry, electron transfer reactions, molecular-level devices and machines, molecular nanotechnology, and photochemical solar energy conversion.

Nick Serpone is Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor at the University of Pavia, Italy. As a senior academic and research scientist in organic and photochemistry, program manager and industry consultant with extensive North American and international experience, he has an intimate knowledge of the working relationships between academia, industry and government agencies in various countries. Nick Serpone is a prolific editor and contributor to numerous books and journals, with over 360 papers published in a variety of prestigious journals. Nick Serpone is a frequent Keynote Address Speaker and Invited Plenary Lecturer.
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"The book can be read by generalists who want to expand their knowledge of energy and by those concerned with energy policy and energy advocates who want to deal with a leading challenge to the continued existence of the world as it exists today."  (Energy Technology, 14 February 2014)

“As a result, the authors provide ammunition for debate, underpin (and unsettle) opinions using facts, and challenge comfortable and popular chains of reasoning.”  (ETDE Energy Database, 1 December 2013)

“A valuable resource for both serious students of the field and general readers.  Summing Up: Highly recommended.  All students, researchers/faculty, professionals/practitioners, and general audiences.  (Choice, 1 November 2013)

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