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The focus of energy supply will be on fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), that is, the energy that can be generated as a result of usage of fossil fuels. Other energy forms or generations such as renewables, hydro or nuclear, will not be highlighted in detail. This is because nonfossil fuels (such as hydro) tend to be largely nontransportable in their original form and must first be converted into electricity or other energy types for usage. Also, fossil fuels are imported or produced domestically, rather than “downstream,” where carbon actually enters the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned.
Over millions of years, the organic matter was turned into hydrocarbons that are now known as fossil fuels. Fossil fuels were formed through photosynthesis of plants by converting solar energy into chemical energy, which they store in bonds. Other organisms eat these organic compounds (also known as autotrophs) and either immediately expend the acquired energy (as heat) or store the energy in bonds as increased biomass. Millions of years ago, these ancient organisms died and sank to the bottom of lakes and lagoons, thereby densely piling layer upon layer of organic detritus. Silt and debris covered the organic matter, putting the organic matter under conditions of high pressure. In absence of oxygen (as organic matters trapped in silt), anaerobic bacteria further broke down the organic matter in a series of chemical reactions. Subsequently, over the years, these turned into hydrocarbons that we know as fossil fuels.
In this chapter, while the energy content of fossil fuels as well as their supply and usage will be discussed, reference will be made to comparative electrical energy generation to illustrate the complexity of energy supply.