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Sources of Carbon dioxide - Energy

Strictly speaking, energy related carbon dioxide emissions should also include transport, but to simplify things this section will be concerned only with so called 'Stationary Sources', such as power stations. The amounts of carbon dioxide emitted as a result of the generation of a given unit of electricity varies greatly depending on the fuel used and the level of efficiency at which the power plant operates.

Generally speaking, coal fuelled power generation is the worst culprit for carbon dioxide emissions, with the emission of up to 1kg of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt hour (kWh) that they provide.

Oil and gas fuelled energy generation tends to have a lower carbon dioxide emission cost, and this follows through in domestic use of these fuels for heating, lighting and cooking purposes. Of the carbon dioxide emissions arising from fossil fuel burning, 5 billion tonnes of carbon each year, nearly one half is a result of energy generation, either by electric utilities or for domestic heating and the like.

Even those energy generation strategies without apparent use of fossil fuels generally have some associated carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear power, for instance, relies on large amounts of electricity for fuel processing and so indirectly results in carbon dioxide emissions. Even construction of powerstations, wind turbines, and other energy generators carries with it a cost in carbon dioxide emissions and this cost must be included if the full greenhouse gas benefits of any one type of energy generation are to be accurately assessed.

Human Impact

Man's generation of energy, for heating, cooking, light and so on, has grown at an astonishing rate during our recent history. With the advent of usable electricity supplies the demand around the world for cheap, reliable energy has sky rocketed. Today, as in the past, there are huge geographic disparities in energy consumption. Individuals in developed countries, such as the US, use vastly more electricity per person than developing countries.

Potential for control

The efficiency of energy generation has increased greatly and continues to do so. This, though, has been outstripped by demand and energy related emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise. In the longer term an acceptance that levels of energy consumption in some countries are unsustainable must be made. In the shorter term, integration of low carbon emission energy generation technology in to global energy generation may provide significant reductions in emissions while allowing lifestyles in developed countries to remain relatively unchanged.

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