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A Brief History of Energy


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Title: A Brief History of Energy

A Brief History of Energy
Early Days in the Energy Business
  • How has the EnergyHuman relationship changed
    over time?
  • For most of human history, 95 of human energy
    went into subsistence
  • It was virtually impossible to support
    civilization on these early hunting and gathering
    systemsthere was no surplus.
  • You need a surplus to feed all those people who
    are not farmers rulers, soldiers, artisans,
    builders, artists etc.
  • Even in Ancient Egypt, one of the greatest and
    longest-lasting civilizations, there was only
    about 5 of food production available to feed all

Early Times Sources of Energy
Characteristic of early energy
  • It was almost all local
  • It was almost entirely renewable
  • Would sustain a limited population indefinitely.

The Age of Capital Steam
First steam engines used wood a renewable
  • This broke the tyranny of labor and allowed
    each person to produce much, much more
  • This relied on the harnessing and transmission of
    energy based on fossil fuels and the transfer of
    work to the machine
  • Capital starts to replace labor

Later, steam engines changed to non-renewable
coal because of its much higher thermal
The Progression
This picture of Pittsburgh during a smog attack
was taken at Noon!
"Hell with the lid off" Pittsburgh in c.19
  • We have moved from LOCAL sources of energy to
    IMPORTED sources
  • We have moved from RENEWABLE energy to FOSSIL
  • We may be testing our life-support systems
    capacity to cope with the consequences of so much

The Age of Capital Steam
The Progress of Energy 2

The Industrial Revolution
Allowed the massive consumption of
resources, attracted people from the land who had
to be fed, and gave us the capacity to alter the
environment, big time
So, instead of an agricultural revolution, an
industrial revolution, and a transport revolution.
What we have is...
A Continuing ENERGY Revolution
The Scope of the Energy Revolution
  • It greatly increased production (output)
  • It greatly increased productivity
  • It greatly increased distribution in terms of
    speed and volume
  • It allowed the growth of cities so people could
    work in factories
  • It allowed these same people to be fed.

Thermal Efficiency
  • Most energy is now derived from COMBUSTION
  • You burn something to produce heat to produce
    motion, steam, transform elements etc.
  • Our efficiency has been in finding more
    compressed forms of, almost always, fossil energy.

Thermal Compression
One railcar of Uranium is equal to
24,000 railcars of coal
Atomic Energy and Sub-Atomic Energy
How did this affect our lives?
  • It moved us from farms to towns, and from towns
    to suburbs.

Up to around 1840, the farmer in America could
not feed many other people, and could not send
perishable goods very far. This limited the
ability to feed non-farm population. So, problems
of production and distribution kept 90 of us on
the land, and most economies were largely local.
How did this affect our lives?
Then, once steam came, we could produce more per
farmer, and this allowed people to leave the land
for the cities. In the cities factories were
built around huge steam engines that worked
machinespeople had to live near those. The
railroads allowed us to send the food to the
cities rapidly, and reliably. So all these things
came together production, distribution and
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