Modern society cannot exist without the production and utilization of energy. And as long as fuels continue to be used, there will necessarily be undesirable side effects. This chapter discusses the steps in the production and utilization of energy and the associated effects of energy consumption, which also involves thermal pollution, on the world. Most of the energy that is generated throughout the world at the present time is derived from the burning of fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, and petroleum products. Because combustible fuels are used at an ever-increasing rate and because combustion involves the absorption of oxygen and the production of carbon dioxide, the human race is in danger of depleting the world's supply of oxygen and upsetting the oxygen–carbon dioxide balance that is necessary for plant and animal life. The production of carbon dioxide is a necessary consequence of every combustion process. Therefore, even if all of the sulfur is eliminated from hydrocarbon fossil fuels and if the combustion of these fuels can be made perfect, it will still release huge quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide molecules strongly absorb radiant energy of the type emitted from the surface of the earth. By re-radiating this energy at the lower temperature of the upper atmosphere, carbon dioxide reduces the heat energy lost by the earth to space. Because of this fact, it has been argued that the continued burning of fossil fuels will result in a steady increase in the earth's surface temperature.

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