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In this module, the following topics are covered: 1) the considerations needed to make a move to a sustainable energy economy, 2) the path to get to a sustainable energy economy, 3) sustainable energy policies and climate action planning.

Learning objectives

After reading this module, students should be able to

  • understand the considerations needed to make a move to a sustainable energy economy
  • describe a path to get to a sustainable energy economy
  • connect sustainable energy policies to climate action planning


Traditionally, the United States has relied on fossil fuels with minimal use of alternatives to provide power. The resources appeared to be unlimited and they were found within our borders. As our population has grown and our reliance on power increased, our resources are decreasing. As discussed in Module Environmental Challenges in Energy, Carbon Dioxide, Air and Water , this is particularly true of petroleum oil, which primarily powers transportation. Our electrical grid and transportation infrastructure of roads and highways support these fossil fuel dependent technologies. Fossil fuels store energy well, are available upon demand (not weather dependent), and are inexpensive. However, as we saw in Module Environmental Challenges in Energy, Carbon Dioxide, Air and Water there are many environmental, social, and even economic impacts of using these nonrenewable fuel sources that are not accounted for in the traditional methods of cost accounting. Further, the oil industry has been provided with many subsidies or tax incentives not available to other energy industries.

How do we move to a more sustainable energy economy? We need to pay more attention to the environment, humans, biodiversity, and respecting our ecosystems. It means finding ways to share our resources equitably both now and in the future so all people can have an equal opportunity to derive benefits from electricity, motorized transportation systems, industry, and conditioned indoor environments. At the same time, we must preserve human health and protect the natural world.

Energy use is one big piece of the sustainability puzzle, but it is not the only one. Changing the way we use energy is not easy because of infrastructure, the vision of the American Dream (own a house with a big yard, a big car, independence), changing government policy, lack of economic incentives, etc. Goals need to be set, plans made, and policy set to change the way we use energy. This chapter will discuss some of the commonly held views of where we can start and how we can change.

Climate action planning as a model

Since one of the major sustainability issues is that of climate change and the major cause of climate change is energy use, climate action planning is a valuable framework for examining sustainable energy practices. Greenhouse gas emissions result primarily from our building and transportation energy uses, and they are a measure of the amount of fossil fuels used to provide that energy. They do not directly represent other environmental emissions, although they mostly parallel other air pollutants. Greenhouse gas emissions do not express other ecosystem effects such as land use and water, but this planning allows for economical solutions. A climate action plan provides a roadmap for achieving greenhouse gas reduction targets within a specific timeline and uses a number of strategies.

Questions & Answers

anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Practice Key Terms 9

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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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