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[Energy] [Column] 1.Return back to the period of recycling_Cho Sang-Min

by | 02-03-2012 13:56 Comments 16 recommendations 0

Return back to the period of recycling


Cho Sang-Min, a researcher of Korea Energy Economics Institute


The human race gaining energy on their own - Tree

Why did the human race become the most powerful existence on earth even though we lack in physical capability compare to other animals?  Anthropologists consider superior intelligence, the use of language and tools, and walking upright as the main reasons. But there is one more reason that cannot be left out and that is people's capability of using energy freely. Energy exists everywhere on earth. Solar radiation that lights and covers earth, heat inside the earth, and lunar gravity that revolves around the earth are the cases. This energy is infinite as long as the solar system is in existence and not just the human race, but every living organism on earth can and will obtain this energy naturally without trying.

However, this was not enough for human race. Unlike other animals who used only the energy that was given to them, the human race started to secure energy of their desired shape and amount wherever they wanted by using their own effort. Tree was the example of this exercise. People used trees to start fires and used fire for cooking, heating, lighting, and self-protection purposes. Human race started to live longer through the use of fire, was able to do things at night, and expanded their territory to cold regions. The use of trees to start fire was indeed a foundation of an advancement of human kind. Over the following decades, trees were used as an important energy source (material of energy).


The beginning of mass production – coal and petroleum

However, the production of energy using trees faced limitation as population increased and more production of goods was in need. Because after using trees, we need years and even decades to return their condition back to the available state and can't obtain the high heat from trees as we want. Another weakness is that the trees have big volume and easy to get wet. This was why human race started to search for different energy source in place of trees and chose coal as an alternative. But coal was not an energy source that was in the spotlight from the beginning. Coal was not as popular as trees because of strong smell and gas and made marks on clothes. This was why people who owned forest and farmland used trees when coal was used for energy, and some people mainly used coal. But since industrial revolution of 18th century, coal that was possible for mass production, free from depletion, and generated twice as much heat as trees started to be used as the major energy source for humans.

Compared to hundreds of thousands of years of history of trees, the history of coal is too short, because oil made an appearance not long after. The Stone Age is estimated to be when oil first started to be used. However, oil started to be used in earnest in 1859 when Edwin Drake discovered oil well in Pennsylvania, US. Oil has a lot more strong characteristics than coal. Unlike solid coal, liquid state oil is easy to store and use, convenient to use for lighting and heating purposes, and appropriate to be used on cars, planes, and means of transport. It was also used as various petrochemical materials, such as medical supplies, household items, building materials. This was why oil gradually replaced coal. Then, as demand for fuel multiplied since two world wars in 20th century, a full-scale age of petroleum arrived.

However, oil is an energy source with few distinct weak properties. First, it is not an infinite energy source. Many specialists are making a forecast that oil will reach its peak within few decades and gradually become exhausted. Many specialists say that the period of oil depletion has slowed down due to the development of oil drilling technology, but most of them agree on how oil will deplete in near future. Also, oil is only buried in specific regions, such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Since oil reserves are concentrated on specific regions, there is perpetual dispute between nations and corporations to secure oil.

 Lastly, petroleum induces considerate amount of environmental pollution. Petroleum is a carbon, sulfur, hydrogen, and nitrogen containing compound. The problem is pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxide, and methane are produced when these substances burn and combine with oxygen. Such pollutants are becoming the cause of not just air, soil, and water pollution, but of global warming as well.     


 [Illustration1] oil prospecting ship

oil prospecting ship


Source : homepage of Oil Corporation


Find alternative energy – nuclear energy and renewable energy

Human race began to search for alternatives after recognizing problems of fossil energy, such as coal or petroleum. The start of 2 sessions of oil crisis, and the movement is becoming more active due to the increasing concerns about environmental pollution and global warming. As the world went through oil crisis, various countries of the world accelerated alternative development to reduce dependence level on petroleum. The most representative energy was nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is almost infinite source of energy and has been considered as a powerful fossil fuel because it does not emit carbon dioxide that is considered to be a major cause of various contaminants, especially global warming. However, as evident in Chenobyl nuclear accident in former Soviet Union and recent Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, the damage is tremendous and difficult to dispose wastes.


 [Illustration2] Nuclear Reactor

Nucler Reactor

Source: publicity booklet of Atomic Research Establishment, 2011


Consequently, the human race started to search for energy source that will not run out and has less degree of risk thus this is how renewable energy started to receive attention. Renewable energy is a source of energy that we obtain from heat of the earth, flow of atmosphere, river, and ocean, and trees and grasses. The reason for it being called Renewable Energy is because it is produced in natural world on its own. The difference between renewable energy that the human race started to use today from the one in the past is how its? shape is transformed in convenient way by grafting various advanced technologies (electricity, electron, machinery, chemistry, etc). For example, sunlight was used during the day as lighting in the past, but electricity is produced from sunlight by solar cell, called electronic device. The use of the flow of river was to move ships, but today, it is used to produce electricity by spinning waterwheel by building dams and waterfalls. Also, electricity produced in such way is used for lighting and heating and also to move various types of electronic equipments.


[Illustration ] Production of electricity by using solar cells

[Illustration ] Production of electricity by using windmill

Production of electricity by using solar cells

Source : S-Energy homepage

Production of electricity by using windmill

Source : article from Environment Daily


The age of renewable energy

    The world is welcoming the era of renewable energy. Human race is trying to move the world by using clean and safe energy called renewable energy. But as mentioned earlier, nations of the world are competing fiercely against each other to develop more effective and cheaper technologies because renewable energy requires latest technology. Korea is making strenuous effort to keep from being left behind in such competition and such effort will become more intense in the future. Then, what kind of responsibility can you be in charge of? Please give careful consideration from now on. You are the heroes and heroines of the Renewable Energy Period.    







  • Amy Lim says :
    thanks for the information
    Posted 26-06-2018 12:37

  • says :
    seems good.
    Posted 11-01-2015 23:00

  • says :
    Posted 25-11-2014 18:56

  • says :
    liked the article
    Posted 31-12-2013 01:04

  • says :
    nice report
    Posted 22-12-2013 22:32

  • says :
    thanks for the info
    Posted 20-12-2013 01:42

  • says :
    nice, thank for the information
    Posted 16-12-2013 20:51

  • says :
    wow! it was fun reading well, thanks for the information
    Posted 11-08-2013 17:52

  • says :
    Recycling is important
    Posted 25-07-2013 22:23

  • says :
    thanks for sharing
    Posted 20-07-2013 22:37

  • says :
    thanks for sharing
    Posted 19-07-2013 12:47

Rohan Kapur

  • Rohan Kapur says :
    Thanks for the Report.
    Posted 22-06-2013 20:57

  • says :
    But the damage will be anyway less & may reduce in future.
    Posted 18-06-2013 22:55

  • says :
    Yes, now we are just at the early stage of renewable energy era. So what we need is time and consistent effort to reduce impact on the environment and increase the efficiency of renewable energy resources.
    Posted 11-03-2013 16:01

  • Jeonghyun Lee says :
    Yep! Some renewable energies still destroy nature in various ways. Thankfully, companies and engineers are developing renewable energy technologies so that they would have even less impact on the environment.
    Posted 23-02-2013 20:49

  • says :
    I am concerned because some renewable energy still destroy the environment. The infrastructure these renewable energy requries is massive.
    Posted 22-02-2013 14:58

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