Energy economics is a broad scientific subject area which includes topics related to supply and use of energy in societies. Due to diversity of issues and methods applied and shared with a number of academic disciplines, energy economics does not present itself as a self-contained academic discipline, but it is an applied subdiscipline of economics. From the list of main topics of economics, some relate strongly to energy economics:
Energy economics also draws heavily on results of energy engineering, geology, political sciences, ecology etc. Recent focus of energy economics includes the following issues:
A low-carbon economy (LCE), low-fossil-fuel economy (LFFE), or decarbonised economy is an economy that has a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the environment biosphere, but specifically refers to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. GHG emissions due to anthropogenic (human) activity are increasingly either causing climate change (global warming) or making climate change worse. Scientists are concerned about the negative impacts of climate change on humanity in the foreseeable future.
Globally implemented LCEs are therefore proposed by those having drawn this conclusion, as a means to avoid catastrophic climate change, and as a precursor to the more advanced, zero-carbon society and renewable energy economy.
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years. Fossil fuels contain high percentages of carbon and include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. They range from volatile materials with low carbon:hydrogen ratios like methane, to liquid petroleum to nonvolatile materials composed of almost pure carbon, like coal. Methane can be found in hydrocarbon fields, alone, associated with oil, or in the form of methane clathrates. The theory that fossil fuels formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth's crust over millions of years (see biogenic theory) was first introduced by Georg Agricola in 1556 and later by Mikhail Lomonosov in the 18th century.
The Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2007 the primary sources of energy consisted of petroleum 36.0%, coal 27.4%, natural gas 23.0%, amounting to an 86.4% share for fossil fuels in primary energy consumption in the world. Non-fossil sources in 2006 included hydroelectric 6.3%, nuclear 8.5%, and others (geothermal, solar, tidal, wind, wood, waste) amounting to 0.9%. World energy consumption was growing about 2.3% per year.
Renewable energy is a socially and politically defined category of energy sources. Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are continually replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.
About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewable resources, with 10% ]discuss[ of all energy from traditional biomass, mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from hydroelectricity. New renewables (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels) accounted for another 3% and are growing rapidly.
A renewable resource is a natural resource which can replenish with the passage of time, either through biological reproduction or other naturally recurring processes. Renewable resources are a part of Earth's natural environment and the largest components of its ecosphere. A positive life cycle assessment is a key indicator of a resource's sustainability. In 1962, Paul Alfred Weiss defined Renewable Resources as: "The total range of living organisms providing man with food, fibers, drugs, etc...".
Renewable resources may be the source of power for renewable energy. However, if the rate at which the renewable resource is consumed exceeds its renewal rate, renewal and sustainability will not be ensured.
A non-renewable resource (also known as a finite resource) is a resource that does not renew itself at a sufficient rate for sustainable economic extraction in meaningful human timeframes. An example is carbon-based, organically-derived fuel. The original organic material, with the aid of heat and pressure, becomes a fuel such as oil or gas. Fossil fuels (such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas), and certain aquifers are all non-renewable resources.
Metal ores are other examples of non-renewable resources. The metals themselves are present in vast amounts in the earth's crust, and are continually concentrated and replenished over millions of years. However their extraction by humans only occurs where they are concentrated by natural processes (such as heat, pressure, organic activity, weathering and other processes) enough to become economically viable to extract. These processes generally take from tens of thousands to millions of years. As such, localized deposits of metal ores near the surface which can be extracted economically by humans are non-renewable in human timeframes, but on a world scale, metal ores as a whole are inexhaustible, because the amount vastly exceeds human demand, on all timeframes. Though they are technically non-renewable, just like with rocks and sand, humans could never deplete the world's supply. In this respect, metal ores are considered vastly greater in supply to fossil fuels because metal ores are formed by crustal scale processes which make up a much larger portion of the earth's near-surface environment than those that form fossil fuels, which are limited to areas where carbon-based life forms flourish, die, and are quickly buried. These fossil fuel-forming environments occurred extensively in the Carboniferous Period.
Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by humanity, in a natural form. A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems.
Natural resources are derived from the environment. Some of them are essential for our survival while most are used for satisfying our wants. Natural resources may be further classified in different ways.