speaking, energy related carbon dioxide emissions should also include
transport, but to simplify things this section will be concerned
only with so called 'Stationary Sources', such as power stations.
The amounts of carbon dioxide emitted as a result of the generation
of a given unit of electricity varies greatly depending on the fuel
used and the level of efficiency at which the power plant operates.
Generally speaking, coal fuelled power generation is the worst
culprit for carbon dioxide emissions, with the emission of up to
1kg of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt hour (kWh) that they provide.
Oil and gas fuelled energy generation tends to have a lower carbon
dioxide emission cost, and this follows through in domestic use
of these fuels for heating, lighting and cooking purposes. Of the
carbon dioxide emissions arising from fossil fuel burning, 5 billion
tonnes of carbon each year, nearly one half is a result of energy
generation, either by electric utilities or for domestic heating
and the like.
Even those energy generation strategies without apparent use of
fossil fuels generally have some associated carbon dioxide emissions.
Nuclear power, for instance, relies on large amounts of electricity
for fuel processing and so indirectly results in carbon dioxide
emissions. Even construction of powerstations, wind turbines, and
other energy generators carries with it a cost in carbon dioxide
emissions and this cost must be included if the full greenhouse
gas benefits of any one type of energy generation are to be accurately
Man's generation of energy, for heating, cooking, light and so
on, has grown at an astonishing rate during our recent history.
With the advent of usable electricity supplies the demand around
the world for cheap, reliable energy has sky rocketed. Today, as
in the past, there are huge geographic disparities in energy consumption.
Individuals in developed countries, such as the US, use vastly more
electricity per person than developing countries.
Potential for control
The efficiency of energy generation has increased greatly and continues
to do so. This, though, has been outstripped by demand and energy
related emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise. In the longer
term an acceptance that levels of energy consumption in some countries
are unsustainable must be made. In the shorter term, integration
of low carbon emission energy generation technology in to global
energy generation may provide significant reductions in emissions
while allowing lifestyles in developed countries to remain relatively