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Energy and CivilizationA History$
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Vaclav Smil

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035774

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035774.001.0001

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Fossil Fuels, Primary Electricity, and Renewables

Fossil Fuels, Primary Electricity, and Renewables

(p.225) 5 Fossil Fuels, Primary Electricity, and Renewables
Energy and Civilization

Vaclav Smil

The MIT Press

This chapter discusses the evolution in uses of fossil fuels, primary electricity, and renewable energy. It first considers the transition from phytomass fuels to fossil fuels and how it resulted in the substantial increase in per capita consumption of energy. It then explores the beginnings and diffusion of coal extraction, the replacement of charcoal by metallurgical coke, and the introduction of steam engines and oil and internal combustion engines. It also looks at technical innovations brought by the transition from phytomass fuels to fossil fuels and from animate to mechanical prime movers, focusing on trends in the production of coal, hydrocarbons, and electricity as well as renewable energy and the use of prime movers in transportation.

Keywords:   fossil fuels, electricity, renewable energy, phytomass, energy consumption, coal extraction, coke, steam engines, technical innovation, prime movers

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