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Renewable and Alternative Energy

Understanding the differences and the similarities between renewable and alternative energy is important in any conversation about the future of energy in the United States these days. Most people know that one of the main issues regarding energy involves the options that are cheaper, more available and safe for the environment. Understanding phrases like "renewable" and alternative" energy makes it possible to actively participate in those discussions.

Understanding Alternative Energy

Any potential energy source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and nuclear energy, which make up about 80 percent of the energy use in the country, qualifies as an alternative energy. In the 1960s and 1970s, nuclear energy would have been included in the discussion of alternative energy sources. However, with more than 100 nuclear energy plants located throughout the country, as of 2010, it's clear that nuclear energy is no longer an alternative to the status quo. It's also important to note that alternative energy sources may be clean, and they may be renewable, but that is not a requirement.

Understanding Renewable Energy

Renewable energy refers to specific types of alternative energy choices. The focus on renewable energy by many people concerned about the energy future in the United States has to do with cost and practicality. Fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are not available in indefinite supply. That is one of the issues of concern for the future of energy use in the country. In an effort to locate more sources of fossil fuels, companies are traveling further and paying more to locate pockets of fuel. That, of course leads to higher prices for consumers. Renewable energy refers to any energy that can be produced from naturally occurring resources that are always available. This includes wind, sunlight, hydrogen, geothermal heat and tides.

Usage of Renewable and Alternative Energy

While there is an increased focus on research and production related to alternative energy sources, specifically including renewable energy, the United States remained dependent on fossil fuels in 2010. According to statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, fossil fuels accounted for about 78 percent of all energy used in the country in 2010. Nuclear energy provided about 11 percent of the country's energy needs, while the various forms of alternative energy sources combined to also provide 11 percent of the energy needs in the U.S. Interestingly, according to the statistics, the use of all types of renewable energy increased from 2009 to 2010, while the amount of nuclear energy used in the country fell by nearly 1 percent.

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