The Definition of Conventional Sources of Energy

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Your defines conventional as "not unusual or extreme; ordinary." This fits well with conventional energy sources in terms of being not unusual; however, the impact on society by these sources has been anything but ordinary and has actually been quite extreme. Conventional energy sources have demonstrated both positive and negative consequences. The negative effects have fueled the proliferation of alternative energy sources in recent years.


  • Traditional energy sources consist primarily of coal, natural gas and oil. They form from decaying plant and animal material over hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Most of these sources are burned to produce energy through power plants and automobiles.


  • Being carbon-based, natural gas, oil and coal store carbon as potential energy and release it when burned. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions are a major culprit in climate change.


  • According to the Energy Information Administration, burning coal produces sulfur, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions. All of these are known to have disastrous environmental and health consequences.


  • Conventional energy sources made the Industrial Revolution possible. This movement started with England's textile industry in the 18th century and made much of what is considered "modern society" possible.


  • Carbon-based energy sources are nonrenewable, meaning they will run out at some point. Most alternative energy sources (wind, geothermal) will theoretically never run out.


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  • Photo Credit the face of coal image by mark humphreys from

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