Introduction – Energy is Life
Energy is at the heart of life. Every organism needs energy to live. We also create machines that do work for us, and every machine needs energy from fuels to run. Energy is the heart of our quality of life.
Energy gets us to school, allows us to go away on vacation, and runs our computers. Energy lets us text our friends, listen to our favorite music, and to stay warm in winter and cool in summer. Energy is the capacity to do these things, in other words, to do work.
Energy runs our machines and devices by changing from one form of energy to another, which is just another way to view work. Thus your music player converts chemical energy in the battery into electricity and then into sound – which means your music player does work. When your eardrums vibrate from the music, and your brain processes these vibrations into the music you hear, work is also done.
Our bodies are even tuned to detect energy. We feel heat and cold, see light, hear sound, sense the pull of gravity, and the shock of electricity. We can also smell food, the source of our body’s energy. Being able to detect energy helps us to know our environment, seek out the energy we need to live, and to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of some energy.
Energy is a valuable resource, and must be used wisely. As the world’s population grows and the developing world becomes increasingly industrialized, more and more people want access to energy to improve the quality of their lives. As an economy becomes more developed, a larger variety of energy sources are tapped, and the energy consumed per person increases. It's not a coincidence that civilization - science, education, and the arts - has advanced as energy usage has increased. Harnessing energy and putting it to work frees people from the time-consuming labor of making food, clothing, and shelter. Future generations will want access to energy to enjoy life the way we do.
To make the wisest use of energy, and to make the best energy choices, we need to understand energy. We need to know what energy is, where it comes from, how it gets harnessed and sent to our homes, and how to evaluate energy use and energy choices. The goal of this primer is to provide this information, and along the way, we will learn about how energy works, and the rules that govern its use and behavior.
© American Petroleum Institute.