Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America from the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels

By Jerry McNerney; Martin Cheek | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
How to Become Dependent on Fossil Fuels

Although fossil fuels are found deep underground in many locations on the planet, the energy they contained originally came from a source about 93 million miles (150 million km) away from Earth. That source is a 4.6-billion-year-old star we call the sun. Although it is a fairly ordinary celestial body compared with the 200 billion or so other stars in the Milky Way galaxy, the sun plays a special role for virtually all life forms on our tiny blue world. It gives us the light and heat that’s so vital for sustaining our existence. In fact, the sun is so important to the creation and continued survival of life on our world that many humans in the ancient past, including the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, considered it to be a deity.

To understand how the sun creates energy, let’s take a journey in our imagination across the vacuum of space to our star. In our mind voyage, we approach the bright sphere and are overwhelmed by its vast size. About 1.3 million planet Earths could fit within its volume, and it contains more than 99.9 percent of the mass in our solar system. As we get closer, we can see more details, including the enormous arc of a solar flare leaping from the sun’s illuminated surface. Nearby, we notice a relatively dark patch or two, which we recognize as sunspots. These are regions where intense magnetic fields cause the temperature to be somewhat cooler than the rest of the massive orb’s surface. We pass through one of these spots and continue our imagined travels by voyaging deeper down through thousands of miles of hydrogen

-27-

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