Getting straight on what words mean is very important to being able to make the distinctions for good decisions. So the question “Is It Energy or Fuel” is a fundamental concept for our futures.

The media, particularly the popular media, politicians, as most all of the rest of us interchange energy and fuel without giving much thought to it. But times are changing and if you want to be safe and secure in your thoughts about where your budget for energy and fuel and investments in energy and fuel are going, being able to make the distinctions is going to be key.

Here’s why. Energy can be changed, say into a fuel, but it can never be created or destroyed. Even when the energy of matter is extracted in a nuclear process, the energy was always there in those heavy chucks of metal. The reactor releases the energy, converts it primarily into heat which is usually moved by water in the form of steam to propel a turbine that runs a generator that sends electricity to your home and workplace where it does its work, runs to ground and winds its way back to the generator at the power plant. 100% of the energy of the nuclear fuel is somewhere along the way. But energy escaped though transitional inefficiencies or getting converted into some of the energy types explored here.

Energy is expressed by nature in primarily these ways.

Kinetic, which is the value expressed by the motion of an object, it can be sensed when something hits you.

Thermal energy is the energy of an object that is a different temperature than some standard, which can get a little confusing with radiant energy. Radiant energy is the movement of thermal energy from one object to another. The thermal energy in a hot rock can be felt with the movement by radiant energy from the rock to your hand. When the rock is cooled to the temperature of your hand, cooling your hand in ice and holding the rock again radiates more of the rock’s thermal energy to you.

Electrical energy (also known as magnetic energy) is the expression of the available power of moving electrons. We see it in an electric heater as the moving electrons are resisted by the element. Those electron collisions then get converted into thermal energy in the element that escapes from the element by radiant energy of invisible and visibly glowing infrared light that warms the air and your skin.

Potential energy comes in several forms. There is the elastic potential in a spring when it’s tensioned or a stretched rubber band. Chemicals such as fuel and explosives hold energy for release during reactions. Gravity is exerting its power on everything everywhere like anything that could fall. Batteries and capacitors store electrical energy. And every atom that makes up everything has potential energy stored within.

The problems challenges and opportunities lie in the transitions between energies and conversions to fuel on the front end and the ability to use the energy released on the back end. Not the nuclear reactor, nor the solar collector, engine, furnace, electrical or electronic device, nor any of the transitions at the first energy unit received and put through the transitions and conversions to get the work done at the end is 100% efficient. A pretty good electric solar panel that’s 15% efficient at transitioning solar radiation into electricity that drives an electrolysis unit making hydrogen fuel that’s 70% efficient for a 90% efficient furnace would get you 9.45% efficiency. The problem challenge and opportunity zones are more obvious now.

At the front end new energy can be found by new or more efficient devices or systems that collect energy and put it directly into use or conversion into fuel or another potential energy. New fuels can become available from research and development in biology and chemistry. As a consumer I’m looking for energy and fuels that support or improve my standard of living. As an investor I want to be selling energy systems and fuels that do that, too.

Knowing the difference and the dynamics of the relationships between energy and fuel helps determine how to use your money. Ideas, products, maintenance issues, and capital costs can be much better assessed if you classify the matter into “is it energy or fuel.”


8 Comments so far

  1. Sir, How Would You Like Your Energy? on December 27, 2007 7:27 AM

    […] when we buy a product.  At the beginning of this blog site, we covered the fundamental question, “Is it Energy or Fuel?”  That question’s answer gets us on solid footing to think, but the analysis of the choices has […]

  2. mia on May 6, 2008 12:31 PM

    […] So, what’s fuel?

  3. Sonya on February 21, 2009 12:15 PM

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

  4. selena on December 10, 2009 11:58 AM

    please tell me a bit more because i am young and don’t get this stuff so will u please help me?

  5. selena on December 10, 2009 11:59 AM

    mr. or ms. thank u 4 ur information but i still need more information

  6. selena on December 10, 2009 12:01 PM

    how is energy different from sources u know energy forms and energy sources like wind vs. chemical
    how r they different from each other i understand how they are similar but can’t understand how they are different

  7. Tera Qian on January 28, 2011 2:48 PM

    I truly like the fresh perspective you did on the problem. Really was not expecting that when I started off studying. Your concepts have been simple to understand and that I wondered why I never looked at it before. Glad to know that there’s an individual out there that certainly understands what he’s discussing. Fantastic job

  8. Vipin on May 29, 2011 10:37 AM

    Will u please tell me what is the difference between sources of energy and fuel. I have been looking for answer for a long time i am unable to find it. I will be very thankful to u if u helped me

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