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Powering the Future
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In Learn More the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects. Special thanks to the Research Division.

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Did You Know?Did You Know?

Some scientists think the solution to the world's energy problem can be found in space. Space, they say, is the ideal place to gather energy from the sun. With no clouds and no nighttime, a space-based solar power station could operate continuously. Two schemes have been proposed—space solar power (SSP), with giant arrays of solar panels orbiting Earth, and lunar solar power (LSP), with arrays on the moon. Both types of arrays would beam the power back to Earth in the form of powerful microwaves, which would be turned into electricity and transferred to a worldwide grid for consumption.
Scientists advocating these space-based ideas argue that while these technologies will require large amounts of funding in the initial stages, they could provide continuous, clean energy that would be cheaper than other fuels in the long run. Fossil fuels and uranium for nuclear reactors will eventually run out, and familiar renewable sources like wind and terrestrial solar power can't fuel the whole planet. But solar power from space will last as long as the sun shines and is abundant enough to provide everyone on Earth with all the energy they need.
­­­—Marisa J. Larson


Related Links

Alternative Energy Action Network
This network looks at how individuals can help make an environmentally sound, energy-rich future a reality. Billed as "the big picture for energy in our world," the site offers opinions on energy issues of the day, reviews of energy research, and data on all types of energy.
Alternative Energy Action Network: World Energy Use
To understand future energy needs, it's important to know where energy use stands today. This site has numbers for total world energy use and breaks it down by nation, population, types of use (electric, transport, residential), and resource type.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
NREL is the United States Department of Energy's primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The lab develops energy technology and works toward meeting the nation's energy and environmental goals.


Berinstein, Paula. Alternative Energy: Facts, Statistics, and Issues. Oryx Press, 2001.

Brower, Michael. Cool Energy: Renewable Solutions to Environmental Problems. MIT Press, 1992.

Ramage, Janet. Energy: A Guidebook. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Smil, Vaclav. Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties. MIT Press, 2003.

NGS Resources

Mitchell, John G. "Tapping the Rockies." National Geographic (July 2005), 92-113.
Appenzeller, Tim and Dimick, Dennis R. "The Heat Is On." National Geographic (September 2004), 2-11.
Glick, Daniel. "
GeoSigns." National Geographic (September 2004), 12-33.
Montaigne, Fen. "
EcoSigns." National Geographic (September 2004), 34-55.
Morell, Virginia. "
TimeSigns." National Geographic (September 2004), 56-75.
Appenzeller, Tim. "
The End of Cheap Oil." National Geographic (June 2004), 80-109.
Appenzeller, Tim. "
The Case of the Missing Carbon." National Geographic (February 2004), 88-117.
Jerome, Kate Boehm. Using Energy. National Geographic Reading Expeditions, 2003.
Grupper, Jonathan. Destination: Rocky Mountains. National Geographic Books, 2001.
Mitchell, John G. "
In Focus Artic National Wildlife Refuge: Oil Field or Sanctuary?" National Geographic (August 2001), 46-55.
Insatiable Appetites: Rising Global Energy Consumption Fuels the Search for Alternatives. " National Geographic (March 2001).
DeWitt, Lynda. "Going Without Gasoline: Kids Rally in Their Sun-Powered Car." National Geographic World (April 2000), 12-13.
Miller, Peter. "A Comeback for Nuclear Power? Our Electric Future." National Geographic (August 1991), 60-89.
White, Peter T. "The Fascinating World of Trash." National Geographic (April 1983), 424-57.
Gore, Rick. "Conservation: Can We Live Better on Less?" National Geographic (February 1981), 34-57.
Matthews, Samuel W. "New World of the Ocean." National Geographic (December 1981), 792-832.
Weaver, Kenneth. "Geothermal Energy: The Power of Letting Off Steam." National Geographic (October 1977), 566-79.
White, Peter T. "This Land of Ours? How Are We Using It?" National Geographic (July 1976), 20-67.
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