Carlos Rodrigo

The Elon Musk Blog Series

Written by Tim Urban

  1. Energy being “the property of matter and radiation that is manifest as a capacity to perform the exertion of force overcoming resistance or producing molecular change.”
  2. Conservation of energy, which says that energy can’t be created or destroyed, only transferred or transformed from one form to another. And since every living thing needs energy in order to do stuff—and you can’t make your own energy—we’re all awkwardly left with no choice but to steal the energy we need from someone else.
  3. Almost all of the energy used by the Earth’s living things got to us in the first place from the sun.
  4. The joule is a common unit of energy—defined as the amount of energy it takes to apply a force of one newton through a distance of one meter
  5. Plants know how to take the sun’s joules and turn them into food.
  6. But the most exciting joule-stealing technology humans came up with was figuring out how to burn something. With wind or water, you can only capture moving joules as they go by—but when you burn something, you can take an object that has been soaking up joules for years and release them all at once. A joule explosion. They called this explosion fire, and because the joules that emerged were in the useful-to-humans formats of heat energy and light energy, burning things became a popular activity.
  7. They found pockets of burnable air we call natural gas and underground lakes of thick, black burnable liquid we call crude oil.
  8. What exactly are fossil fuels and where do they come from? Fossil fuels are called fossil fuels because they’re the remains of ancient living things.
  9. The largest portion of our fossil fuels comes from plants, animals, and algae that lived during the Carboniferous Period—a 50 million year period that ended about 300 million years ago and during which there were lots of huge, shallow swamps. The
  10. Coal, a black sedimentary rock that’s found in underground layers called coal beds, is the cheapest and most plentiful of the three and is used almost entirely for making electricity. It’s also the worst culprit for CO2 emissions, releasing about 30% more CO2 than the burning of oil and about double that of natural gas when generating an equivalent amount of heat.4
  11. Oil, also known as crude oil or petroleum, is a gooey black liquid normally found in deep underground reservoirs. When crude oil is extracted, it heads to the refinery, where it’s separated, using different boiling points, into a bunch of different things.
  12. Natural gas, which is formed when underground oil gets to a super-high temperature and vaporizes, is found in underground pockets, usually in the vicinity of oil reserves. The “cleanest” of the three fossil fuels, it’s the gas that fires up your stove or heats your apartment (if those aren’t electricity-powered or heated by oil), and it’s one of the major sources of electricity (it makes up about 20% of electricity in the US). Natural
  13. Burning Fossil Fuels Makes Atmospheric CO2 Levels Rise
  14. Combustion is reverse photosynthesis.
  15. During photosynthesis, the plant takes CO2 from the air7 and absorbs light energy from the sun to split the CO2 into carbon (C) and oxygen (O2).
  16. The plant keeps the carbon and emits the oxygen as a waste product.
  17. Photosynthesis just kidnaps carbon and sun energy out of the atmosphere, and after years of holding them hostage, combustion sets them both free—the
  18. Where Atmospheric CO2 Levels Go, Temperatures Follow
  19. The Temperature Doesn’t Need to Change Very Much to Make Everything Shitty