The wider impact of chemistry
The social, economic and environmental impact of chemical synthesis and the production of energy
Both the chemical industry and obtaining the materials for chemical processes are majour sources of employment and many towns have grown up around such centres. Industries have been sited near sources of raw materials such as iron ore, coal, water and good transport. There's now a greater realisation of the important of providing a healthy and safe environemnt for the workers and their families living near the factories.
Econimically the requirements today are to produce good quality products efficiently and safely with a well-paid and fulfilled workplace.
The energy problem
Energy production is a major issue affecting not only the chemical industry, but all aspects of modern life and serious problems of supply lie ahead in that the finite and non-renewable resources of fossil fuels are rapidly depleted.
Huge and increasing amounts of energy are needed by the world's expanding and developing population for industry, transport, electricity generation and domestic heating. The main sources are the non-renewable fossil fuels above, renewable sources including wind and water power in its various forms, the combustion or bacterial digestion of biomass, geothermal energy, and nuclear and solar energy.
Hydrogen is spoken of as a future fuel but doesn't exist naturally on Earth, it must be prepared at a cost of energy.
(i) Fossil and biomass fuels
All fossil and biomass fuels are derived from solar energy acting on plants and micro-organisms coal, oil an gas over hundreds of millions of years and biomass at the present day. The rate of usage of fossil fuels, whether obtained by mining, drilling, tar sands or fracking, is perhaps one hundred times their formation rate so these will run out at a future date.
(ii) Carbon neutrality
- Carbon neutrality means that a chemical process such as fuel combustion doesn't ead to an overall increase in CO2 levels. Although the combustion does generate CO2, this if offset by the fact that the fuel such as biomass or sugar cane, has absorbed the same amount of CO2 inb eing made by photosynthesis as in the equation above.
Underlying the energy problem…