The National Academies

The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

What You Need To Know About Energy

Our Energy Sources

Emerging Technologies

No matter how the U.S. energy portfolio changes, an increasing share of future needs will be met by energy-conversion and energy-demand technologies now in the research or development stage. Some will require substantial improvements—or even research breakthroughs—to have a major impact on our energy budget.

Some options are described below. Whether and to what extent any of these technologies ultimately contributes to changing our energy future will depend on many factors, from advances in technology development to the priorities reflected in government policy.

Advanced Nuclear Fission

Advanced Nuclear Fission

Nuclear power plants account for about 20% of U.S. electricity generation and new reactors may increase that number.

The need to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is renewing interest in nuclear energy. What are the new nuclear technologies and how do they improve upon existing nuclear plants?

More about advanced nuclear fission

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

There are no natural reservoirs of pure hydrogen; this resource must be extracted from compounds such as natural gas or water.

Hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to become a significant power source for transportation and other uses. How will we produce the hydrogen cheaply and without greenhouse gases?

More about hydrogen fuel cells

Alternatives to Conventional Oil Wells

Alternatives to Conventional Oil Wells

A region covering parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming contains oil shale totaling about three times the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

The extraction of hydrocarbons from tar sands as well as the recovery of oil in low-permeability geologic formations are playing an increasing role in the U.S. energy supply and may have an even greater impact in the future. Find out what these sources are, where they can be found, and how they might influence our energy situation.

More about alternatives to conventional oil wells

Electric Vehicles

Electric Vehicles

Today's best-performing all-electric vehicles can travel up to 300 miles emissions-free on a single battery charge.

New energy technologies are working toward vehicles with reduced dependence on fossil fuels. Learn about two such technologies—all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles—and their potential contributions.

More about electric vehicles

Advanced Coal Technologies

Advanced Coal Technologies

Coal accounts for about one-fourth of U.S. CO2 emissions.

Coal is an inexpensive and abundant domestic energy resource. But it’s also a major contributor to CO2 emissions. Learn about integrated gasification combined cycle plants and other “clean coal” technologies that can be used to capture and sequester CO2 in geological formations.

More about advanced coal technologies



The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 stipulates that by 2022 we must produce 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol.

Our nation already offsets some of its dependence on fossil fuels with biodiesel and corn-based ethanol. What are these alternatives to gasoline and diesel and how will they affect our energy supply?

More about biofuels

Explore Other Topics

Energy Hands-on

The Promise of Better Lighting

Energy savings through lighting technology

Energy Defined

America's Energy Future (AEF)

A project undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Research Council to evaluate current contributions and likely future impacts of existing and new energy technologies. More information about the project, including a roster of committee members, can be found on the AEF website.

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