by Tammy Hart

As the population increases and demand for digital devices expands worldwide, it’s important to consider the effects that these demands are placing on the natural resources required for the devices to operate.

The U.S. government projects a need for an additional 225 million tons of coal by the year 2025 to maintain sufficient energy levels for the digital economy. Meanwhile, world electricity demand is expected to double by the year 2030. While coal combustion continues to be the dominant fuel source for electricity, many innovative ideas are already in use and/or are ready for implementation. The U.S. government has initiated funding programs to encourage the research and development of gas and liquid fuels from coal (coal gasification). As part of the Clean Coal Power Initiative, companies are researching technologies to increase the energy efficiency and to reduce the environmental effects of coal.

Another resource that is being discussed for practical energy use is nuclear power fueled by uranium–especially with the recent news of the completion of the nuclear power plant in Iran . Nuclear power plants currently account for about 20% of the total electricity generated within the United States; 441 facilities worldwide account for about 16% of the total world electricity supply.

With funding and tax credits made available through the new Energy Policy Act of 2005, eight companies in the United States have recently announced plans to build 13 new nuclear power plants within the next 15 years. The companies anticipate that once the plants are in operation they could create as many as 6,000 high-paying, high-tech jobs.

Experts warn that the relatively scarce supply of uranium may not meet forecasted needs for the resource with the anticipated nuclear-powered global energy supply of the future. China is interested in using more nuclear energy to power its economy in an effort to maintain needs and reduce dependency on foreign-imported coal and oil. Australia has approximately 40% of the world’s known low-cost uranium deposits and has agreed to allow China to purchase uranium for peaceful purposes.

It’s encouraging gaining insight about the many different power sources that might become available: coal, nuclear, solar, wind, hydrogen and others. Predicting which resource is going to be the most practical, cost-efficient, logistically viable, and environmentally affable for sustained energy development is transpiring into the topic of considerable debate.