Segments in this Video

Cornerstone of Modern Civilization (06:29)


In New York City, where energy demands are extreme, the power grid is constantly monitored. It is powered by Ravensworth Generating Station, a natural gas burning steam turbine releasing a flow of electrons.

Coal (09:12)

A geologist examines and explains a Pennsylvania coal mine and surrounding shale landscape; the area holds the largest known deposits of anthracite. The rock is formed from trees compressed over time; a chemist burns a sample and compares its atomic structure to a battery. Coal drove the Industrial Revolution, and contributes to the Greenhouse Effect.

Oil and Carbon Dioxide (03:54)

Oil now supplies 40% of global energy requirements; it is a concentrated form of power; a geologist examines an oil field and surrounding natural asphalt. Oil is everywhere, it creates carbon dioxide, and causes climate change; despite consequences, society is addicted to fossil fuels.

Plastics and Natural Gas (05:36)

The versatility of carbon and oil is found in plastics; its discovery revolutionized society; an organic chemist discusses reliance on the material, and the variety of products it yields. It has become a symbol of waste and consumption; it does not degrade and releases carbon dioxide when burned. Natural gas is inexpensive, and the cleanest burning fossil fuel.

Forming Fuels (02:46)

Energy originates from the sun during nuclear fusion. A nuclear physicist explains the reaction and how it creates temperatures of 27 million degrees. Light and heat energy are transformed into various forms of carbon and compressed into fossil fuels over time.

Solar Power (05:21)

Solar energy is abundant; a chemist explains how to derive silicon from sand, and potential applications the semiconductor has for the energy industry. In China, the focus is on increasing efficiency and decreasing cost of silicon-based cells. Because sunlight is inconsistent, it must be stored.

Power Storage (05:52)

The Zhangbei Battery Storage Project is a solar and wind power station dedicated to building the largest rechargeable battery; it is comprised of various repurposed accumulators. Batteries function by chemical reaction between their two sides, one full of electrons; lithium, a small element, allows for ionic movement and recharging cells.

Environmental Crisis and Nuclear Energy (08:01)

In China, air pollution from burning coal causes 1.6 million deaths annually; they are investing in fossil fuel alternatives. Nuclear energy does not contribute carbon to the atmosphere, but is expensive and controversial. Reactors use uranium; a nuclear physicist examines a mine and explains the element's formation; another shows the reaction from decaying uranium; using fission energy is statistically safer, but its failures are disastrous.

Developing Civilization (02:48)

The world's energy demand is projected to triple by 2200; we will need to make advancements in energy production to solve the environmental crisis. A global effort to save the planet is underway; ocean wave power, carbon dioxide burial and conservation are examples of modern age solutions.

Credits: Power (00:56)

Credits: Power

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Part of the Series : NOVA: Treasures of the Earth
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Drill down to discover the treasures beneath our feet that power our world. Fossil fuels–coal, oil, and natural gas–powered the industrial revolution and allowed us to build a way of life that many cherish today. Personal cars, planes, lights, hot showers–all of these are gifts from our fossil fuels… but they have a dirty dark side in that they are polluting the planet. What is it about these natural resources that has allowed them to fuel our civilization? What secrets are locked in their molecules? Where did that energy come from, and can we find alternative energy resources that come in a cleaner form? The hunt is on for new treasures that might allow us to power our modern way of life without damaging the environment. Join NOVA as we explore the resources that both power and pollute, from modern-day oil prospecting in California, to a mega-city utility company struggling to keep the lights on during hot summer days, to China where an engineer strives to solve one of the greatest obstacles to the success of solar power. Travel the globe to see how our energy treasures are changing—and if they can keep the lights on.

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: FPT166792

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

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