4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, Jan 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/01/2010   
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Contents >> Human activities

This document was added or updated on 05/02/2010.


This section focuses on major trends in energy and waste and their environmental impacts.
  • Energy is a vital input into all sectors of a modern economy. As well as powering industry and households, the production and supply of energy generates employment, investment and significant export earnings, all of which contribute substantially to the material standard of living of Australians.
    Energy sources are divided into two groups – renewable (energy sources for which the supply is essentially inexhaustible) and non-renewable (energy sources with a finite supply). Renewable energy includes well-established sources such as hydro-electricity, biomass and solar hot water and “newer” forms such as wind, solar (photovoltaic and thermal), geothermal, wave and tidal. Most of Australia's energy comes from non-renewable fossil fuels, which include oil, natural gas and coal. Australia exports significant amounts of uranium oxide for nuclear power, but there are no plans for nuclear power generation in Australia. Although energy use by industry constitutes the bulk of total energy use, the amount and type of energy used by households (notably electricity and petroleum products) also has important implications for the environment, especially greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and depletion of natural resources.

    In order to aggregate and compare energy statistics from different energy sources, statistics presented in this publication are in energy units (petajoules) rather than physical units (tonnes or megalitres). A petajoule (PJ) is a very large unit of energy, commonly used to express energy production or consumption at the industry or country level.
  • Waste is a by-product of many human activities. Sustained growth in Australia’s population and in real per capita income has created a large increase in the volume and diversity of redundant goods and materials. The environmental and health threats from waste depend not just on the volumes involved but also on the type of waste and the way it is managed. A combination of environmental and cost pressures associated with the appropriate disposal of various wastes has stimulated greater action, especially from local and state governments, to limit the growth in waste disposal and increase recycling rates.

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