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To maintain the current standard of living in the industrial world, and promote human and economic development in the less prosperous regions of the world, alternative forms of energy must be found. Some scientists use the phrases alternative energy and renewable energy interchangeably. International agencies such as the IPCC and World Bank, as well as government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy

A hyrdoelectric plant in Tennessee. Once the water level reaches a high enough level, a gate is opened in the dam, allowing gravity to carry water down toward the generator. The force of the water falling spins the turbine and generator, creating electricity.

(DOE) or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), offer separate, but somewhat overlapping definitions for alternative versus renewable energy.

The word alternative can be seen as somehow marginalizing the importance of the concepts it embodies. However, an argument can be made for its use because of the need for a clear distinction between the various forms of energy. In the future, alternative energy may, in fact, become the dominant form of energy used. Maybe a better term is sustainable energy, to focus on its potentially mainstream status and renewable nature. However, for the time being, these energy sources represent only a small fraction of the energy used.

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