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Manufacturing is the fabrication (creation) or assembly of components into finished products on a fairly large scale. From chemicals to clothing, food to furniture, almost everything that we use during the day is manufactured in some way.

Energy is used in manufacturing in several ways. Energy can provide electricity to run equipment. Energy can provide a way to move goods around. And energy can provide heat to make people comfortable. But energy is also used to provide a way to turn raw materials into usable goods. This is energy's role in manufacturing. As a matter of fact, Iowa spends 38 percent of its total energy consumption on manufacturing.

Three Ways Manufacturing Uses Energy
Energy is used in three major areas of manufacturing:

1. Energy allows us to retrieve raw materials used in manufacturing.

2. Energy allows us to turn raw materials into components used in manufacturing.

3. Energy allows us to assemble these components into usable goods.

How Important Are Fossil Fuels?
Just like the other three uses of energy (transportation, electricity, heating and cooling), manufacturing is something we depend on for our livelihood. Fossil fuels have played an important role in manufacturing ever since the beginning of the American Industrial Revolution. Initially, factories were set up where they had access to water power (hydropower). For example, flour mills were located on the Mississippi River in Minnesota. Eventually there was no more room on rivers for more manufacturers. Around this time, coal was popular because the railroads were being built across the country. Trains could ship coal anywhere along their tracks. This allowed manufacturers to spread out to anywhere they could get service from the railroad.

Fossil fuels are important to manufacturers. They use fossil fuel to provide massive amounts of intense heat to produce metals and metal products. Food is harvested by large machinery and processed in facilities that use fossil fuels to run the equipment. Fossil fuels are then used to ship the products from the manufactures to warehouses or consumers. Fossil fuel are a source of raw materials for inks, polyesters, nylons and other synthetic fibers used to make fabrics. Coal based dyes color packaging and paint. Paint and adhesives are petroleum-based products. The list is endless.

What Could Replace Fossil Fuels?
There are some alternatives to fossil fuels. Most lubricants, adhesives, and textiles can be made from biomass sources. We can make grease necessary for cars from animal byproducts. We can make inks from soybeans. We can run our machinery on fuels we make from corn or sugar.

Energy Information Administration. International Energy Outlook 2001. "Transportation Energy Use." Table 22, page 137.




Manufacturing Soft Drinks

Follow the creation of a soft drink's aluminum can to see how energy is used in all three areas of manufacturing.

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