Mankind has been generating electricity on an industrial scale since 1881. The first power plants used hydroelectric power and coal power. Since then, other methods of power generation have been introduced: natural gas, oil, nuclear, and small amounts of power generated by solar, tidal, wind, and geothermal sources. In 2006, about 15% of global power generation was through nuclear, 16% through hydro, 68% through fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), and less than 1% through renewables (solar, wind, tidal).
Power generation involves either transforming heat energy, such a burning oil, into mechanical energy, or mechanical energy, such as the moving blades of a windmill, into electrical energy, using a generator. Even in the case of an advanced power source such as nuclear, the heat from fissioning nuclei is used to heat water, which turns a turbine and provides electricity.
Power has been generated in large quantities since the Industrial Revolution, when it was used to run everything from power looms to chemical synthesis plants. Since then, mankind's thirst for electricity has increased exponentially, and we have resorted to whatever methods possible for power generation.
Especially since the 1980s, the Western world has been seeking to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels and increase the use of renewables, but had little success. The two primary issues concerning the use of fossil fuel power have been the possible financing of terrorists and the release of greenhouse gases through combustion. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been indicated as a major cause of global warming.
Alternative power generation methods proposed thus far have been creative, but insufficient to phase the world off fossil fuels. Following the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents, the public, especially in the United States, has been reluctant to fully support nuclear power, although it may be making a comeback.
The ideal method of power generation may be nuclear fusion — also the source of the Sun's energy. In nuclear fusion, atomic nuclei combined together to release bond energy. Unfortunately, no nuclear fusion experiment created by scientists so far has produced more energy than it has consumed.