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Teaching Energy Sources and Environment Together

Sources of energy and the environment impacts of getting and using energy maybe the most important topics of the century

Don Haas

on 29 April 2011

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Transcript of Teaching Energy Sources and Environment Together

Teaching Energy Sources and Environment Together
Robert M. Ross, Don A. Duggan-Haas, & Trisha Smrecak
PRI & Its Museum of the Earth: Ithaca, NY
Explore the process of teaching the most important topics of our century—sources of energy and the environment impacts of getting and using energy.
What are the environmental costs and benefits of the energy status quo?
What are the environmental costs and benefits of emergent energy sources?
In the coming decades, more energy is likely come to your home from local sources and they will have environmental consequences.
The program says:
The daily amount of energy used in the United States, per person, is about as much energy as....

100 watt lightbulb left on for 103 days straight
707 quarter-pound hamburgers
Half a tank of gasoline (7 gallons)
All of the above

Lot's of useful stuff here:

Natural Gas
Other Gases
Hydroelectric Conventional
Other Renewables
Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic
Wood and Wood Derived Fuels
Other Biomass
Pumped Storage
Where does electricity come from?
For the sake of time, we'll look at just the biggest piece.
How do we make sense of the costs and benefits of all that?
The status quo has costs too.
Let's look at it.
A good book for thinking about climate change...
...that we can adapt approaches from for thinking about energy.
Let's look at a more detailed picture...
Explore the data in Excel.
In this grant, we are using the issues surrounding the Marcellus as a testbed for developing general approaches for education about emergent energy issues.
With support from the National Science Foundation.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. 1035078.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
What's the worst that could happen in relation to different energy sources?
We need to use less...
A specific set of considerations related to natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale:
Many Americans heat their homes and the hot water within their homes with natural gas. A growing portion of our electricity also comes from natural gas.
Where should that gas come from?
Or, should we stop heating our air and water and generating electricity with natural gas?
If we do stop these practices, what should we do instead?
Who is paying the environmental cost for our current energy habits?
Who would pay the costs if the resource is developed?
What environmental and economic costs will come due at a later date?
Questions to consider for any energy source:
What are the environmental costs and benefits of the energy status quo?
For the status quo and for the proposed development, what happens to the environment at the point of extraction?
What wastes are generated and disposed of away from the point of extraction?
What happens to the environment as a result of use?
Per unit of energy generated, how do these impacts compare for the different energy sources being considered? (This may be a comparison of a proposed or new source to the status quo.)
Which is greater, the cost of development or the cost of efficiency measures? Stated another way, in the consideration of developing a source that provides 45MW hours/year, would it be more beneficial (or more costly) to reduce consumption by 45 MW hours/year instead?
These questions generally frame the issue as a choice between developing a new energy source and maintaining the energy status quo. There are more than two choices.
What other options exist?
Are they being seriously considered?
Are they practical? Why or why not?
Click here for more pointed questions to consider for any energy source:
Are accidents known to kill or injure people? Consider extraction, transit, and use. How does the death and injury rate compare to other sources per unit of energy?
Does standard use alter the environment in ways known to kill or injure people? How does the death and injury rate compare to other sources per unit of energy?
Are there political costs or benefits associated with this energy source? Is the military involved in the protection of this resource?
Greg Craven, author of What's the Worst That Could Happen, on climate change. Consider how to adapt the argument to new energy sources.
In the NSTA presentation, I opened an Excel spreadsheet I'd previously downloaded from the EIA website and graphed a few things. You can do the same.
In terms of energy production: One big nuclear power plant = 3000 big wind turbines =
50 sq. mi. of PV
Which has the worst environmental impact?
See more recent related work here:
Full transcript