This small group activity was developed by the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University “to convey the scale of effort needed to address the carbon and climate situation and the necessity of developing a portfolio of options.” By the end of the exercise, students should understand the magnitude of human-sourced carbon emissions and feel comfortable comparing the effectiveness, benefits, and drawbacks of a variety of carbon-cutting strategies including nuclear power. The students should appreciate that there is no easy or “right” solution to the carbon and climate problem. Students will learn about the technologies currently available that can substantially cut carbon emissions, develop critical reasoning skills as they create their own portfolio of strategies to cut emissions, and verbally communicate the rationale for their selections. Working in teams, students will develop the skills to negotiate a solution that is both physically plausible and politically acceptable, and defend their solution to a larger group.” Accompanying Slides and Graphics are available for download as well.
This game and its creator was also highlighted in chapter 2 of the recent NOVA special, Power Surge which can be viewed online in under 13 minutes.
EnergyLiteracy.org is the website for Energy Literacy Advocates (ELA), a non-partisan, non-profit, public education organization “working to improve the energy literacy of all sectors of our democracy.” This website provides, in an easy to read format, a summary of each energy source including information about the pros and cons of each source, facts and figures about each source, and a description of key barriers to implementation where appropriate. In addition, a color coded scale is utilized to enable someone to evaluate the following features of each: Cost of Increased Use, Environmental Impact, National Security, Implementation, and Political Toxicity.
A useful activity for students would be to have them combine the ratings for each energy source into one, easy to read table. This could then be used as a basis for further class discussion.
This figure from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory comes with a descriptive text that is useful as one “walks” through the cycle. Perhaps such a figure could be used to guide your students into creating their own diagram for a local example of bioenergy use?
The North Carolina Biomass Roadmap: Recommendations for Fossil Fuel Displacement through Biomass Utilization is a 2007 report that contains recommendations that should be carried out by 2017 to increase biomass utilization in North Carolina. The stated goal is that by 2017, North Carolina should displace 10% of its gasoline and diesel needs and 7% of its power needs using North Carolina bio-based fuels and power.
FOR TEACHERS this report and its appendices represent a resource for NC-specific biomass data and graphics, such as a list of Key Biomass Resources in North Carolina as well as a list of biomass/ biofuel plants in NC and a glossary of key terms.
A four page abridged summary of this report is also available.
A printer friendly Biomass and Bioenergy Glossary is also available from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
Created for students by the US Department of Energy, The ABC’s of Biopower provides an overview of biopower and describes the four primary classes of BioPower systems: direct-fired, cofired, gasification, and modular.
Also be sure to check out the NC Sustainable Energy Association’s newly designed website and you will find a set of fact sheets with NC specific information on a variety of energy sources, including biomass.
Published September 30, 2010
Piedmont Biofuels is a member-owned biodiesel cooperative located in Pittsboro, NC. The cooperative is a leader in the biodiesel industry. It not only makes and sells biodiesel but educates others on biodiesel production. On their wesbite’s Education page, you will find information on biodiesel and their Biofuels Curriculum which exists in PowerPoint format and is available as open-source educational material.
Published September 27, 2010
Did you know that feedstock crops and fast-growth trees are being field trialed at 20 research stations across North Carolina for their biofuel potential? To see a list of the feedstocks being investigated click here and to learn more about the location of these research sites, click here.
Published September 21, 2010
Earlier this month, I was excited to see a gas station in Southern Pines with a focus on alternative fuels – their sign prominently displaying E10 (unleaded gasoline), E85 and B20 (biodiesel)! As with other lessons highlighted in this blog, the lesson highlighted below facilitates students’ ability to be able to critically evaluate different fuels. While there are many factors to consider when comparing fuels, one factor is the hazardous emissions released by the combustion of each.
Diesel Fuels Duke It Out is a lesson plan from NIEHS’s Environmental Health Perspectives Science Education Program. In this lesson, students analyze results from a research study on petroleum diesel and biodiesel todetermine how these fuels differ in terms of hazardous emissions (oxides of nitrogen (NOx), total hydrocarbons (THC), carbon
monoxide (CO), and particulate matter (PM). Then students compare the results of the study to a summary article on biodiesel. You could enhance this lesson by also asking your students to research and consider the hazardous emissions profile of E85.
Published September 16, 2010
Biofuels , Biopower , Renewable Energy
For the past few months I have been keeping up with innovations in the renewable energy sector via the CleanTechnica blog. I thought a recent post, titled, “Frankenstein’s Yeast” Could Spur Biofuel Breakthrough would be perfect for sharing here given that it is biofuels month! This is also a post intended to give biology teachers an idea for one way to address biotechnology in the context of a current energy topic.
What I like about CleanTechnica is that it highlights science action, telling about current research initiatives and filling me with awe for the creative minds out there working on clean energy solutions. The entries can serve to inspire your students and will show them that their generation has a lot of work to do.
So biotechnology and biofuels do go together….if you are looking for a few additional resources on this topic, check out NREL’s Excellence in Biotechnology for Renewable Fuels and Chemcials document.
And if you really want to get deep into this topic with your students – “this topic” being the role of Research and Development and in some case biotechnology in advancing biofuels, you may want to start at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Biomass Program. Available fact sheets summarize various projects having to do with biomass feedstock generation and conversion technologies.
Published September 13, 2010
Biofuels , Renewable Energy
I recently watched the new documentary Fuel which covers society’s current use of fuel as well as sustainable fuel alternatives. “Eleven years in the making, FUEL is the in-depth personal journey of filmmaker and eco-evangelist Josh Tickell, who takes us on a hip, fast-paced road trip into America s dependence on foreign oil. Combining a history lesson of the US auto and petroleum industries and interviews with a wide range of policy makers, educators, and activists such as Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young and Willie Nelson. Animated by powerful graphics, FUEL looks into our future offering hope via a wide-range of renewable energy and bio-fuels. Winner of the Sundance Audience Award.” – Amazon Product Description.