Archive for the 'Transportation' Category

Pipeline shutdown & gasoline supply in the Southeast

I live in the Triangle and have seen firsthand the effects of the partial shutdown of the Columbia pipeline as I have driven by many gas stations this week where no fuel was available.  An event such as this can be used to remind students where our gasoline comes from and to prompt them to consider the consequences of having to transport fuels over long distances.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) featured the pipeline disruption and provided the map below in its September 21st, Today in Energy feature article (which you can sign up to receive each weekday via email).  According to this article “the U.S. Southeast is supplied primarily by pipeline flows from refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast and supplemented by marine shipments from the U.S. Gulf Coast and imports.” Seeing this map helped me to understand why this pipeline disruption impacted central North Carolina to a great extent.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

There is an online mapping tool available that enable users to create their own maps as they evaluate different energy sources.  I used the EIAs U.S. Energy Mapping System to quickly create a similar map that shows petroleum refineries (boxes); petroleum pipelines (dashed lines); and petroleum ports (ships):ppile

Then I added additional map layers to also show oil wells (light brown dots) and oil/gas platforms (dark brown dots) in federal waters so students can also see the distribution of wells and platforms in relation to petroleum refineries.


I would love to hear from teachers who have incorporated this current event into their instruction.

Interactive infographics from the IEA | World’s energy system through 2050

IEA World Energy 2012

The World’s Energy System in 2012

The International Energy Association’s publication Energy Technology Perspectives 2015, is accompanied by a set of interactive visualizations that utilizes the data and figures behind its publication on energy technologies.  I am an advocate for having students visualize the entire energy system – the diversity of energy sources used to provide electricity to homes and industry and to power our various modes of transportation.  I also find it useful to examine how the system is changing over time as our demand for energy grows in light of the need to limit society’s carbon dioxide emissions. These interactive infographics from the IEA illustrate how the world’s energy system will evolve through 2050.  There are three parts to this online tool: an energy flow visualization, an emissions reduction visualization and a transportation visualization. Here I am featuring the energy flow visualization where the  user can hover over a specific energy source, transformation or end user to study a particular energy flow.  The diagram below shows the global energy flow for coal in 2012 and for 2050 (projected); one can easily compare the two graphics to see that coal use will decrease while global energy demand will increase.  Have you considered asking your students to evaluate and explain energy flow diagrams?

IEA World Energy 2012 and 2050_coal

Global energy flow for coal in 2012 and for 2050 (projected).

The emissions reduction visualization tool allows the user to assess how individual countries or regions can reduce carbon dioxide emissions via deployment of technologies and energy efficiency measures under three different warming scenarios (2°C, 4°C and 6°C). The transport visualization tool enables the user to select an “indicator” such as annual road energy consumption for a specific country, region or the world to visualize the extent to which the selected indicator needs to change to limit Earth’s average global temperature to either 2°C, 4°C or 6°C.  According to the IEA website. “the 2°C Scenario is the main focus of ETP 2015. It lays out the pathway to deploy an energy system and emissions trajectory consistent with what recent climate science research indicates would give at least a 50% chance of limiting average global temperature increase to 2°C.”  You can read the Executive Summary of the ETP 2015 here.

And if you want to read more about energy flow diagrams, check out this post.

New online tool provides state and national Sankey diagrams

A newly released tool, Free Energy Data or FRED (Beta stage) allows users to visualize state and national energy flow using Sankey diagrams. FRED was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in partnership with two national laboratories and two non-profit organizations. To acquire Sankey diagrams for North Carolina,click on North Carolina on the home page and then click on “energy flows” and you will gain access to Sankey diagrams showing the energy flow in NC for the year 2010 and all the way back to 1964!  Users can navigate the diagrams by mousing over paths of interest. Users can also compare energy flow diagrams for two states using the 2×2 grid button at the top right of the home page.

To see national level data, open the “layers” button located next to the log in button and click on the pencil which will enable you to change your query from ‘stateprov’ to ‘country.’ Then click on the US and then “energy flows to access to Sankey diagrams showing the energy flow in the US for the year 2010 and all the way back to 1960!

Portland’s Electric Avenue

I am excited that the creators of Earth The Operators’ Manual have just released two new PBS episodes, Powering the Planet and Energy Quest USA.  I just watched an excerpt from Energy Quest USA titled Portland: the “Trip Not Taken” and learned about many of the things happening in the city of Portland, Oregon to promote “green” transportation including something called Electric Avenue, a street of electric charging stations.  Furthermore, all Electric Avenue charging stations are powered with 100 percent renewable energy and the charging is free!  Check out this August 2011 New York Times article about Electric Avenue and its solar powered charging stations and perhaps encourage your students to plan and design what an electric avenue might look like in their town.  What additional city planning strategies can your students come up with that would enable residents to move about town and commute to and from work without relying on gasoline powered cars? Perhaps invite local government officials to hear your students’ ideas!

Additional resources about Electric Avenue including a map can be found here.  A March 2012 Forbes article summarizes 10 lessons learned from Portland’s Electric Avenue thus far.

NPR’s Science Friday: Making the Shift To Electric Vehicles

On the Friday March 23, 2012 episode of Science Friday, Ira Flatow discussed electric car technology with industry experts, including author Seth Fletcher, author of Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy.  Listen to this episode to learn about  lithium ion batteries and charging stations and to hear experts discuss what they think it will take to encourage drivers to make the shift to electric vehicles.  You can also find links to related Science Friday stories in case you want to learn more!

An All-Electric Vehicle: Up Close and Personal (Video)

The Dean of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, Bill Chameides, recently drove a Nissan Leaf with one of the Department of Energy’s car specialists and created a 6:44 minute video about it. This electric car gets 99 miles “per gallon equivalent” and zero emissions are generated by the vehicle during use but the video does a good job of reminding the viewer that there is a power plant behind the scene generating electricity (and thus emissions) to charge the battery.  Get an up close look at the two charge ports found at the front of the vehicle: a DC Fast Charge Port and a Standard Charge Port.  The video highlights other features the car has that are designed to increase its efficiency, including aerodynamic design and low-rolling resistance tires.


Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations

According to the US Dept of Energy (DOE), Raleigh, North Carolina, is “paving the way for successful deployment of plug-in vehicles and electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) infrastructure.”  WRAL featured Raleigh’s move to become one of the first cities in the nation to install publicly available charging stations in a January 2012 broadcast.

DOE’s Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles website provides information about charging equipment, charging at home and charging in public places. A list of public and private electric vehicle charging stations is available and a map of the nation shows how NC compares to other states in terms of number of charging stations.

For those of you who teach about the physics of electricity, evaluating the different types of charging stations and the advantages and disadvantages of each could be a useful exercise to reinforce student learning about current, voltage, and power.

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