188.8.131.52 Benefits vs Cost
Compare local and global environmental and economic advantages and disadvantages of generating electricity using various sources or energy.
For example: Fossil fuels, nuclear fission, wind, sun or tidal energy.
Describe the trade-offs involved when technological developments impact the way we use energy, natural resources, or synthetic materials.
For example: Fluorescent light bulbs use less energy than incandescent lights, but contain toxic mercury.
MN Standard in Lay Terms
Different sources of energy and ways of using them have different costs, implications, and risks. Using new technologies, more energy in the form of electricity can be made available to larger populations throughout the world, but it can have both positive and negative consequences.
Individuals and society must decide on why and how to use new technologies. Decision-making involves assessments of alternatives, risks, costs, and benefits, and considering who benefits and who suffers, who pays and gains, and what the risks are and who bears them. Students should understand the appropriateness and value of basic questions - "What can happen?" - "What are the odds?" - "Who is going to be affected" - "Who is making the decisions" - and "How do scientists and engineers know what will happen?" (adapted from National Science Education Standards (NSES) )
MN Standard Benchmarks:
184.108.40.206.1 Compare local and global environmental and economic advantages and disadvantages of generating electricity using various sources or energy. For example: Fossil fuels, nuclear fission, wind, sun or tidal energy.
220.127.116.11.2 Describe the trade-offs involved when technological developments impact the way we use energy, natural resources, or synthetic materials. For example: Fluorescent light bulbs use less energy than incandescent lights, but contain toxic mercury.
Structure and properties of matter
12BPS2.6 Carbon atoms can bond to one another in chains, rings, and branching networks to form a variety of structures, including synthetic polymers, oils, and the large molecules essential to life. (See above suggestions for ideas on tying current research ideas into relevant green chemistry lessons)
12FSPSP3.1 Human populations use resources in the environment in order to maintain and improve their existence. Natural resources have been and will continue to be used to maintain human populations.
12FSPSP3.2 The earth does not have infinite resources; increasing human consumption places severe stress on the natural processes that renew some resources, and it depletes those resources that cannot be renewed.
12FSPSP3.3 Humans use many natural systems as resources. Natural systems have the capacity to reuse waste, but that capacity is limited. Natural systems can change to an extent that exceeds the limits of organisms to adapt naturally or humans to adapt technologically.
The interdependence of organisms
12CLS4.4 Living organisms have the capacity to produce populations of infinite size, but environments and resources are finite. This fundamental tension has profound effects on the interactions between organisms.
12CLS4.5 Human beings live within the world's ecosystems. Increasingly, humans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption. Human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and other factors is threatening current global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly affected.
Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges
12FSPSP6.2 Understanding basic concepts and principles of science and technology should precede active debate about the economics, policies, politics, and ethics of various science - and technology - related challenges. However, understanding science alone will not resolve local, national or global challenges.
12FSPSP6.3 Progress in science and technology can be affected by social issues and challenges. Funding priorities for specific health problems serve as examples of ways that social issues influence science and technology.
12FSPSP6.4 Individuals and society must decide on proposals involving new research and the introduction of new technologies into society. Decisions involve assessment of alternatives, risks, costs, and benefits and consideration of who benefits and who suffers, who pays and gains, and what the risks are and who bears them. Students should understand the appropriateness and value of basic questions - "What can happen?" - "What are the odds?" - and "How do scientists and engineers know what will happen?"
12FSPSP6.5 Humans have a major effect on other species. For example, the influence of humans on other organisms occurs through land use - which decreases space available to other species - and pollution - which changes the chemical composition of air, soil, and water.
Sunlight is the ultimate source of most of the energy we use. The energy in fossil fuels such as oil and coal comes from energy that plants captured from the sun long ago. 8C/H8** (BSL)
Today, changes in technology continue to affect patterns of work and bring with them economic and social consequences. 10J/H3*
Human Society - G. Global Interdependence The global environment is affected by national and international policies and practices relating to energy use, waste disposal, ecological management, manufacturing, and population. 7G/M5*
Benefits and costs of proposed choices include consequences that are long-term as well as short-term, and indirect as well as direct. The more remote the consequences of a personal or social decision, the harder it usually is to take them into account in considering alternatives. But benefits and costs may be difficult to estimate. 7D/H1
In deciding among alternatives, a major question is who will receive the benefits and who (not necessarily the same people) will bear the costs. 7D/H2
Social trade-offs are often generational. The cost of benefits received by one generation may fall on subsequent generations. Also, the cost of a social trade-off is sometimes borne by one generation although the benefits are enjoyed by their descendants. 7D/H3
Social and economic forces strongly influence which technologies will be developed and used. Which will prevail is affected by many factors, such as personal values, consumer acceptance, patent laws, the availability of risk capital, the federal budget, local and national regulations, media attention, economic competition, and tax incentives. 3C/H1
In deciding on proposals to introduce new technologies or curtail existing ones, some key questions arise concerning possible alternatives, who benefits and who suffers, financial and social costs, possible risks, resources used (human, material, or energy), and waste disposal. 3C/H3*
The human species has a major impact on other species in many ways: reducing the amount of the earth's surface available to those other species, interfering with their food sources, changing the temperature and chemical composition of their habitats, introducing foreign species into their ecosystems, and altering organisms directly through selective breeding and genetic engineering. 3C/H4
Human inventiveness has brought new risks as well as improvements to human existence. 3C/H5
Common Core Standards
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (Benchmark 18.104.22.168) Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Common Core Language Arts Standards: Students can write a research paper in the proper form and using their knowledge of technical writing skills.
Common Core Standards:
RST.9-10-1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or directions.
RST.9-10-2. Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or description of a complex process, phenomena or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.
- Students see the word "energy" as being synonymous with "fuel."
Studies on students have shown several recurring conceptualizations emerge. Energy is seen as
- associated with only animate objects
- something stored in certain objects
- linked with force and movement
- a fluid, an ingredient or product
(From Making Sense of Secondary Science Chapter 20: Energy pages 143-147)
Mrs. G is starting a unit on energy transfer and consumption. To peek the students' interest, she has them each read two short articles, one listing the horrible emissions given off by coal burning power plants each year and the dangers it produces for anyone who lives nearby and another where the author clearly sites sources where one can see that coal produced electricity is actually much safer and efficient than wind energy. (Energy companies will often have short videos available for educational purposes.) She hands out a prompt and has the students debate in small groups who is "right". This is a good place to introduce bias, sources of information, NIMBY, etc. - (2010 Literacy Standards Benchmark 22.214.171.124) Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
To understand the impact they have on energy resources, Mrs. G introduces the next activity where she has the students record the electricity their families use over a weekend. She creates a record sheet called Electric Energy Consumption Sheet, which includes electric use categories of lighting, kitchen appliances, laundry, personal care, and miscellaneous appliances. (Any category could easily be added to match the lifestyle of the class population.)
On the following Monday, students return with their record sheets. Mrs. G has the students get into pairs so that every group has at least one completed Electrical Energy Consumption Sheet. Students are allowed a couple minutes to look over their sheet, and talk about their electric usage over the weekend. They can add more things to their sheet, but can not take anything away.
Mrs. G turns on the video projector that is hooked up to her computer. She introduces the students to an online Electrical Energy Cost Calculator. She shows the students how to use the calculator, making sure they are using current rates for kilowatt hours (KWH). Students login to the computers and begin work (Using a lab or rolling laptop cart is recommended so each student can manipulate the data. If something like this is not available, students can enter their data into a class set pre-made on the instructor's computer. A side activity such as building an electromagnet might be necessary to keep all students engaged.) As students get done with their data input, Mrs. G has them print out their results, and post the final cost on the board. Once all the student have posted their results, she has them calculate the average cost for the weekend. She then has them calculate a daily rate, weekly rate, monthly rate (30 days), yearly rate, and a life time rate (70 years).
Once the calculations are made, Mrs. G presents a question to start the discussion on benefits and risks of energy sources. "Where does all this energy come from?" Student responds with answers like fossil fuels, nuclear reaction, wind, sun, water. She continues to prompt students until she gets the list she is looking for. She then presents the question, "Which one do you think is best?" Mrs. G lets students share their thoughts until the excitement dies down.
"It seems like there are many different ideas on which is the best source of energy," Mrs. G says. "I think we need to investigate this more thoroughly." She goes back to her computer and brings up a document that has a T-chart, with the headings of Advantage (Benefits) and Disadvantage (Risks). "In your science notebooks, I would like you to make this chart." Students begin to make chart in notebooks. "Each of your groups will be given one of these energy resources. You will have to research the advantages and disadvantages of using these resources, along with the cost of that energy source. You will need to use your computers to find this information. And remember to always record the website you use when getting the information, and why you think it is a reliable website." Mrs. G assigns each group an electric energy source. More than one group is investigating each energy source. To cope with larger class sizes, it may be necessary to have groups look at other country's energy use and sources. Preparing ahead of time for this lesson is crucial so there are small groups where all students are engaged and very little dead time is available for some to get off task.
The next day, Mrs. G gives a little more time for the students to find information about their energy sources. Once the students have finished researching the costs and benefits, she has the groups with the same energy sources work together to compile their information. A good way to be sure students stay on task is to give each person in the group a specific role. Examples of these may be timekeeper, computer manager, recorder, etc. They begin to prepare a final report, that they will present to the rest of the class the following day.
Suggested Labs and Activities
Energy Use and the Environment Rolling Blackouts and Environmental Impact This activity focuses on how much energy can be converted to electricity from many different input sources. It also considers the impact of the by-products associated with using these natural resources, and looks at electricity requirements. To do this the students will research and evaluate the electricity needs of their community, the available local resources for generating electricity, and the impact of using those resources. (Doing a quick comparison among students - single family homes vs. apartments or townhomes - can be very enlightening. Be especially careful that socioeconomic issues could easily take over a class discussion where some students may feel intimidated, put down, or even bullied due to living conditions. We need to stay aware that some of our students may also be homeless.)
Have several copies of different articles focusing on sources of electricity. Each group with the same article meets with a series of questions to become experts on the source. Jigsaw so that each new group has one of each expert and have them teach each other. Be sure reading sources represent all voices - Native American, Latino, etc. Include questions about who is making decisions, who benefits and who gets hurt.
Home Energy audit Household energy audit Students review the electrical appliances used at home and estimate the energy used for each. (Students can also check the appliance and find its energy use on the appliance.) The results can help to show the energy hogs that could benefit from conservation or improved efficiency.
This is probably not a stand alone in a science course but should be integrated at several levels in several units - physical science: weather and climate; biology: interdependence of systems; chemistry: energy transformation, organic compounds and fuels; physics: types of energy sources - what do we use to make electricity?
Current research deals a lot with making chemistry "greener" particularly using plants and other bio-waste to make fuels. Chemmatters has an article, Green Gasoline, Fuel from Plants is readable for all levels and relevant.
Modern research in biochemistry (health and medicines, fuel sources, plastics, etc) is easily tapped into here to add to the current dilemma scientists face as they work to solve the growing problems with clean energy and energy use.
Bringing in local speakers from environmental groups (Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Clean Water Action), energy companies (Xcel, Centerpoint), as well as scientists from local universities to talk about current research can really make the information relevant.
Students can compare industrial and nonindustrial societies by their standards of living and energy consumption. They can examine the consequences of the world's dependence on fossil fuels, explore a wide range of alternative energy resources and technologies, and consider tradeoffs in each. They might evaluate such matters as the use of high-quality energy resources such as natural gas for such applications as heating homes. They can even propose policies for conserving and managing energy resources. Several activities/lessons can be found at this site.
Video clip : Catherine Mohr builds green - In a short, funny, data-packed talk at TED U, Catherine Mohr walks through all the geeky decisions she made when building a green new house -- looking at real energy numbers, not hype. What choices matter most? Not the ones you think.
Energy Kids - Energy Kids (www.eia.gov/kids) is a student-friendly website hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA). The site includes a variety of information and activities about energy organized in several main categories: What is Energy?, Sources of Energy, Using & Saving Energy, History of Energy, Games and Activities, for Teachers, Related Links, Energy Calculators, and a Glossary.
PBS Documentary e2 Series - Global in scope and comprised of six 30-minute chapters, e² energy features the engineers, policymakers and innovations that are transforming energy availability and consumption. Each episode covers viable policy and technology alternatives to the fossil fuel culture.
Energy Board Game Energy Choices Game Use this board game to introduce the concepts of energy use in our lives and the very real impact that personal choices can have on our energy consumption, energy bills and fuel supply. The game begins as students select cards that define their modes of transportation and home design. The players roll dice and move around the board, landing on "choice" or "situation" blocks and selecting cards that describe consumer choices and real-life events that impact their energy consumption and annual energy bill. Discussion questions probe the students to interpret what choices they made and which situations they encountered had the most impact on their energy consumption and energy bills. All game board, card and money files are available online free of charge.
The Energy Intelligence Agency (EIA) Energy Intelligence Agency This activity provides an active way for students to discover a few critical facts about how we use energy and how much energy we use. Each student has a "clue", some of which are pertinent energy facts and others are silly statements that are clearly not related. The students ask each other for clues and mingle until they have collected all the facts they need. This provides a more interactive way to communicate energy statistics - without a lecture and introduction with board work. The goal is to introduce students to some key terms and issues associated with energy as a necessary prerequisite for the remainder of the unit.
Volume 4: Where does Oil Come From - pages 151-156
Renewable Energy DVD - Investigate the work of front line renewable energy research scientists and show students the commercial applications of their inventions. This timely program discusses the future of fossil fuels; photovoltaic, thermal, and wind energy; new energy storage
The April 2011 issue of ChemMatters celebrates the second theme of the International Year of Chemistry 2011: "Alternative Sources of Energy," with articles on how hydrogen may one day replace gasoline in cars and how old cooking oil can be used as a cheap and more environmentally friendly substitute to gasoline in cars.
- conservation of energy - physical law stating that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
- energy transfer: process through which energy is converted from one form to another.
- energy: ability of an object to do work.
- power: rate at which an object does work.
- watt: The unit of measure for power. Equal to 1 joule/sec.
- kiloWatt (kW) -- typical unit for electrical power in homes; 1 hp = 746 watts
- work: The mechanical transfer of energy from one object to another.
- kinetic energy: An object's energy due to its motion.
- electricity - A source of power generated from the flow of electrical current
- nonrenewable energy - either replenished very slowly or not replenished at all by natural processes. A nonrenewable resource can ultimately be totally depleted or depleted to the point where it is too expensive to extract and process for human use.
- renewable energy source: energy source that is replenished naturally in a short period of time.
- green energy - energy that can be extracted, generated, and/or consumed without any significant negative impact to the environment
- cost-benefit analysis (CBA), economic decision-making approach, used in the assessment of whether a proposed program or policy is worth doing.
- wind turbine: typically three blades rotating that produces electricity;
- photovoltaic cells: Circuits that convert the sun's light directly into electricity.
- power plant - place where electricity is made.
Types of Fuels
- natural gas - hydrocarbon gas found in the earth, composed of methane, ethane, butane, propane and other gases.
- ethanol - (also known as Ethyl Alcohol or Grain Alcohol, CH3CH2OH) - a liquid that is produced chemically from ethylene or biologically from the fermentation of various sugars from carbohydrates found in agricultural crops and cellulosic residues from crops or wood.
- biomass/biofuel: energy source that consists of biological and organic materials.
- coal - fossil fuel prevalent in the U.S. that accounts for nearly 50% of our electricity.
- fossil fuel - nonrenewable energy sources, such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, which are derived from living matter of a previous geologic time and used for fuel.
- geothermal: generated from the radioactive decay of particles found in the Earth's core
- nuclear -- power obtained by splitting heavy atoms (fission) or joining light atoms (fusion). A nuclear energy plant uses a controlled atomic chain reaction to produce heat. The heat is used to make steam run conventional turbine generators.
- wind - generated from the blowing of the wind.
- solar: generated from the sun's light.
- hydro: generated from the movement or falling of water.
Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry - Reviewed by NSTA "With media attention on species extinction and global warming, environmental science has an intrinsic interest for students. The best way to study the environment (the air, water, and soil) and the interactions among biological organisms in the environment, is by performing good experiments using the inquiry model of learning. In today's classrooms, experiments can be improved though the use of quality sensors and measuring equipment. This book helps students do both."
The Greenhouse Effect - How do greenhouse gases affect the climate? Explore the atmosphere during the ice age and today. What happens when you add clouds? Change the greenhouse gas concentration and see how the temperature changes. Then compare to the effect of glass panes. Zoom in and see how light interacts with molecules. Do all atmospheric gases contribute to the greenhouse effect? the same?
Physical Science with Vernier - Vernier technology is a source of data collection that allows students to accurately predict and analysis data. The links below are the complete labs as posted by Vernier Software and Technology.
Solar Homes and Heat Sinks (126.96.36.199.1) - Design and build a model solar home. Measure temperature, graph temperature data and determine the relationship between thermal mass and the ability of a solar home to retain heat.
Organic chemistry has connections with Social Studies with the historical development and use of fossil fuels during the Industrial Revolution and Twentieth Century.
Students study the Industrial Revolution to some degree as a part of world history, although the scientific and technical aspects of it are often shortchanged. It is such a central episode in human experience that students should encounter aspects of it in the elementary and middle grades and in geography, government, literature, and science, as well as in history and technology classes. Once they are familiar with the 18th century's Industrial Revolution, students can compare the 20th century's Information Revolution to it.
Assessment of Students
Which of the following is a resource used to make electricity?
a. wind b. water c. coal d. natural gas e. all of the above
Do you agree or disagree with the statement "Buying and driving a new electric car is better for the environment than driving a used car that gets 20 mpg"? Explain
Solar, biomass, geothermal, wind, and hydropower energy are all renewable sources of energy. They are called renewable because they (choose one and explain your choice)
1. are clean and free to use
2. can be converted directly into heat and electricity
3. can be replenished by nature in a short period of time
4. do not produce air pollution
Assessment of Teachers
What percentage of your energy consumption is electrical? For each use, was the original source wind, coal, hydro, etc? How might this be developed into an activity for your classroom?
What are the energy costs for running this school? How does the building (or district) monitor use and costs? Does your district have a conservation plan? If not, you and your students could design and implement one.
What is the total cost of transportation to and from the school each day by the faculty members? By the students? How could you find out?
What sort of food waste happens in the cafeteria? Is there a composting program? Could you and your students design and implement one?
Struggling and At-Risk
"At risk" students will learn more if they believe the content is "relevant" to their lives.
These lab activities will really help students learn about how energy is produced and consumed and how it affects their future. Having them make a flip-film or slide show on things they are doing at home to conserve energy. Videos are easy to make and many students find their voice when given an assignment like this.
Provide opportunities for interaction for ELLs' an activity that connects input and output. Interaction serves as the foundation for language development because it requires ELLs to comprehend language input, produce language output, and negotiate meaning with others. Through interaction, ELLs not only develop their scientific communication skills, but also clarify their understanding with classmates who are more proficient in English. Teaching Strategies for ELLs by Nazan Bautista and Marcha Castaneda The Science Teacher March 2011.
Students can research different energy types and sources and hold a debate to determine possible solutions.
Have students research how Haiti an island nation has no known source of fossil fuels. As a result the Haitian people have had to resort to using charcoal from tree wood for cooking. This has caused large deforestation of the rain forest in Haiti.
Administrators should observe students engaged in reading current literature/research about energy production and use as well as new discoveries.
Several science channels have programming that is engaging and informative for students to view and discuss.
Because organic chemistry is an important component of many consumer products, administrators would also observe the teacher assisting students in making the connections between energy use and waste in their daily lives.
Parents can support their student's understanding of the applications of energy. These might include hydrocarbon fuels. Encourage your student to monitor home energy use as a family.