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Nonrenewable Energy
Fossil Fuels

As the human population increases, as developing countries become more industrialized, the demand for energy continues to skyrocket. Mankind's quest for cheap, reliable energy has lead to a great number of environmental disasters. Nonrenewable energy sources are the ones that we utilize the most, but are also the most damaging. This unit explores the environmental costs of the generation of energy from coal, oil, and natural gas. Students will learn about the extraction of these resources, the political consequences of oil, and the air pollution and waste made by each.


Fossil Fuels Lecture Powerpoint

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View the fossil fuels lecture Powerpoint.

Purpose: In this lecture, students will learn the origins and applications of each of the three fossil fuels, including coal, crude oil, and natural gas. Specific issues covered include surface and subsurface coal mining, oil drilling and spills, and the debate over hydraulic fracturing.

Essential Concepts: Nonrenewable energy, fossil fuels, coal, natural gas, petroleum, oil, coal mining, strip mining, oil drilling, electricity generation,power plants, generator, turbine, hydraulic fracturing.


Fossil Fuels Student Notes Outline

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Notes outline for the fossil fuels Powerpoint.

Purpose: Taking efficient notes can be a big challenge for many students, especially when working from a Powerpoint lecture. This outline gives students a means to take notes that guides them toward important concepts and avoids the pitfalls of writing word-for-word or simply not taking notes at all. The outline is written as a series of questions, fill-in-the-blanks, or diagrams. This outline is based on the Powerpoint lecture written specifically for this unit.

Essential Concepts: Nonrenewable energy, fossil fuels, coal, natural gas, petroleum, oil, coal mining, strip mining, oil drilling, electricity generation,power plants, generator, turbine, hydraulic fracturing.


Walking With Monsters, Episode 2 - Reptile's Beginnings

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Walking With Monsters - Age of Reptiles Student Worksheet

Purpose: The BBC Walking With Monsters series takes the known pieces of the fossil record from some of the major evolutionary moments in the history of life on Earth and makes them come to life. This episode begins in the Carboniferous period, when the majority of the Earth's coal deposits were formed. As the oxygen content of the atmosphere was much higher, the land arthropods evolved to be huge in size.

Essential Concepts: Carboniferous period, Permian period, coal.


30 Days - Working in a Coal Mine Worksheet

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View the 30 Days Coal Mining worksheet.

Purpose: This is the first episode from season 3 of Morgan Spurlock's documentary series on FX. Originally from the hills of West Virginia, Morgan has a close connection to the coal industry, and decides to spend 30 days living and working with the miners of the Double Bonus Coal Company. Students will gain insight into the dangers of underground mining, health risks faced by the long-time workers, and specific techniques used to try to manage the danger. Morgan is also taken on a brief tour of a surface mining operation, and is able to witness a mountaintop explosion while learning about the environmental hazards of this practice.

Essential Concepts: Fossil fuels, coal mining, underground mining, surface mining, mountaintop removal, Black Lung disease.


Coal-Fired Power Plants Webquest

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Coal-Fired Power Plants Webquest.

Purpose: This online activity takes students to an interactive website where they will watch the process of converting the energy of coal into electricity step-by-step. They will then identify coal plants near them using the Sierra Club website. Finally, they will look at a live wind map to see where the air pollution from the nearest plant will go.

Essential Concepts: Coal, coal-fired power plant, air pollution, wind.


Gasland (Movie)

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View the Gasland student worksheet.

Purpose: Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a process in which natural gas is extracted from shale deposits underground. A This 2010 documentary exposes the consequences of hydraulic fracturing on the groundwater quality of local communities. Students will also learn about the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and how it relaxed regulation of natural gas extraction. This is a great documentary to illustrate the complexities of energy policy, and the wide variety of influences that determine politics.

Essential Concepts: Natural gas, water quality, impaired waters, hydraulic fracturing, Energy Policy Act of 2005


Hydraulic Fracturing Webquest

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Hydraulic fracturing webquest.

Purpose: In this online assignment, students will access an interactive animation produced by Halliburton to understand step-by-step how the fracking process works. They will then visit an interactive map produced by Earth Justice to see where fracturing is occuring around them, and if any accidents have occured nearby.

Essential Concepts: Natural gas, hydraulic fracturing, fracking.


Fossil Fuels Study Guide

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View the nonrenewable energy unit study guide.

Purpose: Once the instruction for the unit is completed, students can complete this study guide to aid in their preparation for a written test. The study guide is divided into two sections: vocabulary and short answer questions. The vocabulary is taken directly form the lecture, sequentially. The short answer questions are meant to model the type they may see on the exam. This study guide is sequentually based on the Powerpoint lecture from this unit.

Essential Concepts: Nonrenewable energy, fossil fuels, coal, natural gas, petroleum, oil, coal mining, strip mining, oil drilling, electricity generation,power plants, generator, turbine, hydraulic fracturing.


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