SCI1100 Unit 5 Basics in Environmental Science: Renewable sources paper


Question Description

Unit 5 - 75.00 pts


General Instructions

Topics: (1) Nonrenewable Energy Sources and Conservation; (2) Renewable Energy Alternatives.

NOTE: Question #7 for Unit 5 is eliminated from the pool and you are not required to answer the question. This does not alter the required 1000 word count and 3 scholarly sources for the unit.


Assignment Submitted


Differentiate between a renewable energy source, a nonrenewable energy source, and a clean energy source. Give an example of each.


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Fully describe the method scientists use to determine the net energy available in a fossil fuel deposit.


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What are the three fossil fuels upon which humans rely? From what types of organisms do each of the three fuels specifically come?


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What are oil sands? Describe two problems associated with the extraction of oil sands.


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What is methane hydrate? Describe the possible environmental impacts of extraction.


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Why is the combustion of biomass considered to add no net gain in atmospheric carbon dioxide? When can biomass use as an energy source become nonrenewable?


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Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of growing corn for use in ethanol production.


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Name and describe the three major approaches to using hydropower to generate electricity.


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Differentiate between active solar energy collection and passive solar energy collection.


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What alternative energy source would you want your state to invest most of its budget in? Explain.


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15 Nonrenewable Energy Sources, Their Impacts, and Energy Conservation S Upon completing this chapter, A you will be able to: ➤ Identify the energy sources that we use N ➤ Describe the nature and origin of coal, F natural gas, and crude oil, and evaluate their extraction and use ➤ Assess concerns over the future depletion of global oil supplies O ➤ Describe the nature and potential of alternative fossil fuels R ➤ Outline and assess environmental, political, social, and economic impacts of fossil fuel use, and explore D potential solutions ➤ Specify strategies for conserving energy , and enhancing efficiency ➤ Describe nuclear energy and how we harness it ➤ Assess the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power, and outline the societal debate over this energy source B E T H A N Y 1 3 5 3 T S The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on fire, April 2010 Essential Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, Fourth Edition, by Jay Withgott and Matthew Laposata. Published by Benjamin Cummings. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. M15_WITH2901_04_SE_C15.indd 325 8/8/11 12:20 AM CENTR AL C A SE S TUDY Offshore Drilling and the Deepwater Horizon Blowout “This oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.” —U.S. President Barack Obama, 2010 “The Deepwater Horizon incident is a direct consequence of our global addiction to oil. . . . If this isn’t a call to green power, I don’t know what is.” S A N t began with a spectacular and deadly explosion that killed 11 people far out to sea. It F And its consequences will stretch on for captivated a horrified nation for three months. O years. The collapse of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the resulting R oil spill from its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico polluted water, beaches, and marshes; D shut down fisheries; ruined tourism; and killed countless animals. The oil contaminated over , —University of Georgia Researcher Dr. Mandy Joye, 2010 I 1,050 km (650 mi) of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida (FIGURE 15.1). Ultimately, it raised the question of what costs we are prepared to accept in order to continue relying on fossil fuel energy. B E T H AMISSISSIPPI ALABAMA N LOUISIANA Y The catastrophe in the and captured oiled birds and Gulf began on April 20, 2010, wildlife to clean and release. when a large bubble of natuThe work was hot, dirty, and ral gas rose through the drill difficult, and the scale of the pipe at the Macondo well bejob seemed overwhelming. TEXAS ing drilled by British PetroBy the time BP engineers leum (BP) a mile underwater. finally got the well sealed 86 FLORIDA The gas bubble shot past a days later, roughly 4.9 million Area 1of oil spill malfunctioning blowout prebarrels (230 million gallons) venter and set off a fiery of crude oil had entered the Gulf 3 Of Mexico MEXICO explosion atop the Deepwater Gulf, creating the largest ac5 Horizon platform, which sank cidental oil spill in history. As 3 two days later. The stage had oil washed ashore, it coated been set by a series of setbeaches and salt marshes, T backs that put the drilling behind schedule and led killing birds, turtles, crabs, fish, and plants, and spoiling S BP and its contractors to cut corners while governtourism for an entire summer. Thousands of fisherment regulators looked the other way. men were thrown out of work as some of the nation’s As oil spewed from the seafloor at a rate of 2,000 most productive fisheries were shut down. gallons every minute, response efforts swung into acMany Americans who watched news coverage of tion. Dozens of ships and boats tried to corral the risthe spill day after day felt shock and outrage. Indeed, ing oil at the surface and burn off what they could. the Gulf oil spill resulted from careless missteps by a Planes and helicopters dumped chemical dispersants corporation and its contractors under weak oversight from the air. Thousands of people in protective Tyvek from the federal government. However, the spill is suits walked the beaches and spread booms to soak perhaps best viewed not as a single isolated instance up oil. Teams surveyed marshes for contamination of bad practice or misfortune, but as a by-product of Essential Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, Fourth Edition, by Jay Withgott and Matthew Laposata. Published by Benjamin Cummings. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. M15_WITH2901_04_SE_C15.indd 326 8/8/11 12:20 AM SOURCES OF ENERGY GEORGIA Tallahassee Humanity has devised many ways to harness the renewable and nonrenewable forms of energy available on our planet (TABLE 15.1). We use these energy sources to heat and light our homes; power our machinery; fuel our vehicles; produce plastics, pharmaceuticals, and synthetic fibers; and provide the comforts and conveniences to which we’ve grown accustomed in the industrial age. FLORIDA LOUISIANA New Orleans Tampa Macondo Well (site of Deepwater Horizon blowout) Oil on shoreline Very light oiling Medium oiling Heavy oiling Light oiling Oil on water surface 1-10 days 10-30 days More than 30 days (a) Extent of the oil spill (b) Workers scrub oil from a Louisiana beach FIGURE 15.1  Oil from the Macondo well blowout spread over thousands of square miles of the Gulf of Mexico (a) in the spring and summer of 2010. Darker areas indicate more days with signs of oil at the surface. Thousands of volunteers, government officials, and citizens paid by British Petroleum assisted (b) in the vast cleanup effort. Source (a): National Geographic and NOAA. our society’s insatiable appetite for petroleum, driven largely by our reliance on automobiles. Our thirst for fossil fuels has led the oil industry to drill farther and farther out to sea, in search of larger and more profitable untapped deposits. In many cases it has found them, but the farther it moves offshore, the more risks build for major accidents that are hard to control. Until we reduce our dependence on oil and shift to clean and renewable energy sources, we will suffer pollution in the sea and in the air, climate change and health impacts from fossil fuel combustion, and economic uncertainty from reliance on foreign sources of oil. Every once in a while, some drastic event makes these costs painfully apparent. The Deepwater Horizon spill was not the first such event, and it will likely not be the last. ■ We use a variety of energy sources Most of Earth’s energy comes from the sun. We can harness energy from the sun’s radiation directly by using solar power technologies. Solar radiation also helps drive wind S and the water cycle, enabling us to harness wind power and power. And of course, sunlight drives phoA hydroelectric tosynthesis (p. 30) and the growth of plants, from which N we take wood and other biomass as a fuel source. Finally, F when plants die, some may impart their stored chemical energy to fossil fuels , highly combustible substances formed O from the remains of organisms from past geologic ages. The R three fossil fuels we use widely today are oil, coal, and natural gas. D Fossil fuels provide most of the energy that our econ, omy buys, sells, and consumes, because their high energy content makes them efficient to ship, store, and burn. We use these fuels for transportation, heating, and cooking, and B also to generate electricity, a secondary form of energy that is easier to transfer over long distances and apply to a variety E of uses. Global consumption of the three main fossil fuels T H A N Y 1 3 5 3 T S TABLE 15.1 Energy Sources We Use Today Energy source Description Type of energy Crude oil Fossil fuel extracted from ground (liquid) Nonrenewable Natural gas Fossil fuel extracted from ground (gas) Nonrenewable Coal Fossil fuel extracted from ground (solid) Nonrenewable Nuclear energy Energy from atomic nuclei of uranium Nonrenewable Biomass energy Energy stored in plant matter from photosynthesis Renewable Hydropower Energy from running water Renewable Solar energy Energy from sunlight directly Renewable Wind energy Energy from wind Renewable Geothermal energy Earth’s internal heat rising from core Renewable Tidal and wave energy Energy from tidal forces and ocean waves Renewable Nonrenewable Energy Sources, Their Impacts, and Energy Conservation ALABAMA CHAPTER 15 MISSISSIPPI Lake Pontchartrain 327 Essential Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, Fourth Edition, by Jay Withgott and Matthew Laposata. Published by Benjamin Cummings. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. M15_WITH2901_04_SE_C15.indd 327 8/8/11 3:08 PM Higher EROI ratios mean that we receive more energy from each unit of energy that we invest. Fossil fuels are widely used because their EROI ratios have historically been high. However, EROI ratios can change over time. Those for U.S. oil and natural gas have declined from over 100:1 in the 1940s to about 5:1 today. This means that we used to be able to gain 100 units of energy for every unit of energy expended, but now we can gain only five. The EROI ratios for oil and gas declined because we extracted the easiest deposits first and now must work harder and harder to extract the remaining amounts. World fossil fuel consumption (billion tons of oil equivalent) 4 Oil 3 Coal 2 Natural gas 1 0 1950 1960 1970 1980 Year 1990 2000 2010 FIGURE 15.2  Global consumption of fossil fuels has risen greatly over the past half century. Oil use rose steeply during the 1960s to overtake coal, and today it remains our leading energy source. Data from U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Agency, and BP plc. 2011. Statistical review of world energy 2011. 328 has risen steadily for years and is now at its highest level ever (FIGURE 15.2). Energy sources such as sunlight, geothermal energy, and tidal energy are considered perpetually renewable because they are readily replenished, and so we can keep using them without depleting them (pp. 2–3). In contrast, energy sources such as oil, coal, and natural gas are considered nonrenewable. These nonrenewable fuels result from ongoing natural processes, but it takes so long for fossil fuels to form that, once depleted, they cannot be replaced within any time span useful to our civilization. It takes a thousand years for the biosphere to generate the amount of organic matter that must be buried to produce a single day’s worth of fossil fuels for our society. At our current rate of consumption, we will use up Earth’s accessible store of fossil fuels in just decades to centuries. Nuclear power as currently harnessed through the fission of uranium (p. 346) is nonrenewable to the extent that uranium ore is in limited supply. However, we can also reprocess some uranium and reuse it. It takes energy to make energy We do not simply get energy for free. To harness, extract, process, and deliver the energy we use, we need to invest substantial inputs of energy. For instance, drilling for oil offshore in the Gulf of Mexico requires the construction of immense drilling platforms (the Deepwater Horizon cost $560 million) and extensive infrastructure to extract and transport oil— all requiring the use of huge amounts of energy. Thus, when evaluating how much energy a source gives us, it is important to subtract costs in energy invested from benefits in energy received. Net energy expresses the difference between energy returned and energy invested: Net energy = Energy returned – Energy invested When assessing energy sources, it is useful to use a ratio often denoted as EROI, which stands for energy returned on investment. EROI ratios are calculated as follows: EROI = Energy returned / Energy invested Energy and its consumption are unevenly distributed Most energy sources are localized and unevenly distributed over Earth’s surface. This is true of oil, coal, and natural gas, Sand as a result, some regions have substantial reserves of fosAsil fuels whereas others have very few. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s proven reserves of crude oil lie in the Middle East. NThe Middle East is also rich in natural gas, but Russia holds Fmore natural gas than any other country. Russia is also rich in coal, as is China, but the United States possesses the most Ocoal of any nation (TABLE 15.2). R D TABLE 15.2 Nations with the Largest Proven Reserves of Fossil Fuels , Oil Natural gas Coal (% world reserves) B E T H A N Y (% world reserves) (% world reserves) Saudi Arabia, 17.3 Russia, 23.9 United States, 27.6 Venezuela, 13.8* Iran, 15.8 Russia, 18.2 Canada, 11.5* Qatar, 13.5 China, 13.3 Iran, 9.0 Turkmenistan, 4.3 Australia, 8.9 Iraq, 7.5 Saudi Arabia, 4.3 India, 7.0 *Most of Canada’s and Venezuela’s oil reserves occur as oil sands (p. 335), which are included in these figures. Data are for 2010, from BP plc. 2011. Statistical review of world energy 2011. Consumption rates across the world are also uneven. Citizens of developed regions generally consume far more 1 energy than do those of developing regions. The United States 3has only 4.5% of the world’s population, but it consumes over 520% of the world’s energy. Nations also differ in how they use Developing nations devote a greater proportion of en3energy. ergy to subsistence activities, such as growing and preparing Tfood and heating homes, whereas industrialized countries use greater proportion for transportation and industry. Because Saindustrialized nations rely more on mechanized equipment and technology, they use more fossil fuels. In the United States, fossil fuels supply 83% of energy needs. COAL, NATURAL GAS, AND OIL The three major fossil fuels on which we rely today are coal, natural gas, and oil. We will first consider how these fossil fuels are formed, how we locate deposits, how we extract these resources, and how our society puts them to use. We will then examine some environmental and social impacts of their use. Essential Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, Fourth Edition, by Jay Withgott and Matthew Laposata. Published by Benjamin Cummings. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. M15_WITH2901_04_SE_C15.indd 328 8/8/11 2:43 PM Woody terrestrial vegetation dies and falls into swamp Phytoplankton, zooplankton, and other marine organisms die and sink to sea floor Ancient swamp Organic matter from woody land plants partly decomposed by microbes under accumulating sediments; kerogen forms Ancient ocean Anaerobic conditions Organic matter from soft-bodied sea life partly decomposed by microbes under accumulating sediments; some carbon bonds broken; kerogen forms Heat and pressure deep underground alter kerogen Thermogenic natural gas formed from kerogen Coal formed from kerogen Present day Crude oil formed from kerogen FIGURE 15.3  Fossil fuels begin to form when organisms die and end up in oxygen-poor conditions, such as when trees fall into lakes and are buried by sediment, or when phytoplankton and zooplankton drift to the seafloor and are buried (top diagram). Organic matter that undergoes slow anaerobic decomposition deep under sediments forms kerogen (middle diagram). Geothermal heating then acts on kerogen to create crude oil and natural gas (bottom diagram). Oil and gas come to reside in porous rock layers beneath dense, impervious layers. Coal is formed when plant matter is compacted so tightly that there is little decomposition. Nonrenewable Energy Sources, Their Impacts, and Energy Conservation Fossil fuels form only after organic material is broken down over millions of years in an anaerobic environment, one with little or no oxygen. Such environments include the bottoms of lakes, swamps, and shallow seas. The fossil fuels we burn today in our vehicles, homes, industries, and power plants were formed from the tissues of organisms that lived 100–500 million years ago. When organisms were buried quickly in anaerobic sediments after death, chemical energy in their tissues became concentrated as the tissues decomposed and their hydrocarbon compounds (p. 28) were chemically altered amid heat and compression (FIGURE 15.3). Coal is a hard blackish substance formed from organic matter (generally woody plant material) that was compressed under very high pressure, creating dense, solid carbon structures. Coal typically results when water is squeezed out of the material as pressure and heat increase and time passes, and when little decomposition takes place because the material cannot be digested or appropriate decomposers are not present. The proliferation 300–400 million years ago of swampy environments where organic material was buried has created coal deposits throughout the world. Natural gas is a gas consisting primarily of methane (CH4) and including varying amounts of other volatile hydrocarbons. Oil, or crude oil, is a sludge-like liquid containing a mix of various hydrocarbon molecules. Oil is also known as petroleum, although this term is commonly used to refer to oil and natural gas collectively. Both natural gas and oil have S formed from organic material (especially dead plankton) that A drifted down through coastal marine waters millions of years and was buried in sediments on the ocean floor. This orN ago ganic material was transformed by time, heat, and pressure F into today’s natural gas and crude oil. Two processes give rise to natural gas. Biogenic gas is O created at shallow depths by the anaerobic decomposition of R organic matter by bacteria. An example is the “swamp gas” D you may smell when stepping into the muck of a swamp. One source of biogenic natural gas is the decay process in landfills, , and many landfill operators are now capturing this gas to sell as fuel (p. 385). Thermogenic gas results from compression and heat deep underground. Thermogenic gas may form directly, B along with coal or crude oil, or from coal or oil that is altered by E heating. Most gas that we extract commercially is thermogenic and is found above deposits of crude oil or seams of coal, so T it is often extracted along with those fossil fuels. Indeed, the H Deepwater Horizon blowout occurred because natural gas acthe oil deposit shot up the well shaft once drilling A companying relieved the pressure, and ignited atop the platform. N Because fossil fuels form only under certain conditions, occur in isolated deposits. For instance, oil and natural gas Y they tend to rise upward through cracks and fissures in porous rock until meeting a dense impermeable rock layer that traps them. 1 Geologists searching for fossil fuels drill cores and conduct ground, air, and seismic surveys to map underground rock 3 formations and predict where fossil fuel deposits might lie. CHAPTER 15 Fossil fuels are indeed fuels created from “fossils” 329 5 We mine coal and use it 3 to generate electricity T Coal is the world’s most abundant fossil fuel, and it provides S 27% of our global primary energy consumption. Once a coal seam is located, we extract coal from the ground using several methods. For deposits near the surface, we use strip mining, whereas for deposits deep underground, we use subsurface mining (see Figure 11.14, p. 238). Recently, we have begun mining coal on immense scales in the Appalachian Mountains, essentially scraping off entire mountaintops in a process called mountaintop removal mining (p. 240). (We explored mining practices and their impacts more fully in Chapter 11.) People have burned coal to cook food, heat homes, and fire pottery for thousands of years. Coal-fired steam engines helped drive the industrial revolution, powering factories, Essential Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, Fourth Edition, by Jay Withgott and Matthew Laposata. Published by Benjamin Cummings. Copyright © 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. M15_WITH2901_04_SE_C15.indd 329 8/8/11 12:20 AM Turbine Generator Boiler Co ...
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School: Duke University



Basics in Environmental Science OUTLINE
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Renewable sources such as solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy, and geothermal
energy never run out once it has been used.

Nonrenewable sources such as crude oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy run out
after it has been used (Withgott & Laposata, 2015).

Renewable sources can be used repeatedly and get replaced naturally by the environment.

On the other hand, nonrenewable sources get exhausted after it has been used. For
example, extracting of coal gets depleted from the natural setting once it has been used.

Clean energy source is generated from sources that do not produce greenhouse gases such
as chlorofluorocarbons and carbon dioxide during production.


To determine the net energy available in a fossil fuel deposit, scientists subtract cost in
energy invested from energy gained (energy returned).


Coal, oil, and natural gases are three fossil fuels relied upon by humans.

Coal comes from woody plant material that was compacted so tightly under high
pressure, resulting in the formation of solid and dense carbon structures (Withgott &
Laposata, 2015).

Natural gas and oil come from dead plankton that moved down through coastal marine
water and got buried in sediments on the floor of the ocean.



Oil sands also referred to as tar sands are natural mixtures of clay and moist sand
containing nearly 1 percent to 20 percent of bitumen (Withgott & Laposata, 2015).

The major problem with oil sands is that it contains large components of carbon and low

Greenhouse gas emissions for oil sand during processing and extraction are significantly
higher as compared to conventional crude oil (Liggio et al., 2016).


Methane hydrate also referred to as methane ice or methane clathrate is “a cage-like
lattice of ice” that is made up of methane molecules trapped inside water molecules.

It contains methane gas that can accelerate climate change (Withgott & Laposata, 2015).

There is no net gain in atmospheric carbon dioxide in combustion of biomass because it


releases carbon dioxide that was used during photosynthesis in the past.

In other words, combustion of biomass releases what would be released when organic
matter naturally decomposed (Withgott & Laposata, 2015).


The main advantage of corn is that it is environmental friendly as well as a renewable
source of energy.

It also reduces overdependence on oil-producing countrie...

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