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NOTE: (this laboratory is due the week of December 7 and you will have three weeks to complete it.  You will work in teams to investigate this topic using the physical, electronic, and on-line resources provided to you by the Purdue University Library System.  You will produce a well structured PowerPoint presentation that you will present to class—see details on presentation structure)

Search for Truth--Alternative Energy and Climate

     You have recently been hired by a newly appointed presidential committee on Climate and Energy Policy.  In the current political environment, where energy prices hover about all-time highs, and pictures of polar bears afloat on shrinking slabs of ice decorate the front pages of news magazines, your role as an expert in Earth Sciences has suddenly taken on critical importance in this new administration.  All agree that we must produce energy that is clean (low sulfur and nitrogen and minimal CO2 output) therefore, the future of the US energy policy could rest on what you find out about the consequences of investing in various types of energy generation means.  Your committee has been charged with investigating the applicability of power generation by wind turbine and biofuels combustion with the goal of determining how much we can reduce our use of oil and coal combustion in the next ten by switching emphasis to these energy generation means. 

Each lab class will be divided into four teams two will defend the maximal conversion to either one of these power generation means while the other will take a stance that either one of these means is insufficient or too costly to use.  For this project, each team will need to acquire the following information to defend their positions effectively: 

  1. Determine present usage of this power generation means nationally (global examples will help).
  2. Determine cost of production (including production of equipment to produce energy).
  3. Determine potential capacity of this resource
  4. Determine carbon footprint (CO2equivalents)/terawatt for production and usage (including, if possible energy required to produce equipment)
  5. Describe other environmental impacts of resource (toxic by-products, impact on ecosystems)
  6. Compare these results to the current energy usage patterns of the US
  7. Determine where in the US these energy generation means could be applied.
  8. Make a recommendation of how much of the US’s energy should be produced from this source.   (This should include a cost/environmental comparison…i.e., how much more/less would it cost and how much more/less CO2 would be produced.)


The week of November 16 we will begin in class lectures on the science of the modern climate change and the evidence that lead scientists to conclude this is one of the most pressing issues of our time.  This course lecture material will provide the backdrop to your investigations but you will need to dig much deeper. 

Ok, now that you have your mission, what are you going to do next?


Last update: November 12, 2009

Prepared by: Michael Fosmire