Unit 7c. Making Other Energy Choices



The goal of this lab is to explore the differences between conventional and renewable energy resources on Earth. We will investigate the costs and benefits associated with the fossil fuel economy and determine whether there are better energy choices available. We will also discuss the pros and cons of alternative forms of energy and the political and social barriers that impede switching to a more sustainable renewable energy infrastructure.


Figure 7.c.1

Air pollution


To achieve this, we will discuss three articles relating to energy. In the week prior to this discourse, students should be broken up into three groups to facilitate using the jigsaw puzzle technique. The jigsaw method allows a class to cover a large amount of material, in depth, in a short amount of time. Each group will be assigned one of the following two readings from the WorldWatch Institute.


Before Coming to Class

  • Group 1 should read chapter 5 Charting a New Energy Future in State of the World 2003 p. 85-109. This article explores the case for moving toward renewable energy resources as well as the state of renewable energy technology as of 2003. The article also looks at Germany as a case study and explores policy lessons from around the world.
  • Group 2 should read chapter 2 Making Better Energy Choices in State of the World 2004, Special Focus: The Consumer Society, p.24-43. This article looks at energy use trends around the world and relates our energy consumption to our choices as consumers. The article also explores energy related to transportation and what policy choices we have in the future related to sustainable energy resources.
  • Group 3 should read chapter 4 Cultivating Renewable Alternatives to Oil in State of the World 2006 p. 61-77. This article explores biofuels and fuel development.
  • All groups may also want to explore the companion PowerPoint Presentation, Making Better Energy Choices also by the WorldWatch Institute.




Figure 7.c.2

Windmills generate electricity


Figure 7.c.3

Solar panels


Figure 7.c.4

Nuclear power plant


Figure 7.c.5

Hydroelectric dam


In Class - The Jigsaw Puzzle Technique

The jigsaw puzzle method will then be used in class to explore issues related to Energy. Students should come to class having read the article assigned to their group. For the first part of the class, students that read the same article should get together and distill the most important themes, concepts and problems in their paper. Once this has been accomplished, mixed groups should be assembled. Make sure that each mixed group has at least one reader from each of the assigned papers.


The mixed groups should then discuss the most important concepts covered in each paper and come to general conclusions about energy based on information provided in the articles. During the mixed group discussion, using a poster board or a transparency for the overhead projector, half of the mixed groups should answer Question 7.c.2 by creating a chart of the pros and cons of each energy type. These groups should also determine what the most feasible and effective combination of energy types would be for the state or region. The other half of the mixed groups should each develop a plan to encourage and implement change in energy policy for civil society, businesses, and government.


In the third part of the class, each group should present their energy plan to the class. Then in the last part of the section, the whole class should discuss the energy plans together. The following questions may be of use to guide the discussion:


Question 7.c.1

By the year 2020, energy consumption is expected to rise by more than 60% and the largest share of that growth will occur in the developing world. Assuming that fossil fuel resources fill this deficit, what types of pressure will this put on the natural environment, public health and international stability?


Question 7.c.2

What are some of the pros and cons of current fossil fuel and nuclear energy resources? What are the pros and cons of other renewable energy resources?


Question 7.c.3

What are the biggest obstacles to implementing biofuels, solar, and wind energy on a global scale?


Question 7.c.4

What lessons can we learn from Germany's transition from a conventional fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy leader?


Question 7.c.5

What policies should be implemented to encourage the use of renewable energy resources? What are some of the potential roadblocks to implementing these policies?


Question 7.c.6

Should there be governmental subsidies for renewable energy development? What types of problems are associated with giving tax credits for development and implementation of renewable energy technology?


Question 7.c.7

What role does information dissemination play in implementing renewable energy technology and infrastructure? How can this be improved?


Question 7.c.8

How do implementing public participation and industry standards avoid problems associated with renewable technology?


Question 7.c.9

In the 1990's, the World Bank put 100 times more money into fossil fuels than into renewable technologies. How do we divert this trend of investment in unsustainable conventional energy toward more sustainable renewable technologies?


Question 7.c.10

What information do we have to support the notion that renewable energies can meet all of our current and future energy needs? How can we overcome the barriers that impede progress toward a more sustainable renewable energy economy?




Figure 7.c.6

Windmills under a rainbow


Figure 7.c.7

Solar panel at sunset













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