Explore More: The Future of Energy

Explore More: The Future of Energy

From fossil fuels to biomass, there are several options in our current mix of energy resources. Investigate the advantages and drawbacks of each fuel. Discover the issues surrounding efficiency, consumption, infrastructure, and environmental consequences. How can we meet our energy needs in the future?

Explore More: The Future of Energy (Full Program)

How can we meet our energy needs in the future? Will we ever decrease our dependence on fossil fuels? What might be the best alternative? From fossil fuels to biomass, there are several options in our current mix of energy resources. Investigate the advantages and drawbacks of each fuel. Discover the issues surrounding efficiency, consumption, infrastructure, and environmental consequences. How can we meet our energy needs in the future?

Introduction to Energy Basics

Electrical power is produced and distributed through three simple steps: generation, transmission, and distribution.

Pre-viewing Questions
  • Brainstorm a list of ways you use electricity in your daily life.
  • What would one day without electricity be like?
Post-viewing Questions
  • Check off from your list those items mentioned in the video.
  • Choose the most important impact electricity has on your daily life and explain how you could overcome the loss of electricity.
  • Think of daily ways your community uses energy and describe a day without it. How would you compensate?
  • What fuel sources generate the power in your area?
  • What fuel does your power company use?

 

The Future of Energy - Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) provide the energy that powers our lifestyles and our economy. Fossil fuels power everything from the planes in the sky to the cars on the road. They heat our homes and light up the night. They’re the bedrock we base our energy mix on. But they are a limited resource.

Pre-viewing Questions
  • What are three ways you use fossil fuels on a daily basis?
Post-viewing Questions
  • What do you see as the future for fossil fuels?
  • Can fossil fuels be environmentally-friendly? How?
  • Is the resource abundant? Is it available? Is it cost effective? What is the environmental impact?

 

The Future of Energy - Nuclear Power

Nuclear power is one of the most recent achievements in the long history of harnessing energy, and one of the most controversial. A result of research originally done to produce the atomic bomb, nuclear energy takes advantage of the incredible potential energy within the atom in a productive instead of destructive way. As of 2011, nuclear energy provides nearly 20 percent of the electric power in the U.S.

Pre-viewing Questions
  • What do you think of when you hear of “nuclear” energy? How did you get these impressions?
Post-viewing Questions
  • Do the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the potential harms?
  • How should the management of nuclear waste be handled?
  • Is the resource abundant? Is it available? Is it cost effective? What is the environmental impact?

 

The Future of Energy - Solar Power

The sun is our most impressive source of energy. More than one million times larger than the earth, the sun gives us ten times more energy than is stored in all the world’s reserves of coal and oil every year. Despite this, as of 2011, solar power accounts for less than one percent of all the electricity generated in the United States.

Pre-viewing Questions
  • Have you personally used the sun’s energy?
Post-viewing Questions
  • Propose a way that solar power could be used that would increase its popularity and its ability to meet our energy needs?
  • If solar energy is unlimited and environmentally clean, why isn’t it used more?
  • Is the resource abundant? Is it available? Is it cost effective? What is the environmental impact?

 

The Future of Energy - Wind Power

At its worst, wind can wreak havoc, destroying everything in its path. At its best, it’s a source of clean, efficient, inexpensive energy; but as of 2011, it provided less than 3 percent of all the electricity in the U.S.

Pre-viewing Questions
  • What recreational sports harness the power of the wind?
  • Historically, how have we used the wind to do work?
Post-viewing Questions
  • What are the benefits of wind power?
  • What makes wind power unpredictable and unreliable?
  • Is the resource abundant? Is it available? Is it cost effective? What is the environmental impact?

 

The Future of Energy - Hydropower

Water’s raw power provides the energy to produce enough electricity for 28 million Americans every year and, as of 2011, creates nearly 10 percent all electricity in the U.S. Worldwide, hydropower generates more than 2.3 trillion Kilowatt (kW) hours of electricity per year, the energy equivalent of 3.6 billion barrels of oil.

Pre-viewing Questions
  • How does a water wheel work in an old fashioned mill? a river boat?
Post-viewing Questions
  • Find an example of hydropower in action nearest you. How has its presence influenced the local economy? the environment?
  • Is the resource abundant? Is it available? Is it cost effective? What is the environmental impact?

 

The Future of Energy - Biomass Power

Everything from crops left in the field to weedy trees, from animal waste to humans’ garbage, can be recycled and transformed into usable energy. Biomass is a very broad term covering a wide variety of materials that can be used as energy resources. Since the sun’s energy is absorbed by all living things; humans, animals, and especially plants, a lot of materials we see as leftovers are storehouses of energy. For example, a tree uses photosynthesis to store energy in its leaves and trunk. The tree is biomass. The tree can be burned to release the energy in the form of heat. 

Pre-viewing Questions
  • Where does the ethanol in gasoline come from?
  • How does ethanol work?
Post-viewing Questions
  • How does biomass create energy?
  • How can we take advantage of biomass?
  • Is the resource abundant? Is it available? Is it cost effective? What is the environmental impact?

 

The Future of Energy - Geothermal Power

Geothermal energy is energy that is generated and stored within the earth. It takes advantage of the Earth’s core heat to produce usable energy.

Pre-viewing Questions
  • What is needed to produce geothermal power?
Post-viewing Questions
  • hat drawbacks do hydropower and geothermal power share?
  • Is the resource abundant? Is it available? Is it cost effective? What is the environmental impact?

 

The Future of Energy - Hydrogen Power

Hydrogen can be used as a way of storing or transporting energy.

Pre-viewing Questions
  • What is hydrogen?
  • Where do we find it?
Post-viewing Questions
  • How is hydrogen currently viewed as an energy source? How can hydrogen revolutionize energy use?
  • Is the resource abundant? Is it available? Is it cost effective? What is the environmental impact?

 


Produced from 2001 through 2004, Iowa Public Television's Explore More online and broadcast series engages students in problems they can relate to, provides compelling content for investigation and gives students opportunities to form their own points of view on contemporary issues.

Although the full website has been retired, this archive provides links to project videos and related resources. Please contact us if you have questions or comments about Explore More.