Teachers - Alternative Fuels

Objectives
Students will:
  • identify responsible pollutants
  • compare vehicle emissions
  • investigate alternative vehicle fuels and technologies
  • compare U.S. energy consumption rates with other countries


Materials
computers with Internet access
printer
copies of Student Worksheet


Background
The Clean School Bus Program is an important part of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s (CTDEP) efforts to reduce diesel emissions from school buses. By using a combination of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel and retrofitting the school buses with two types of emission control equipment - filters and catalysts. The emission of fine particulates and carbon monoxide are expected to be reduced by approximately 40 percent and hydrocarbons (VOCs) by 45 percent, as well as a small decrease in nitrogen oxides.

The Clean School Bus Program is currently in Norwich, New Haven and Bridgeport, CT.

The Clean Bus Program is an example of one of many steps that need to occur to reduce the amount of pollution we collectively emit every day from our vehicles. For example, if Americans:
  • Raise fuel efficiency standards in American cars by one mile per gallon, in one year, we would save twice the amount of oil that could be obtained from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Raising standards by 2.7 mpg would save enough to eliminate all the oil imports from Iraq and Kuwait combined.
  • Raising standards by 7.6 mpg would save enough to eliminate 100% of our Persian (Arabian) Gulf region oil imports into this country.
    Source: Environmental Attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

There are several alternative fuels and other technologies available for vehicles today that will decrease our dependency on oil and decrease the amount of pollutant emissions.

Vehicle alternative fuels Vehicle alternative fuels Other technologies
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Bio diesel Hybrid (gasoline-electric)
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Ethanol Electric cars
Propane or Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Methanol  
Fischer-Tropsch    

There are several energy sources that can off-set the U.S. dependency on fossil fuels for generation of electricity, including:

Hydrogen
Hydrogen's potential use in fuel and energy applications includes powering vehicles, running turbines or fuel cells to produce electricity, and generating heat and electricity for buildings. Hydrogen is high in energy, yet produces almost no pollution. NASA has used liquid hydrogen since the 1970s to propel the space shuttle and other rockets into orbit, producing pure water as a byproduct.

Hydrogen fuel cells are considered a promising technology for use as a source of heat and electricity in buildings, and as an electrical power source for electric vehicles.


Solar
Solar energy is absorbed by collector cells or photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight to electricity.

Advantages - It is relatively pollution free, low maintenance, and increasing efficiency.

Disadvantages - It is only available in abundance near the tropics which are relatively cloud free and remote from the places of highest energy demand, and of course not available at night. Solar cell technologies produce DC power which must be converted to the AC power for use in distribution grids, and must be converted into some other form of energy for storage.


Wind
Wind power refers to the extraction of useful energy from the wind by converting the rotation of turbine blades into electrical current by means of an electrical generator. In 2005, worldwide capacity of wind-powered generators was less than 1% of electricity use, however utilizing wind as an energy source is increasing in many areas of the world. U.S. energy studies have concluded that wind harvested in just three of the 50 states could potentially provide enough electricity to power the entire country.

A drawback of using wind power is the issue of intermittent availability. Analysis of energy production shows that half of the energy produced by a turbine is generated in just 15% of the operating time of a turbine. The consequence is that wind energy additional output cannot be supplied in response to load demand.


Geothermal
Geothermal heat can be used to generate electricity. Geothermal power is often referred to as a form of renewable energy, but because the heat at any location can eventually be depleted it is not technically considered renewable. Geothermal power is generated by mining the earth's heat. In areas with high temperature ground water at shallow depths (Iceland), wells are drilled into natural fractures in basement rock or into permeable sedimentary rocks. Hot water or steam flows up through the wells either by pumping or through boiling (flashing) flow.


Hydropower
Hydropower is energy obtained from flowing water. Energy in water can be harnessed and used for this usefulness, in the form of motive energy or temperature differences. The most common application is the dam, but it can be used directly as a mechanical force or a thermal source/sink.
hydroelectric power is probably not a major option for the future of energy production in the developed nations because most major sites within these nations with the potential for harnessing gravity in this way are either already being exploited or are unavailable for other reasons such as environmental considerations.


Nuclear
Uranium, a nonrenewable resource is extracted from mines. Once mined, the uranium ore is processed to create enriched fuel for use in a nuclear power plant. At the power plant, the uranium is bombarded with neutrons, causing the uranium atoms to split (fission) and release both heat and neutrons. These neutrons collide with other uranium atoms and to release additional heat and neutrons in a chain reaction. This heat is used to generate steam, which is used by a turbine to generate electricity.

Procedure
Part 1
1. The table below contains pollution information for Connecticut in 2002:

Connecticut - Pollutant Emission Source Percentages *
       
Pollutant
Power Plants
Fuel Burning
Factories
Road Vehicles
Off-road Vehicles
Miscellaneous
Total Emissions
(Tons per Year)
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
0%
2%
3%
67%
27%
0%
1,022,177
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)
4%
12%
4%
61%
19%
0%
128,223
Particulate Matter <10um (PM10)
1%
8%
12%
4%
4%
71%
54,478
Particulate Matter <2.5um (PM2.5)
3%
20%
26%
8%
11%
32%
19,522
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
35%
47%
3%
7%
8%
0%
31,224
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or Hydrocarbons
0%
5%
42%
31%
21%
0%
137,214
*National Emission Inventory (NEI) - Emission Factor and Inventory Group, OAQPS - EPA 2002
What is the primary source of Carbon Monoxide (CO)?
What is the primary source of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)?


The Clean School Bus Program is an important part of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s (CTDEP) efforts to reduce diesel emissions from school buses. By using a combination of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel and retrofitting the school buses with two types of emission control equipment - filters and catalysts. The emission of fine particulates and carbon monoxide are expected to be reduced by approximately 40 percent and hydrocarbons (VOCs) by 45 percent, as well as a small decrease in nitrogen oxides.

The Clean Bus Program is an example of one of many steps that need to occur to reduce the amount of pollution we collectively emit every day from our vehicles. For example, if Americans:
  • Raise fuel efficiency standards in American cars by one mile per gallon, in one year, we would save twice the amount of oil that could be obtained from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Raising standards by 2.7 mpg would save enough to eliminate all the oil imports from Iraq and Kuwait combined.
  • Raising standards by 7.6 mpg would save enough to eliminate 100% of our Persian (Arabian) Gulf region oil imports into this country.
    Source: Environmental Attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

2. Select four students from the class who are aware of the following information about their family car; model year, make, model, and miles per year.

3. Use the Tailpipe Tally web site to obtain the emissions levels of the cars.
  • Which car had the highest fuel consumption?
  • Carbon dioxide emissions?
  • Carbon monoxide emissions?
  • Nitrogen oxides emissions?
  • Hydrocarbon (VOCs) emissions?
  • How did the cars compare to the hybrid car (Prius) used in the example?


Part 2
There are several alternative fuels and other technologies available for vehicles today that will decrease our dependency on oil and decrease the amount of pollutant emissions.

Vehicle alternative fuels Vehicle alternative fuels Other technologies
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Biodiesel Hybrid (gasoline-electric)
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Ethanol Electric cars
Propane or Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Methanol  
Fischer-Tropsch    

4. In groups of 2 - 3 students, select on of the alternative fuels or technologies listed above. Use the linked resources to:

a) Create a list the benefits and disadvantages for your choice.
b)
Decide whether or not you think it is a good alternative.
c) Answer questions on the Student Worksheet.
d) Be prepared to defend your position in a classroom discussion.

5. Participate in a classroom discussion on the potential use of alternative fuels and technologies in vehicles.


Assessment

Although the United States contains approximately 5% of the total world population, we annually consume vast amounts of the world's natural resources, as shown in the table below.

Consumption - United States v. World (1999)
 
U.S.
World
U.S. % of world consumption*
Total Fossil Fuels
1,942,807
7,689,047
25%

coal and coal products

539,448
2,278,524
24%

crude oil and natural gas liquids

868,485
3,563,984
24%

natural gas

521,987
2,012,559
26%
Nuclear
202,722
661,901
31%
Hydroelectric
24,813
222,223
11%
Renewables. excluding hydroelectric
83,372
1,097,889
8%

primary solid biomass (includes wood)

63,894
1,035,139
6%

biogas and liquid biomass

4,065
14,931
27%

geothermal

14,948
43,802
34%

solar

75
2,217
3%

wind

390
1,748
22%

tide, wave, and ocean

0
53
0%
* in thousand metric tons oil equivalent

1. Using the same country you selected in the "Air Pollution Around the World" lesson, obtain the energy consumption data from the links below and answer the questions on the Student Worksheet.

Consumption data for countries around the world
Australia India Singapore Nepal
Thailand France Mexico
Sweden