Consequences of Fossil Fuel Use

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hope, began to celebrate. The Quecreek accident is a reminder that fossil fuels come with costs ... It Online • Lesson 17.3 Worksheets •. Lesson 17.3 Assessment  ...


Consequences of Fossil Fuel Use

Guiding Question: What problems are associated with fossil fuel use?

• Explain how pollutants released by fossil fuels damage health and the environment. • Describe the environmental and health effects of mining and drilling. • Explain the implications of dependence on foreign nations for fossil fuels. • Explain why energy conservation is important.


Reading Strategy As you read, draw a concept map about the harmful effects of fossil fuels. Be sure to include all the blue and green headings in your map. Vocabulary acid drainage, energy conservation

Fighting to survive, the nine coal miners, trapped 73 meters (240 feet) underground, could do only one thing to let the world know that they were still alive. They tapped on an air pipe and hoped that someone on the surface would hear the taps. The accident that trapped the miners happened on July 24, 2002, in Quecreek, Pennsylvania. The miners were working deep underground when a wall collapsed. The opening created by the collapse led to an abandoned mine filled with water. The bitterly cold water rushed into the miners’ work area. Within seconds, the area had flooded. The miners were trapped in an air pocket and couldn’t get out. Rescuers went to work as soon as they realized what had happened. At first, they had no luck. Finally, a huge drill broke through into the miners’ area, and much-needed air could be pumped in. After three days underground, the miners were finally rescued. One by one, all nine of them were lifted to safety. Their families and friends, who had almost given up hope, began to celebrate. The Quecreek accident is a reminder that fossil fuels come with costs as well as benefits. Workers risk their lives to obtain the fuels we need. And use of the fuels can cause damage.

17.3 Lesson Plan Preview Differentiated Instruction  Advanced students summarize relevant content from the previous chapter to help the class learn about fossil fuel pollution. Inquiry  Students observe a demo modeling the effects of mountaintop removal. Real World  Students create posters about energy conservation.

17.3 RESOURCES Scientific Method Lab, Identifying Insulators • Real Data Online • Map It Online • Lesson 17.3 Worksheets • Lesson 17.3 Assessment • Chapter 17 Overview Presentation GUIDING QUESTION FOCUS  Using a piece of notebook paper and a pen, have each student draw two simple pictures that depict problems associated with the use of fossil fuels. Have students form pairs, and have each pair discuss their drawings. Call on volunteers to share their drawings with the class.

FIGURE 13  Rescue!  One of the Quecreek miners is carried to safety. Nonrenewable Energy  529

Real Data Carbon Dioxide From Fossil Fuels

Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Fossil Fuels

Billion metric tons of carbon/year

8 The combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxTotal ide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is the major 7 Oil greenhouse gas that is increasing in the atmosphere 6 Coal because of human activities. The graph shows how the Natural gas 5 release of carbon dioxide by the burning of oil, coal, 4 and natural gas has changed since 1800. Study the 3 graph and then answer the questions. 2 1. Interpret Graphs  What does the purple line on the 1 graph represent? 0 2. Relate Cause and Effect  Around what year did 1800 1850 1900 1950 2000 the total emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil Year Data from Marland, G., et al. 2006. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge fuels begin to go up dramatically? What do you National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN. think accounts for this dramatic change? (Hint: Around that time, how did people’s lifestyles begin 4. Predict  Do you think the overall trend shown to change?) on the graph will change? Explain your answer. 3. Analyze Data  Which two fossil fuels release the most carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?


Real Data 1. The total emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels from 1800 to the present. 2. Around 1950 when people’s lifestyles began to change in ways that demanded more energy 3. Coal and oil 4. Answers will vary, but should show understanding of the trend shown on the graph.

Pollution From Fossil Fuels The burning of fossil fuels causes pollution that affects health and the environment. When they are burned, fossil fuels release substances that contribute to climate change and cause pollution. In addition, the processes involved in obtaining and refining fuels can harm human health and the environment. Some of these effects are described below.

Releasing Greenhouse Gases  All fossil fuels contain carbon.

When fossil fuels burn, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As you have learned, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide produced by the combustion of fossil fuels warms the atmosphere and drives changes in global climate. Because of its role in global climate change, carbon dioxide pollution is becoming recognized as the greatest environmental impact of fossil fuel use.

Air Pollution  The burning of coal and oil releases sulfur dioxide and

nitrogen oxides, which contribute to industrial and photochemical smog and cause acid deposition. However, catalytic converters have cut down the release of pollutants by motor vehicles. To reduce pollution by power plants, the U.S. government and industries are working to develop a coalfired power plant that does not release pollutants.

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Water Pollution  Fossil fuels pollute water as well as air. For example,

some oil from nonpoint sources, such as industries, homes, and cars, runs off from its sources. This oil in runoff can contaminate water in or on the ground. Eventually, this runoff oil enters rivers and streams. From there, the oil may be carried to the ocean. Huge oil spills from ships and platforms also can severely damage marine environments. This was the case with the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. Oil from Alaska’s North Slope had been piped to the port of Valdez and loaded onto the ship. Leaving the port, the ship grounded, causing a huge oil spill. The spilled oil caused massive long-term environmental damage to Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Twenty-one years later, the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting oil spill will likely be more devastating than the Valdez spill.

Effects on Health  Numerous health risks are associated with fossil fuels.

Mercury, for example, which is present in coal in trace amounts, is released from coal-fired power plants. Mercury can damage the central nervous system and the kidneys, and can cause severe nausea. Motor vehicles release pollutants that irritate the nose, throat, and lungs. Gases such as hydrogen sulfide can evaporate from certain kinds of crude oil and irritate the eyes and throat. Crude oil also often contains trace amounts of poisons such as lead and arsenic. (a) Reading Checkpoint


Reading Checkpoint  Fossil fuels pollute water and damage aquatic environments. FIGURE 14  The Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon Oil Spills  (a) Two days after the Exxon Valdez spill began, a smaller tanker tries to offload oil from the ship to prevent more oil from spilling into Prince William Sound. (b) A man becomes covered with oil while helping to clean a beach in Alaska. (c) An explosion destroys the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killing 11 workers and allowing oil to spurt directly from the sea floor into the Gulf of Mexico. (d) Workers clean a brown pelican at the Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Louisiana.


How do fossil fuels affect water?


Prince William Sound, 1989 (b)

Gulf of Mexico, 2010

Nonrenewable Energy  531

BIG QUESTION Can we depend on nonrenewable energy resources for our energy needs? Perspective  Read aloud the Big Question. Point out that many people develop an answer to this Big Question based solely on the perspective of supply and demand. Have students consider the Big Question from another perspective—the harmful effects of extracting and using nonrenewable resources such as fossil fuels. Ask students to write several sentences summarizing their response to the Big Question from this perspective.

Damage Caused by Extracting Fuels Mining and drilling for fuels can endanger people and change ecosystems in harmful ways. In most cases, it isn’t easy to remove fossil fuels from the ground. Tunnels often must be dug, and holes must be drilled. Expensive technology is needed, energy is required, and the process takes a long time. Jobs in mining and oil operations can be dangerous. And damage to the environment can result from the extraction of fossil fuels.

Dangers of Mining  Underground coal mining today is one of our

society’s most dangerous occupations. As the Quecreek accident and other mining accidents show, miners risk injury or death from collapsing shafts and tunnels. In addition, miners risk their health by inhaling coal dust, which can lead to respiratory diseases, including black lung disease.

Strip Mining and the Environment  Strip mining can destroy


Reading Checkpoint  Acid drainage results in the removal of metals from rocks, which in high concentrations are harmful to living things.

FIGURE 15  Mountaintop Removal Part of the summit of this mountain in West Virginia has been blasted away to get to a coal deposit. 532  Lesson 3

large areas of habitat and cause extensive soil erosion. Acid drainage occurs when sulfide minerals in exposed rock surfaces react with oxygen and rainwater to produce sulfuric acid. As the acid runs off, it removes metals from the rocks, and both the acid and metals enter groundwater and water bodies. In high concentrations, many of these metals are toxic to living things. Acid drainage occurs through natural processes as well as mining. However, it speeds up when mining exposes many new rock surfaces at once. Regulations in the United States require mining companies to restore land that has been strip mined. However, the effects are still severe and last a long time. Mountaintop removal can have an even greater impact than ordinary strip mining. Tons of rock and soil are removed from the top of a mountain. This material may accidentally slide downhill, or it may be deliberately dumped downhill in order to dispose of it. The rock and soil may destroy land habitats and clog waterways. Reading Checkpoint

Describe the effects of acid drainage.

Damage From Oil and Gas Extraction  Developing an oil or gas

field involves much more than drilling. For example, roads must be built, and housing for workers must be constructed. Workers build pipelines to carry the fuel. These activities may harm plants and animals.

FIGURE 16  Oil Technology in the Tundra  A caribou wanders across a field near buildings used in the oil industry near Prudhoe Bay in Alaska.

Tundra vegetation at Prudhoe Bay still has not fully recovered from temporary roads that have not been used in 30 years. Experts do not agree on whether the region’s caribou have been harmed. Surveys show that the caribou population has increased since Prudhoe Bay was developed. Other studies, however, show that female caribou and their calves avoid all parts of the Prudhoe Bay oil complex.

▶ Prudhoe Bay 

To predict the ecological effects of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, scientists have examined the effects in similar environments in Alaska. In addition, they have conducted some experiments to determine what might happen. Based on these studies, many scientists predict that wildlife and plants will be damaged. Oil spills can harm plants, and sometimes plants may be buried under gravel pits or roads. Roads can break up habitats. Other scientists, however, think that drilling in the Arctic Refuge will not affect the environment that much. For example, they point out that most drilling would take place in the winter, when caribou are not in the area. They also note that the technology has improved in the time since the Prudhoe Bay oil fields were developed, and claim that development of the Arctic Refuge would be more sensitive to the environment.

▶ Possible Impact on the Arctic Refuge 

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Proven reserves at end of 2008 (thousand million barrels) Asia Pacific 42.0 North America 70.9 South America and Central America 123.2 Africa 125.6 Europe and Eurasia 142.2 Middle East 754.1 National border

Data from British Petroleum. Statistical Review of World Energy 2009.

FIGURE 17  World Oil Distribution The map shows the approximate oil reserves, in thousand million barrels, in different regions of the world.

Map it

Imports and Exports Study the map in Figure 17 and answer the questions. 1. Interpret Maps  Which region of the world has the least oil? Approximately how much oil can be found in this part of the world? 2. Interpret Maps  How do the oil reserves in North America compare to those in the rest of the world? 3. Infer  Which part of the world probably exports the most oil to other areas? 534  Lesson 3

Dependence on Foreign Sources Since fossil fuels are unevenly distributed in the world, many nations need to depend on foreign sources. Fossil fuels are not evenly distributed worldwide, as shown in Figure 17. Some nations have more deposits of a fossil fuel than others. The United States, for example, has extensive coal resources. However, Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran have far more crude oil reserves than does the United States. Almost all our modern technology and services depend in some way on fossil fuels. This means that a nation can suffer when its supplies become unavailable or very costly.

Disadvantages of Foreign Dependence  Nations that lack adequate fossil fuels are especially at risk. For instance, Germany, France, South Korea, and Japan consume far more energy than they produce. Therefore, nations such as these rely almost entirely on fuel imports for their economic well-being. In recent years, the United States has relied more and more on foreign energy. Today the United States imports two thirds of its crude oil. Such reliance means that seller nations can control energy prices. They can force buyer nations to pay more and more as supplies of fossil fuels decrease. Reducing Dependence on Foreign Oil  The United States government has enacted policies to reduce dependence on oil from some foreign nations. One policy calls for developing additional resources within the United States, such as some of those in Alaska.

In addition, the United States has diversified its sources of petroleum. It now receives much of its petroleum from nations other than those in the Middle East. For example, we now import a lot of oil from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Another way to reduce dependence on foreign oil is to develop renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. You will learn more about renewable energy in the next chapter.

Energy Conservation To save fossil fuels and limit the damage they cause, we need to conserve energy. We want supplies of fossil fuels to last as long as possible, and one way to accomplish that is to reduce our use of them. In addition, if we are less dependent on fossil fuels, we can prevent some of the environmental damage they do. Energy conservation is the practice of reducing energy use to meet those goals.

Conservation and Transportation  Transportation accounts for

two thirds of oil use in the United States. One way to conserve energy is to design and sell motor vehicles that use less gasoline. In addition, if taxes on gasoline were increased, gasoline would become more expensive, and people would then have a powerful reason to conserve gasoline. Drivers in many European nations pay much higher gasoline taxes than do drivers in the United States. Many critics of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge point out that our cars and trucks waste huge amounts of oil. They argue that a small amount of conservation would save the nation far more oil than it could obtain from the oil deposits in the Arctic Refuge.

Personal Choices  Individual people can make choices that save energy. In addition to driving less, we can take other actions. For example, we can turn lights off in rooms that aren’t being used. By turning down thermostats, we can reduce the energy needed to heat homes. We can buy appliances that conserve energy. All these actions save people money and reduce fossil fuel use.

FIGURE 18  Gas Guzzlers  Huge recreational vehicles use a lot of gas, increasing our need for oil.


Map It 1. Asia Pacific; 42.0 thousand million barrels 2. North America has smaller reserves than anywhere except Asia Pacific. 3. M  iddle East Lesson 3 Assessment  For answers to the Lesson 3 Assessment, see page A–27 at the back of the book.

3 1. Explain  Describe how oil in runoff from a city street might eventually reach the ocean. 2. Infer  U.S. government regulations require companies to restore land after strip mining. In spite of these regulations, why does strip mining still have a severe impact on the environment? 3. Relate Cause and Effect  Why can it be a disadvantage for a nation to depend on foreign oil?

4. Apply Concepts  What effect might an increase in gasoline taxes have on the way people get to work? Explain your answer.   You have been elected 5. United States Senator from Alaska. The other senator from Alaska has just proposed a law that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Would you vote in favor of this law? Why or why not? Nonrenewable Energy  535