14 - Energy Resources
Answers to Review Questions and Critical Thinking Questions
1. Fossil fuels are coal, oil, and gas, which originated in the form of
organic matter. They are considered stored solar energy because they represent
the altered remains of living organisms, which ultimately were generated
through capture of solar energy.
2. The rank of coal is determined by its carbon percentage and its heat
value on combustion. Rank is important because it is related to the amount
of energy stored per unit mass mined and because it is related to impurity
3. Methane hydrates are ice-like compounds composed of methane molecules
surrounded by “cages” of frozen water. They may represent
an important, relatively clean alternative to oil and gas.
4. The major impacts of oil and gas exploration and development include
road building, exploratory drilling, supply line construction, production
drilling, disposal of wastewater, accidental oil spills, and air pollution
5. Nuclear fission is the splitting of atomic nuclei to release stored
6. The major environmental concerns related to nuclear energy include
impacts of uranium mining, nuclear waste disposal, and the threat of nuclear
7. Geothermal energy is energy from the Earth’s interior.
8. Groundwater at normal temperatures can be used as an energy source
because heat pumps can use the temperature differences between normal
groundwater and ambient air temperatures to extract or dispose of heat.
9. The major renewable energy resources include solar, hydrogen, water,
wind, and biomass.
10. Environmental concerns associated with hydroelectric power include
the trapping of nitrogen gas in water falling over dams, reservoir sediment
trapping, displacement of people, loss of land, loss of wildlife, and
adverse changes to downstream ecology and hydrology.
11. Sources of biomass fuel include wood, dung, forest products, agricultural
products, and burnable urban waste. Environmental concerns include air
pollution, production of ash, and its sustainability.
12. Cogeneration is the utilization of waste energy at power-generation
and industrial facilities to generate electricity.
13. The major differences between hard and soft paths relate to reliance
on fossil fuels and large generating facilities, environmental impacts,
and the sustainability of energy resources.
14. Sustainable energy policy refers to finding useful energy sources
that can be maintained and do not pollute the atmosphere, cause climatic
perturbations, or present an unacceptable risk.
Critical Thinking Questions
1. An answer to this question will need to consider the history of oil
use and its impact on economic and social development, as the issue of
oil’s environmental impacts and the perception thereof is clearly
dependent upon historical context. The student should address the history
of oil use and the state of the world prior to widespread oil use compared
with today, as well as the multitude of influences on value systems then
2. An answer to this question must address the economics of various energy
sources, including costs of conversion to renewable sources, as well as
the social and political influences on energy policy.