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Energy Sources

The majority of the world's harnessed energy comes from burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are limited, nonrenewable resources formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals that have undergone chemical reactions over the course of millions of years. Since fossil fuels are being consumed faster than they are being produced, the resources that can be economically extracted will eventually run out.

Activity 1
Watch Snapshot of U.S. Energy Use video. Answer the following questions.
  • What are some of the energy sources used to meet humans' ever-increasing demand for power?
  • What are some ways that we release CO2 into the atmosphere every day?
  • Discuss how human energy usage impacts the global carbon cycle.
  • On the average, each person in the United States produces over 20 tons of CO2 each year, and collectively this country produces 25 percent of all CO2 released into the atmosphere worldwide. How can people or industries help reduce our contribution to this global problem? What are some ways you could reduce your own energy use?
  • Should the United States reduce its energy use? Why or why not?
Activity 2
Despite the apparent abundance of electricity and gas we enjoy in the United States, the world is quickly running out of the energy resources we use most. Eighty-five percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels, namely coal, oil, and natural gas. Of the fossil fuels used worldwide each year, the United States consumes about 25 percent. And because these fuels are created geologically over millions of years, they are considered non-renewable.

Watch the Energy Sources video.
  • List all the energy sources and divide them into two categories: renewable and non-renewable.
  • Choose one renewable energy source and one non-renewable energy source. What are the benefits and drawbacks of using each source?
  • Why are the renewable energy sources currently being used considered to be unable to meet our total energy needs?
  • What is the main source of energy in the United States?
  • Think about all of the situations in which you use energy in your everyday life. What is the source of the energy in each case? If you don't know, how could you find out?

Adapted from Teacher Domain