Teacher’s Corner: The Great Energy Debate

Integrating Survey Notes Articles in the Classroom
By Nancy Carruthers

We now live in a world where increasing energy demands brought on by industrial and economic development, as well as population growth, are challenging us to think differently about energy production. Global warming, increasing gas and oil prices, and alternative energy are all topics of considerable debate.

Utah boasts of substantial energy resources from non-renewable resources like coal, natural gas, and petroleum to renewable resources like wind power, solar energy, and geothermal energy. How will we meet the challenge of our future energy needs and find a balance between energy conservation, energy efficiency, and environmental considerations?

To see what steps Utah research scientists are taking read the three articles in this issue of Survey Notes that discuss the future development of energy in our state.

Wind power is now growing at a faster rate for generating electricity than any other source in the world. Interest in alternative energy like wind power is growing because of public interest in clean fuels, environmental pollution awareness, and the increasing cost of fossil fuels. The article “The Status of Wind Energy Development in Utah” discusses Utah’s wind potential and how scientists are currently identifying areas that have good wind resources. Learn about the Spanish Fork Wind Project and how it could be Utah’s first wind farm developed for generating electricity.

With an increased demand for cleaner fuel along with new exploration and production technologies, there has been a decline in conventional production of gas resources from shallow reservoirs to a rise in production from deeper unconventional “tight gas reservoirs.” In the article “Expanded Development of Deep, Tight Gas Reservoirs in the Uinta Basin,” learn about Utah’s natural gas reserves and future potential in the Uinta Basin.

Growing concern about global climate change has stimulated research in finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2002, the President announced a “Global Climate Change Initiative” goal of reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas intensity by 18% between 2002 and 2012. In the article “Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide and Enhanced Oil Recovery—The Utah Geological Survey’s Efforts to Reduce Global Warming While Increasing Oil Production,” learn how the Utah Geological Survey is investigating how to permanently and safely store (sequester) carbon dioxide (CO2) underground in Utah.

This issue of Survey Notes provides a variety of discussion topics that align with the 9th–12th grades Social Studies curricula.

Possible Discussion Points

  • Are wind farms practical for Utah? What areas in Utah might make good locations for wind farms?
  • How does Utah measure the wind to determine where to set up wind turbines to generate renewable electricity? Name some important considerations for the establishment of wind farms in Utah.
  • What is a “tight” gas reservoir? How is the exploration and production of gas changing in Utah?
  • What is CO2 sequestration and why is geologic sequestration such an attractive option? What are some potential problems that these studies might address?
  • In the bigger picture of the great energy debate, what are the pros and cons of renewable vs. nonrenewable energy? Give your ideas on which energy resource you think is the best.

Geography for Life (9-12th Grade)

Standard 5, Objective 2 c. – Compare and contrast the use of renewable and  nonrenewable resources.

Survey Notes, v. 39 no. 2, May 2007