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Clean Coal?

WGBH - PBS, Teachers' Domain

This video and accompanying essay examine carbon capture and storage and clean-coal technology, providing statistics for overall annual U.S. consumption as well as average household usage. Turning solid coal into a clean-burning fuel gas (syngas) and capture and storage pros and cons are discussed.

Video length: 5:03 min.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Humans may be able to mitigate climate change or lessen its severity by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations through processes that move carbon out of the atmosphere or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
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A combination of strategies is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The most immediate strategy is conservation of oil, gas, and coal, which we rely on as fuels for most of our transportation, heating, cooling, agriculture, and electricity. Short-term strategies involve switching from carbon-intensive to renewable energy sources, which also requires building new infrastructure for alternative energy sources. Long-term strategies involve innovative research and a fundamental change in the way humans use energy.
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
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The overwhelming consensus of scientific studies on climate indicates that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the latter part of the 20th century is very likely due to human activities, primarily from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
About Teaching Principle 6
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Energy Literacy

Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
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4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Humans transport energy from place to place.
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4.4 Humans transport energy.
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Various sources of energy are used to power human activities .
Energy infrastructure has inertia.
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5.2 Energy infrastructure has inertia.
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Energy decisions are influenced by several factors.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
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Increased knowledge of the properties of particular molecular structures helps in the design and synthesis of new materials for special purposes.
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Different ways of obtaining, transforming, and distributing energy have different environmental consequences.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

About the Science

  • The video gives an overview of coal electricity generation, clean coal technology, and sequestering carbon dioxide.
  • Clean coal is an umbrella term used to describe technologies that may reduce CO2 emissions (e.g. sequestration, coal gasification, scrubbers).
  • Provides statistics for overall annual U.S. coal consumption as well as average household usage, and then explains the need for developing a cleaner way to convert coal into electricity.
  • While promising, most applications of clean coal technology are still not ready for implementation.
  • Comments from expert scientist: It is a great idea to talk about the pros and cons of the coal industry and possible changes to technology both in terms of combustion technology and carbon capture. The Frontline documentary is a good place to start but I do not think the "background essay" is adequate.

About the Pedagogy

  • The video is accompanied by a background essay and discussion questions.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The video has closed-captioned text that can be turned on/off.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

The U.S. Department of Energy's Carbon Sequestration program website can be accessed here: http://fossil.energy.gov/programs/sequestration/index.html

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