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Ethanol Biofuel

NOVA, WGBH Educational Foundation, Teachers' Domain

This video segment examines ethanol, a cleaner-burning fuel alternative to gasoline, and the efforts to produce it more efficiently.

Video length: 5:33 minutes.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
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About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
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7.3 Environmental quality.
The quality of life of individuals and societies is affected by energy choices.
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Energy affects quality of life .
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.
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Various sources of energy are used to power human activities .
Social and technological innovation affects the amount of energy used by human society.
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6.5 Social and technological innovation.
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Human use of energy.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Different ways of obtaining, transforming, and distributing energy have different environmental consequences.
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When selecting fuels, it is important to consider the relative advantages and disadvantages of each fuel.
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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

  • A good video to include in any unit that addresses how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Educator could introduce cost/benefit analysis of ethanol as a fuel as well as social and economic challenges.

About the Science

  • This video goes over the pros and cons of using ethanol as an alternative to gasoline.
  • Discusses issues such as how converting corn into ethanol requires a lot of energy and reduces stocks of corn that might otherwise be used to feed people and livestock.
  • Shows research efforts to use cellulosic biomass and microorganisms to accomplish the conversion from plant matter to fuel in a single step.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The combination of the video with the Background Essay is helpful - i.e. the essay goes into a little more depth than the video, which aids in understanding the full reasoning behind using cellulosic biomass to make ethanol.

About the Pedagogy

  • Background essay, discussion questions, and a link to standards are provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Video should be downloaded for classroom use - online image quality not sufficient for projecting.

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