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Iowa: Corn and Climate

Climate Central

This video reviews the benefits and drawbacks associated with growing corn to make ethanol.

Video length 10:23 min.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPg
Humans affect climate
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Humans affect climate

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
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7.3 Environmental quality.
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.
Fossil and bio fuels are organic matter that contain energy captured from sunlight.
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4.3 Fossil and bio fuels contain energy captured from sunlight.
Different sources of energy and the different ways energy can be transformed, transported and stored each have different benefits and drawbacks.
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4.7 Different sources of energy have different benefits and drawbacks.
Energy decisions are influenced by political factors.
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5.5 Political factors.

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

  • Educators can implement several techniques to enhance the learning experience with the video. The topic lends itself to student debates on farming and the future, the pros/cons of biofuels, and a cost analysis of alternative fuels. Students can research and compare other potential benefits and drawbacks of other research technologies that produce fuel - for example, fuel produced from algae.
  • See also other resources on the CLEAN site that can support a lesson on biofuels.

About the Science

  • Video, produced in 2009, explores turning corn into ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. The rush to turn corn into ethanol has been profitable for Iowa's farmers, but accompanying research has uncovered some energy and climate drawbacks. It takes a lot of fossil fuel to grow and process corn into ethanol — so much that only about 20% of each gallon of corn ethanol represents new energy.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The material briefly presents current issue and science associated with croplands for biofuel production. Cites current science at the time. The science is sound but this material is part science, part story telling with anecdotes and politics thrown in. The material works as intended, but the material is getting old and the science, politics, and business around the issue are changing.

About the Pedagogy

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Video can be downloaded in several version sizes. This video requires Adobe Flash player (may not be suitable for viewing on the ipad).

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