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Module 3: Energy

Energy Footprints

Energy Footprints

This slide show demonstrates how most of our energy is currently produced in the UK.

What to do:

Use the slideshow images and text and the information below to lead a discussion.

file_pptDownload the PowerPoint Slideshow: Energy Footprints (2.59 MB)

By now the pupils will be familiar with the first graph.

Explain that todays topic is energy. The second graph shows the breakdown of energy emissions by sector in the UK. Use this to point out that it’s not just us that need to save energy in our homes - businesses, transport and services need to as well.

The next graph shows how much energy we use per person in the UK. This is useful for pointing out areas of most significance, such as the energy used to make the stuff that we buy, compared to the energy used by lighting and gadgets. For example the carbon footprint of a pint of milk is 700g, the carbon footprint of running a small fridge is around 500g per day.

At the moment, most of our energy in the UK and in the world, comes from burning fossil fuels. There are two major problems with this. Firstly, we are running out of easy to reach oil and gas. As oil and gas becomes more scarce it becomes increasingly expensive to discover, extract and refine; this forces us to find alternatives or face conflict.

The second problem is that the burning of fossil fuels for heat, electric or transport energy releases CO2 into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect. On top of these two global issues, there are also local environmental problems caused by fossil fuel extraction (many pupils will have heard about disasters in the news such as the BP oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico but are unlikely to have heard that a similar level of pollution and damage occurs as a result of oil extraction by foreign countries in West Africa every year).

How much you want to dwell on the issues related to nuclear power will depend on the age of your group, and time for discussion. The related issues listed in the slide show are to do with depleting uranium stocks and the storage of radioactive waste. Others include the cost, the amount of time and energy used to build and de-commission nuclear power stations, the transport of nuclear waste and the disposing of it in other countries, safety threats as with the Fukushima power station in Japan, and the terrorist target it poses.

The final slide shows maps revealing global greenhouse gas emissions per country, and per capita. This is very useful for pointing out global inequalities. It is also important to draw attention to countries like China, which as a country is a very large emitter. The per capita map however, shows a very different picture, showing that people living in China emit about half as much CO2 per person as people in the UK. After discussion about our current energy mix, pupils will probably conclude that a) we need to use less, and b) we need to generate energy from other sources.