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Grades

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects

Science, Engineering

Regional Focus

Global

Format

YouTube Video

Why Don't We Have Functional Biofuel Yet?

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Synopsis
  • This video explains that biofuel is not widely used because it is expensive to produce and the manufacturing process can release more greenhouse emissions than burning fossil fuels. 
  • Students will learn that scientists have started to make biofuel out of algae, cellulosic material, and used french fry grease. These biofuels require less land use conversion, but they still require a lot of energy. 
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This video presents a balanced view of the pros and cons of using biofuels.
  • The video description offers links to a variety of articles for further reading.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This video begins with an advertisement.

Differentiation

  • Chemistry classes could discuss the chemical reactions that occur when biomass is fermented, distilled, and dehydrated.
  • Social studies classes could do an advertisement campaign for cars that run on biofuel. Students could think about the advantages (environmental, economic, health, etc.) that biofuel cars might have over cars that use gasoline.
  • Other resources on this topic include this Project Look Sharp lesson on ethanol, this interactive map on biofuel infrastructure in the United States, and this scientific paper on how the aviation industry uses biofuels to greenwash their data.
Scientist Notes

The video presents the development of biofuels from 1900s until now. However, the production of biofuels is considered expensive and could degrade the environment and forests. Although various innovations like transesterification and using cellulosic materials could improve large scale production, they are expensive and are fairly carbon neutral products. This resource is recommended for teaching.

Standards

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
      • HS-ESS3-2. Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
      • HS-ESS3-3. Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among the management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
      • HS-ETS1-1. Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
      • HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
    • PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
      • MS-PS1-3. Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
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