Energy and Environment Lab Assignment Part A | Understanding power plants Watch

Energy and Environment Lab Assignment

Part A | Understanding power plants

Watch (or re-watch) the three videos in this week’s module about renewable energy and how energy is produced in a coal and nuclear power plants. Then, answer the following questions.

What are the similarities and differences between nuclear and coal power plants? Make sure you address how the power plants work to create energy as well as the effects on the environment that they have. (4 pts)

Which of the two power plants would you rather have close to your home? Why? (3 pts)

Briefly describe efforts in China and India towards renewable energy production. (2 pts)

In your opinion, what is the best way to transition to cleaner energy production? (2 pts)

Part B | Calculating your carbon footprint

This CO2 audit is designed to provide a rough estimation on one’s individual impact from energy use in terms of carbon dioxide emissions produced by one’s lifestyle. Follow the instructions in the tasks below to calculate your annual CO2 emissions. Calculate only your personal production (ex. your portion of the garbage/electric bill). (7 pts)

Summarize your results IN A TABLE and calculate the total CO2 emissions in tons (1 lb = 0.000453592 tons).

Automobile: 1/ ( _____ ) mpg x 24 lbs CO2/gal x miles/year = lbs CO2/year

Airplane travel: 0.9 lbs/mile x miles/year = lbs CO2/year

Bus: 0.7 lbs/mile x miles/year = lbs CO2/year

Garbage (average per capita garbage is 5 lbs/day): lbs/day x 3 lbs CO2 / lb x 365 days/year = lbs CO2/year

Electricity: kwh per year x 1.7 lbs/kwh = lbs. CO2/yr



lbs CO2 / Unit



1.7 lbs/kwh



24 lbs/gal



14 lbs/gal

Natural Gas


12 lbs/therms

Trash Discarded


3 lbs/lb

Recycled Items


2 lbs/lb

Part C | Reducing your annual CO2 emissions

Now that you know your carbon footprint, you can begin to figure out ways to reduce it. First, set a target for reduction – do you want to cut back by 10%? 20%? Keep in mind that according to the United Nations, to maintain a liveable planet, we have to reduce our global carbon emissions by 55% by 2030!

Now that you have this target in mind, use the cheat sheet below to calculate how you’ll get there. Tally the reduction in CO2 you are pledging to do below and then summarize them in A SECOND TABLE giving a total in tons. Your table should include the actions you’re pledging, the number (if applicable), and the amount of CO2 reduction expected from that action. The amount of CO2 reduction saved per action is in the parentheses following the description. (7 pts)


Eliminate ________ miles of car travel (use lbs/mile conversion from Part B)

Maintain tire pressure (usually about 32 psi) (250 lbs CO2 saved/year) OR Maintain tire pressure at the maximum pressure shown on the tire (usually about 35 psi) (500 lbs CO2 saved/year)

Tune up once a year (900 lbs CO2 saved/year)

Light bulbs

Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescents (typical CO2 reduction = 180 lbs CO2/year per light replaced)

Replace high-watt incandescent lights with lower-watt incandescents (each 10-watt reduction typically eliminates 22 lbs of CO2 emissions/year per light)

Turn off lights when leaving a room all year (120 lbs CO2/room per year)


Recycle aluminum cans (typical CO2 reduction = 34 lbs CO2 per 100 cans)

Recycle glass bottles (typical CO2 reduction = 30 lbs CO2 per 100 bottles)

Recycle paper (typical CO2 reduction = 20 lbs CO2 per 100 lbs of paper)


Wrap a home hot-water heater in insulating material (typical CO2 reduction = 1,200 lbs CO2/year for electric heaters; 400 lbs CO2/year for gas heaters)

Insulate the attic of a house (for a 6-room house, typical CO2 reduction is 1,800 lbs CO2/year if oil heated; 1,390 lbs CO2/year if gas heated; 430 lbs CO2/year if electricity heated/cooled)

Reduce hot-water use

Wash clothes in cold water (typical CO2 reduction = 250 lbs CO2/person per year with an electric hot water heater; 110 lbs CO2/person per year with gas)

Install a low-flow showerhead (typical CO2 reduction = 225 lbs CO2/person per year with an electric hot water heater; 99 lbs CO2/person per year with gas)

Turn hot water heater down by 10 degrees (typical CO2 reduction = 240 lbs CO2/ year with an electric hot water heater; 106 lbs CO2/year with gas)


Plant trees (60 lbs CO2 saved/tree)

Plant shade trees on the east, south, or west side of a house to reduce air conditioning (600 lbs/tree)

Air conditioning (reduction values are based on a single-family detached home)

Use kwh conversion from Part B

Raise thermostat by 1oF (400 kwh/year)

Shade windows with white drapes, blinds, reflective film, or awning (400 kwh)

Paint roof white (1,200 kwh)


Trade in your car for one with better mpg (about 700 lbs CO2 for each extra mpg) (adjust your car calculation from above)

Buy new energy-efficient refrigerator (1,000 lbs CO2/year)

Buy new air conditioner with SEER of 12 instead of 8 (3,700 lbs CO2/year)

Donate money to preserve tropical rainforests

$100/acre; 240,000 lbs CO2 per acre (one-time reduction only)

This list is not exhaustive! There are many other ways to reduce your carbon footprint, including using reusable items, consuming a more plant-rich diet, etc.

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