The Energy Debate - Conclusion

Written for PULSE by Christopher Martin
Edited By: Stephanie Nardei

Time: One class period


Materials: Materials for writing

Following their study of Chernobyl and radioactivity, it is possible that your students think that fossil fuels are a safer source of energy than nuclear power. They need to understand that all our choices contain a certain risk. Your students have seen how the burning of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide which is affecting our climate. A choice needs to be made. How will they power their future?

Students will be able to:

  1. Write a persuasive essay about the choices in the energy debate.
  2. Will understand the environmental consequences that accompany the decision.

National Science Education Standard
Content Standard C: The designed world

Energy sources and Use
At present, all fuels have advantages and disadvantages so that society must consider the tradeoffs among them.

Strand 3: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Concept 2: Science and Technology in Society
Develop viable solutions to a need or problem.
PO.2 Recognize the importance of basing arguments on a thorough understanding of the core concepts and principles of science and technology.

Teacher Background
Coal, oil and gas are fossil fuels. They were formed from fossilized plant and animal remains. Most of the energy we use is produced by burning fossil fuels. When coal, oil and gas are burnt, they react with oxygen to form water and carbon dioxide. The percentage of carbon dioxide in the air is increasing, and with more carbon dioxide our atmosphere acts as a greenhouse, retaining heat that would otherwise reflect into space. The observed increases in global temperatures, from Antarctica to Canada are known as global warning. The alternative to fossil fuels maybe that we power our future with nuclear energy. This has its risks.

Related and Resource Websites
EPA On Climate Change http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/index.html
Fossil Fuels http://library.thinkquest.org/17531/fossil.html

Nuclear Energy verse Global Warming: http://web.mit.edu/amostai/www/nuclear_global.html 




  1. Begin with a whole class discussion of the benefits and disadvantages of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Lists could be made to focus the discussion.
  2. Students will then answer the question: How should we power the future? This essay should be organized into five paragraphs and use scientific facts to persuade the reader.
  3. This essay could be posted on a class blog for others to read and comment on.

Further activities can be found at:
Exploring Regional Differences in Climate Change http://serc.carleton.edu/eet/climate/index.html

Embedded Assessment
The essay shall be assessed for organization and content according to a standard rubric.




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: March 7, 2007
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