Project - U.S. Energy Budget

Per capita energy consumptionOver the course of the 20th century the amount of energy consumed per person in the United States more than tripled.

Folks in many countries still have far less energy available per person, but aspire to many of the energy-dependent parts of the lifestyles of "developed" countries.

Sources of energy in the United States

U.S. sources of energyThis increase was literally "fuelled" by burning fossil fuels: coal, petroleum and natural gas.

But these are finite resources. A few years ago, we thought that if we continued with the same mix of energy sources, we would deplete our domestic petroleum and natural gas stocks in less than 4 decades--before most of you hit retirement age. But more recently, the technology of "fracking" has opened up new sources of oil and natural gas.

Still, we have recently become aware of the greenhouse effects of the large amounts of carbon dioxide released in burning. If we try to use more coal, because we do have a large supply of it, our emissions will increase at a faster rate than before.

In the course of your lifetimes we will need to change to other energy sources, as well as probably using less energy.

The simulation

The goal of this project is to use a simulation to play out multiple scenarios of how that transition might happen. Using a spreadsheet, you'll make decisions about which kinds of energy to use in the future, and how much of each for about 40 years into the future subject to our current best guesses about fossil fuel availability, and knowledge about carbon emissions.

Can you maintain an end-of-20th-century energy lifestyle? Can you reduce CO2 emissions? How will life be different in 40 years as a result of the changes you suggest?

This assignment is based on one originally developed by Pat Keefe, Clatsop Community College.

Part 1 - Briefing paper

Groups will look into one aspect of the challenge -- for example nuclear energy, or saving energy through building construction.

Part 2 - Simulation

The part 1 groups may dissolve and new groups can form and get together to carry out a simulation based on your hopes for the future and write up the results.