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Sustainable Transportation Fuels

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The Sustainable Transportation Fuels curriculum has been taught in high school Environmental Science and Chemistry classes.  The goal is to develop an understanding of the importance of science and technology, as well as broader social issues, in decisions about complex issues facing our nation. Students define the problems associated with our current petroleum transportation fuels and explore a range of solutions promoted in current national energy policies.

Converting to the use of biofuels, electricity or hydrogen for transportation fuels is touted by many as a solution to our growing energy crisis, which includes a waning supply of oil, global climate change, and increased health effects due to poor air quality in most major cities.  But are these fuels really viable solutions? The hydrogen or biofuel economy must be understood and addressed before our society is ready for change. Understanding the implications of changing our transportation fleet is a very large task that needs to be understood in great depth before one can ask a society to readily accept paying more for this technology.

This unit uses a systems perspective to consider the pros and cons of various vehicle/fuel systems.  Participants investigate transportation fuel needs, complete activities and research to understand the value, risks, and process of implementing alternative fuels, make hydrogen and biofuels, build and test a fuel cell, and analyze these systems from a lifecycle perspective.  Three options are available for a culminating project.  In all cases, the students must use their newly gained perspective on the problem and alternative solutions in order to recommend and defend a suitable way to move forward with improved sustainability of our vehicles and fuel systems

The development of this curriculum was  based on Professor Susan Powers, NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award to fund energy education research and Activities.  Dr. Powers’ work is affiliated with Clarkson University’s Center for the Environment