Physics portion done by Matt and Evan
Government portion done by Shawn and Dustin with help from Evan

Ideas: Evolution of weaponry, evolution of power sources, modern energy crisis(petroleum information, oil embargoes, foreign relations, alternatives (nuclear, natural gas, green), future plans)
*We decided to focus on energy and the bolded ideas. Disregard the first items on the list.
*Matt and I talked to the other group doing energy and they decided to switch to aviation, so we can do the original energy crisis idea. -Evan
*So are we doing ALL of the bolded items or are we going to pick and choose? Right now I'm guessing we're doing all of them so I found a video about the first nuclear power plant to be commissioned to be put under alternatives. -Shawn
*Okey doke.

The Energy Crisis and Modern Energy Sources

Origins of the Energy Crisis
When the United States created Israel after WWII, most Arab nations refused to recognize Israel as a legitimate state. Conflicts soon followed between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In 1973, the Yom Kippur War began when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on the holy day of Yom Kippur. Soon after, when Russia began supplying Egypt and Syria with weapons, America, led by Richard Nixon, initiated efforts to support and supply Israel. In response, the OAPEC, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, unexpectedly declared an embargo on oil shipments to America. OAPEC's response shocked the U.S. which had previously thought that an oil boycott would not benefit the oil exporting nations. Instead, the nations benefited from the raised costs of oil as the higher cost per barrel helped OAPEC overcome the financial implications of decreased oil production. Even after the Yom Kippur War ended, the oil embargo continued and America soon fully realized the extent of its dependence on foreign oil. In the first three months after the oil embargo began, oil prices rose from $3 a barrel to $12 barrel. Americans, who had grown accustomed to endless oil supplies and cheap prices, were not prepared for the results of the embargo. Lines formed at gas stations nationwide as fuel shortages became common, the same stations closed on Sundays, homeowners were asked to conserve electricity in anyway possible, speed limits were lowered, and America's once dominant automobile industry struggled to compete with foreign manufacturers producing smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles than U.S. automakers. Although the oil embargo ended in March of 1974, the "energy crisis" left lasting effects on America and the world. The environmental movement received a push from the energy crisis as opponents of burning fossil fuels used the situation as a means by which to gain more political power in Washington. Various pieces of legislation were passed in an attempt to rectify America's relationship with fossil fuels and other energy sources including the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 and an entire new government department, the Department of Energy, was created in 1977 to address any energy issues facing the nation. However, additionally, and perhaps most importantly, America's mindset was dramatically altered. The nation now knew that a consumer approach to energy was not a safe one; in order to ensure America's future independence and stability the U.S. would need to increase its own domestic fuel production while working toward the development of alternative, preferably renewable, energy sources. ~

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(Left and Middle)

Gas Prices as an Economical Indicator
Most citizens look towards gas prices as an indicator of the economy, even though it's not a very good indicator. In 1973, the oil embargo sparked the first noticeable rise in gas prices, rising from 30 cents to over a dollar. This then led to a very steady increase towards our prices today at close to $4. Most of the price jumps were a result of Arabic oil companies (OAPEC) demanding more and more money for their oil, not from an actual oil shortage. However, most people believed it was a shortage because in their minds, there was no logical explanation for closed gas stations and ever-increasing gas prices. Since oil is the single most important source of energy in today's society (transportation, heating, ect.), when oil prices peak Americans panic. People connect the price of oil with the state of the economy; the higher the oil prices, the more worse off America's economy is. However, the truth is that the price of oil is an inaccurate indicator of the economy. People like to see drops in oil and gasoline prices, but the truth, according to the economist Keith Phillips of the Federal Reserve Bank is that, "
A fall in gasoline prices, if due to a sharp drop in economic activity across the world, can precede a weakening of the U.S. economy, although it would not be a cause of the weakening."

Versatility of Petroleum: Due to the primary composition of petroleum (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur), the products that can derived from crude oil are plentiful and vary in a wide array of applications. The composition can vary in its proportions, giving a variety of results when crude oil is recovered from the earth. These variations can create crude oil that is more of a solid at climate temperatures, which results in a need to refine and alter the crude oil more than other variations that are light, viscous liquids that require very little refinement in order to be applied towards certain products. The application that has been in demand since the discovery of petroleum of course has been for a source of fuel. This fuel can come in the form of kerosine, gasoline, and diesel. These derived fuels are used in either transportation or providing an efficient heat source for different systems. The systems that utilize these fuels are different because each derived fuel is unique in how its molecular structure is constructed. For almost all of these products, the basis is in chained carbon and hydrogen atoms, which form hydrocarbons. Depending on the number of carbon atoms in the molecular structure, a different fuel will be produced, which heavily influences its efficiency. This is based off of the amount of work put in versus the work put out by the system, which is most easily seen in car that burn higher octane fuels, which results in hotter burning combustion and relatively cleaner emissions.

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One effect of using petroleum based fossil fuels for energy is global warming. Global warming occurs when the gasses emitted by burning fossil fuels are trapped in the atmosphere and trap heat energy from the sun, which causes Earth temperatures to rise. This process has been the cause of much political debate and has led some interest groups to advocate for alternative energy sources. This video explains some of the scientific causes and effects of global warming.


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Alternative Energy Sources

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Alternative Energy Stance = Political Indicator

Alternative energy has become the cause of many modern political disputes. Traditionally conservatives, as staunch supporters of free market economics, have favored drilling rights and domestic energy production in order to decrease the dependence on foreign oil powers for energy sources. On the other hand, liberals have usually been more supportive of alternative energy sources and have encouraged initiatives to restrict the private sector's ability to use fossil fuels as an energy source in order to protect the environment. Generally speaking, environmentalism and alternative energy development have become very liberal issues, while criticism toward government initiatives concerning environmentalism and alternative energy production has become synonymous with conservatism.

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Green Energy- sustainable energy that is environmentally sound and meets present day production needs without compromising future ability to secure resources. paraphrased from

  • Solar power

Energy is emitted from the sun in the form of waves that travel in all directions, with some of these light waves reaching the earth. This energy can be used to heat water that is stored in direct sunlight, which is then circulated throughout homes for hot water needs for cooking, cleaning, etc. Heat is energy, which means that in order to add heat to water, energy must be added to water as well. Solar heating uses energy from the sun rather than conventional fossil fuels as the source of this energy. Another form of solar energy uses photovoltaic cells to produce energy that supplies electric needs. Photovoltaic cells utilize the photoelectric effect to convert light into electricity. When a photon hits a solar cell that is made of silicon materials it ejects an electron from the surface of the top layer. This electron can then be captured by the substrate layer and the resulting movement causes an electric current to flow through the metal contacts on the cell.

Invented in 1883, the very first solar cells were composed of junctions made by coating Selenium with an extremely thin layer of gold. However, the earliest solar cells only had energy conversion efficiencies of under one percent. In 1941,
  • Wind energy


Alternative wind energy sources use the force of wind to turn a turbine, which produces an electric current. The force of the wind acts on a system that is designed like a fan in reverse. The angle of the wind against the tilted blades results in a perpendicular force called lift, which drives the blades upward. A turbulent force is created in high winds by the motion of the upward blade, resisting the lift force. This downward force prevents the wind module from being damaged in very high winds. The wind turns fan blades, which drives a gear, which causes a turbine to rotate. This turbine creates an induction current by moving relative to the iron core of the turbine. This electrical induction current can then be sent into the electric grid to provide power for consumption.

  • Hydroelectric power

Hydroelectric power uses a similar process to wind power to generate electricity. The main difference is that hydroelectricity utilizes the downward force of falling water to turn a turbine rather than wind energy. Hydroelectric power also relies on the water cycle and the sun's energy to power its generator. Heat energy from the sun causes water on the surface of the earth to evaporate and then condense as clouds. This condensed water vapor returns to the earth's surface as precipitation. When the precipitation falls onto an elevation that is higher than the original evaporation point, the potential energy of the water is increased and will now run downhill. The energy of the running water is trapped by hydroelectric damns and used to turn turbines that induce a current in a generator within the turbine to convert the energy of the water into consumable electricity.
  • Geothermal energy

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The Earth is made up of a solid iron core surrounded by a molten outer core of magma. On top of this is a layer of magma and rock, and then finally the crust makes up the outer layer of the Earth's surface. This heat is produced by the decay of radioactive elements that exist within the Earth. Magma can reach extremely high temperatures with some forms approaching 1500 degrees Celsius. Water is heated using the radiant heat of the magma and then brought into an above ground power plant. The heat from the water is now exchanged with another liquid material, which then vaporizes. The newly heated liquid will expand as it leaves a nozzle and provide a force that spins a turbine. The rotational motion of the turbine induces an electrical current in the power plant's generator, which allows the geothermal heat energy within the magma to be transformed into electric energy for consumer use. The water used to transfer heat from molten material to the power plant is recycled as cold water back within the crust to be used for geothermal power again.
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Connections between government and science related to alternative energy
  • Many governments around the world including the U.S. offer tax credits and financial incentives to both private individuals and businesses for implementing green and sustainable energy practices. In this instance, governments are creating a favorable environment for alternative energy sources to be researched and produced by the scientific community.
  • The EPA, or Environmental Protection Agency, also demonstrates a connection between science and government. The EPA is a federal agency responsible for regulating things that are harmful to the environment, including green house gas emissions and fossil fuel energy sources. The connection exists with the EPA because the government is regulating the scientific aspects of energy production.

Natural Gas
How Natural Gas Can Be Utilized: Unlike petroleum, natural as requires far less refining and it has a greater supply globally. The main gases that are utilized are propane, butane, and hydrogen, all of which are flammable when presented with the appropriate conditions. Because they are gases, their molecular structure is relatively smaller than that of petroleum derivatives, which allows for a less dense substance in natural conditions. While obtaining gas is not the same as petroleum extraction due to the lack of a solid form, the abundance of natural gas means it can be recovered in areas that are less intimidating than those that petroleum is mined. The lack of a solid or liquid form in standard atmospheric conditions is not permanent though, since gases will become liquids under extreme pressure caused by condensed volume. This allows for a more tangible and practical form that can be used to provide a fuel for creating a heat source. Examples of this include propane heaters for homes and butane lighters, both of which work based off of the release of condensed gas that is then turned into vapor, which mixes with oxygen and combusts when an initial heat source is introduced. While not as popular, it is possible to to use natural gas in the same way as gasoline and diesel for acting as a fuel for internal combustion engines. Some gases can operate in the same systems as the petroleum products, but some limitations exist that make it less than ideal. There are motors that are specifically created for the use of natural gas and they have benefits that improve on the gasoline internal combustion engine's harmful emissions and fuel efficiency, but because the technology is fairly new it is impractical to implement into a society without a considerable amount of dedication towards creating a system of fueling stations that would be available for everyone.

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Nuclear Energy
How Nuclear Energy Works: The main aspect of nuclear energy is harnessing unstable, radioactive elements that are large enough to undergo fission and produce a significant amount of energy in the process. This energy comes in the form of heat, which is then used to boil large amounts of water into steam, which is then converted into mechanical energy through a turbine and finally into electrical energy to power cities and towns. This heat is the result of nuclear fission taking place within a contained area near the water source. The most commonly used elements for this fission is Uranium 235 and Plutonium 239 because they are reactive enough that when a neutron collides with the nucleus, a significant amount of energy is released along with its respective biproduct particles, but they are also stable enough that they can be handled and stored for later use. This reaction occurs at at controlled rate through carbon rods which limit the number of neutrons colliding with radioactive atoms, which prevents a nuclear meltdown from occurring. Safety precautions are put in place to ensure this reaction is kept contained and isolated from the outside environment where it could cause harm. One example of this is using a lead container surrounding the fission container that would prevent any form of radiation, whether it is alpha, beta, or gamma radiation, from exiting if the reactor failed to hold the radioactive elements. The lead is dense enough that it prevents these harmful particles from penetrating through in a worst-case scenario.
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Nuclear Energy: A Solution Or a Danger
One of the most controversial alternate energy sources is nuclear power. Becoming popular in the 1950's, nuclear energy rapidly became widely used, especially in the United States and the former USSR. However, after the meltdown at Chernobyl and the near meltdown at Three Mile Island, nuclear energy was thought too dangerous. Although, as of late, it seems the world is beginning to accept nuclear power yet again as more and more contries are building new nuclear power plants. Yet, the world is ever conscious of the potential dangers of nuclear energy. The development of nuclear power has led to conflict and tension worldwide since the ability to produce nuclear energy acts as a pathway toward the development of atomic weaponry. Most infamously, North Korea gained nuclear capabilities after the Cold War and has since been the focus of international suspicion as it has worked toward the development of functional nuclear weaponry. In the wrong hands, nuclear technology could potentially result in mass destruction.

Alternative Energy and the Government
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The advent of alternative energy has had a significant impact on the United States government. The US Department of Energy, created following the 1970s energy crisis, has funded many research organizations devoted to developing new sources of sustainable energy and optimizing the current sources which exist. These federally funded organizations include Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has taken an active part in the application of renewable energy sources providing federal funding to programs which install renewable energy systems. Additionally, the various regulations instituted by the EPA, which limit harmful emissions and regulate the amount of pollutants energy manufacturers can produce, have forced many corporations and industries to seriously consider investing in modern alternative energy resources in order to leave a greener footprint and preserve the environment for future generations. The Green Party, a national political party which gained support during Ralph Nader's presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2000, has been a staunch advocate of renewable energy for years, viewing it as a very viable method through which to help solve the energy crisis while simultaneously preserving the Earth's natural ecosystems. Recently, President Obama's support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has resulted in the contribution of more than $70 billion in direct spending and tax credits for clean, renewable energy programs. The president himself has made the development of clean, alternative energy sources a priority. In March of 2012, Obama made the statement that, "We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy." Obviously, with an election approaching, when Obama made this statement he was serious about it; in fact, it is likely that the development of clean energy will be an important part of Obama's political platform when election time comes around. Eventhe military has sworn itself to the use of renewable fuels since, unlike fossil fuels, they can produced anywhere, thereby granting a strong, strategic advantage. Internationally, the IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) promotes and supports the development and application of alternative energy sources worldwide. Over 100 countries around the world have established national renewable energy policies in an attempt to become more independent and less harmful to the environment.

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