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Lesson: Oil and Energy Consumption

(Lesson courtesy of the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder.)

Grade Level: 4. Group Size: 2. Time Required: 50 minutes

Summary

Students analyze international oil consumption and production data. They make several graphs to organize the data and draw conclusions about the overall use of oil in the world.

Engineering Connection

Engineers of all disciplines use data as a tool. Organizing data into tables and graphs helps them better understand problems and formulate solutions. For example, engineers often analyze data to understand energy consumption around the world; they put this data into graphs to analyze it visually. From examining data, engineers may: learn which problems impact the most people, notice patterns and trends, clearly communicate with others, forecast future demands, etc.

Materials List

Each group should have:

Introduction/Motivation

Our country is mainly dependent on oil and coal for energy to run our cars, heat our homes, and give us electricity to make our appliances and televisions work. Unfortunately, the use of oil and coal also causes pollution, and it is predicted that we will run out of both of these resources in 40-60 years. Though engineers are working to develop new and cleaner ways to produce energy, people still need oil for everyday.

In 2003, the U.S. alone used 20 million barrels of oil a day, even though only 7.9 million barrels of oil a day were produced. So, where does the rest of the oil come from that we use every day? Do we import it from another country? Will we run out — and what will happen if so? Because oil is not a renewable energy source like wind or water, it is predicted that we will deplete our reserves as early as 2045. How can we make sure that we never run out of energy to heat our homes and cook our food? Engineers need to understand these questions and more, so  they can develop the technology to ensure we have energy resources for years to come.

Preparation

1. Discuss oil production, consumption and uses with students. Tell students that engineers often analyze data to understand how much oil we need and how much oil we actually use. Explain to students that they are going to be engineers for a day and study numbers about world oil production and consumption.

2. Have students make some predictions to the following questions before you begin the activity. Record their answers on the board.

-Which country uses the most oil?
-Which country produces the most oil?

Part One

1. Divide the class into groups of two students each.
2. Give each student the United States Energy Consumption Datasheet or show it on an overhead projector.
3. Have students convert this data to a bar graph. (Use the Energy Consumption of the United States graph paper attachment)
4. Discuss the results of their graphs.

  • Which type of fuel is used most in the U.S.? (Answer: Oil. In 2003, the U.S. used 40.7% of the world’s oil consumption, or 20 of the 49.1 million barrels used per day.)
  • Which is used the least? (Answer: Solar energy supplies only 2% of the nation’s energy need.)
  • Are any of the energy sources renewable? Which ones? (Answer: Hydropower [energy from water] is the only renewable energy source on our graph.)

Part Two

1. Pass out the World Energy Consumption and Production Datasheets or show it on an overhead projector.

2. Have students create a bar graph listing the top world oil consumers and the top world oil producers. (Use the World Energy Consumption graph paper attachment.)

3. Discuss the results of the graphs.

  • Which country consumes the most oil? (Answer: The U.S.)
  • Which country consumes the least? (Answer: In 2003, Brazil, France and Mexico all used 2.1 million gallons per day; however, other countries may have used less but were not included in the data.)

4. Compare how much oil the U.S. consumes vs. how much it produces. (Answer: The U.S. consumes 20 million barrels a day and produces only 7.9). How much oil does the U.S. need? (Answer: The U.S. needs 12 million barrels of oil a day). From where does this oil come? (Answer: We import it.)

5. Finally, discuss the implications of U.S. oil usage. What happens to the oil after we burn it? (Answers will vary, but may include: it can cause air pollution, it creates energy.) Is oil a renewable energy source? (Answer: No) Do students think we will run out of oil?

Part Three

1. Assign students to write persuasive letters to their community about U.S. oil use. They should give three facts in their letter and describe whether they think people should use less oil or not.

Attachments

Assessment

Pre-Activity Assessment

Prediction: Tell students that they are going to look at some numbers about world oil production and consumption. Tell them that you would like them to make some predictions before the activity begins. Record their predictions on the board. Ask the following:

  • What country uses the most oil?
  • What country produces the most oil?

Activity Embedded Assessment

Graphing/Discussion: After students complete the graphing exercises, discuss the production and consumption of oil around the world using the following questions:

  • Which type of fuel is used most in the U.S.? (Answer: Oil. In 2003, the U.S. used 40.7% of the world’s oil consumption, or 20 of the 49.1 million barrels used per day.)
  • Which is used the least? (Answer: Solar energy supplies only 2% of the nation’s energy need.)
  • Are any of the energy sources renewable? Which ones? (Answer: Hydropower [energy from water] is the only renewable energy source on our graph.)
  • Which country consumes the most oil? (Answer: The U.S.)
  • Which country consumes the least? (Answer: In 2003, Brazil, France and Mexico all used 2.1 million gallons per day; however, other countries may have used less but were not included in the data.)
  • Compare how much oil the U.S. consumes to how much it produces. (Answer: We consume 20 million barrels a day and produce only about 9).
  • How much oil does the U.S. need? (Answer: The U.S. needs 12 million barrels of oil a day.)
  • Where does this oil come from? (Answer: We import it.)

Post-Activity Assessment

Predictions Revisited: Go back to student predictions on the board and compare them with the answers students have found.

-Prediction: What country uses the most oil? (Answer: The U.S. uses 20 million barrels per day.)
-Prediction: What country produces the most oil? (Answer: Saudi Arabia produces almost 10 million barrels per day.)

Persuasive Letter: Have students write persuasive letters to their community about oil use in our country. Students should give three facts in their letter and describe whether they think people should use less oil or not.

Owner: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder. Contributors: Jessica Todd, Melissa Straten, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell. Copyright: © 2004 by Regents of the University of Colorado.

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