The course of human history/civilization can be written as the acquisition of new energy sources. From fire for the hearth, to domestication of beasts of burden, to filling sails with wind, to water wheels and grist and saw mills, to the industrial revolution fed by fossil fuels, to harnessing the power of the atom, energy has been a primary force in our history. It's importance will not diminish.

In-class writing exercise for your journal: What do we need to know to start to develop an energy policy? Take ten minutes and list types of information that would be valuable. Also, indicate which types of information you have listed are the most important and why you think this is the case. You will hand this in so that we can learn from your response. We will also hand back your entries with points awarded so that you can include it in your journal. Please write legibly (3 pts.). Then we will have you get into groups and brainstorm for 5 minutes, sharing and evaluating your ideas, before we collect ideas together on the board.


What are present days sources of energy and what are their relative importance?


How do fossil fuels form?

A fossil fuel, from a system perspective, is when carbon compounds have been transferred from the biosphere into the lithosphere. They have been geologically sequestered.

What usually happens to organic material at the surface of the earth? It decays quickly. The decay is by organisms (mainly bacteria) that use oxygen, and is known as aerobic decay.

What conditions permit organic material to accumulate? If it decays slowly enough it can be buried in accumulating sediment. The type of decay that allows this is anaerobic decay, which is much less efficient and occurs more slowly, and occurs in the absence of oxygen. Interestingly, one of the byproducts of anaerobic decay can be methane, an energy source in of itself. Oxygen poor geologic environments are called euxinic. Sulfur compounds, such as pyrite, and gases are also associated with euxinic environments.

Where can you find such conditions?

What are the geologic requirements for formation of oil and gas deposits?


Fossil fuels from a system perspective.


Links to explore if you have more time and interest:


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