Start by writing a brief introduction to the topic of the role of science in understanding how and if humans should be using nonrenewable energy resources. Remember, as one part of your introduction, to define nonrenewable energy resources, and contrast them with renewable sources. Then, choose an energy resource from the list below, and write the body of your paper based on the following prompts:

  • What type of fuel is extracted using the topic you selected?
  • How is this fuel extracted? Briefly describe the process.
  • What environmental risks does this process cause?
  • What role did science play in understanding how to extract this fuel? What role did science play in discovering and understanding what risks the process has?
  • Have changes been made, based on scientific discovery, to perform this process with less risk to people and the environment? Describe these changes.
  • Mountaintop mining in Kentucky

Expert Answers

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(No list of energy resources is given with the question, so I will use coal as an example).

Energy plays an essential role in our day to day activities, including heating/cooling, transportation, lighting, etc. Science helps us develop these energy resources and convert them to electricity (and other usable forms) and transmit them to us. Energy resources can be divided into renewable (practically unlimited in amount, renewed by themselves, such as solar, wind, geothermal, etc.) and non-renewable (limited in quantity, takes million of years to form, e.g., coal, natural gas, petroleum, etc.) resources. Given the harmful effects of non-renewable energy (esp. climate change), scientists have been trying to develop renewable alternatives. However, the renewable alternatives still cannot completely replace the non-renewable energy options and we will be dependent on them for the next few decades.  

Coal is one of the major non-renewable energy resources and is the chief source of electricity in many countries around the world. Coal is mined from the subsurface and is used for energy generation (either heat or electricity). Depending on the depth at which coal is present, it can be mined from the surface or underground mines. Coal is harvested (either using big equipment or explosives) from the rocks and taken to coal preparation plants or directly where it will be used. 

Some of the environmental impacts of coal mining include loss of vegetation and soil microbial community, displacement of wildlife, adverse effects on nutrient recycling and acid mine drainage.

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