Lesson Plan: How much gasoline does it take to run a bio-fueled engine?

Many AP Environmental Science teachers discuss the pros and cons of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels through the use of alternatives such as ethanol and biodiesel. What most students do not realize, however, is that fossil fuels are used in several of the processes required to grow the organisms that create fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. This project is designed to provide a comparison of two different biofuel making organisms versus gasoline through a life cycle analysis to see what fuel source is the best choice for North Carolina.

This lesson plan, developed by Kenan Fellow Mark Townley, begins with a choice of growing labs for the oil-seed producing Camelina Sativa and/or the algae Dunaliella Salina. Students will record the amount of water, energy, fertilizer, and fossil fuels used to create the growing conditions in the classroom for these organisms and then scale some of those numbers to an acre of land to see how the total oil produced along with the possible emissions compare to the life cycle for gasoline. The final assessment for this lesson will be a board game style debate that will ask the students to research an alternative fuel and determine which one would be the best option for North Carolina in the future.

You can access this lesson plan here

You can access the Growing Camelina Sativa Lab here

You can access the Growing Salt Water Algae Lab here