Chandan L.
MHMS Rm. 3
ICE-9 Project


Would you use a technology that on average kills 125 people daily in the United States, and 960 people worldwide? A technology that pollutes 9,000,000 metric tons of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides each, and 56,000,000 metric tons of carbon monoxide annually? A technology that dumps 2,700,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 143,000,000,000 gallons of gasoline, and 2,500,000 gallons of oil directly into the environment? A technology that consumes one of every six American dollars, and an invention that one of every six American jobs rely on? Something that causes unnecessary mass warfare (with billion of dollars spent on it) and 10,800,000 barrels of oil daily, only in the U.S.? The answer would almost certainly be yes. Almost everyone uses cars, or motorcycles, (or any other fossil fuel burning transportation device), which are daily causing extreme air pollution.

This is a service-learning project about the problems of fossil fuel burning. I have applied the ICE-9 curriculum into my research, to look at this problem from a new perspective. Some of the main things I have found are that the main sources of fossil fuel burning are gasoline cars, and fossil burning power plants (such as coal power plants). These two sources cause three main problems, Global Warming, Ozone Thinning, and Health Concerns. Through the nine essential questions of ICE-9 (What is it, Why do we use itWhere does it come fromHow does it work, How does it changeHow does it change usHow do we change itWhat are its Costs and Benefits, and How do we evaluate it), I have discussed these problems, their roots, and some of their alternatives (including the Hybrid car). I hope you find this project useful, informative, and helpful.

What is it?

What is fossil fuel burning and what harm does it cause? Fossil fuel burning occurs when a fuel mined from the earth (e.g. gasoline, coal, wood, etc.) and burnt, usually for creating energy. Some of the harms of this process are causing Acid Rain, Global Warming, Ozone Thinning, and direct Health Concerns. Each of these concerns will be briefly discussed below.

Acid Rain is highly hazardous to our environment, and can cause much disease. Acid Rain occurs when harmful amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids (from the burning of fossil fuels) gather. These acids evaporate into the clouds and then mix in with moisture (in the clouds). Then when it precipitates, the rain is actually Acid Rain, which damages the environment, but also our own skin.

Global Warming is an extremely serious problem that can potentially end human civilization. Global Warming is happening right now, and this is because the temperature of the North Pole is getting too hot. If this continues, then water levels worldwide will drastically rise. In addition, this disaster will ruin water flow patterns all around the world, killing wildlife. This whole incident can destroy weather patterns, and may create something like in the movie, The Day After Tomorrow, in which a second Ice Age freezes the northern hemisphere of Earth. All this is contributed to by car pollution, because of the carbon added into the atmosphere, which raises the temperature. In the last century, the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the air has risen by 30%.

Ozone Thinning has ties with Global Warming but is a different problem. The ozone layer that surrounds our atmosphere, protects the Earth from harmful Ultra-Violet Rays (UV rays) that cause skin cancer and green house gases. Cars and Power Plants produce CFC's which destroy ozone, therefore thinning the ozone layer. Recently scientists have located massive ozone thinning above Antarctica, which may contribute into melting the ice caps and creating Global Warming.

All of these problems may seem insignificant and unbelievable, but this problem directly affects you. The toxic fumes created by Fossil Fuel Burning (Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides, benzene, formaldehyde, polycyclic hydrocarbons, voltaic organic compounds, mercury contamination, and numerous others fatal chemicals), have been known to cause asthma, heart/lung disease, bronchitis, pneumonia, cancer, damage to vital organs, and other health problems.

All of these problems show the difficulties with fossil fuel burning, however fossil fuel burning is our main source of energy. Until recently we just had to live with the consequences of fossil fuel burning, but now we have an alternative. An excellent alternative to the normal gasoline car is the hybrid vehicle. The hybrid is currently only marketed by Toyota and Honda, but many other car companies are following up with this great technology. The hybrid vehicle seriously cuts down on fossil fuel burning, because they vehicle uses a combination of gasoline and electric battery as energy sources. Because of partial battery power, this technology is amazing.

This image shows an ozone (03) thinning above Antarctica, which could eventually melt Antarctica, making water levels raise worldwide. This picture shows exhaust emitted from a car, which is extremely harmful to the environment, and which everyone uses.


Why do we use it?

If these fossil burning technologies (cars/power plants), have so many problems (What is it), then why do we even use these technologies? Well the clear answer is, the benefits of these technologies are so impressive, that the costs are overlooked. For example, the main usage of the car is transportation. With the car, common transportation is considerably faster and therefore allows transportation to previously unbelievable distances. In addition, due to the trunk and car space, you can carry much more luggage or other items.

Other uses of cars include housing or camping, such as in the RV. These humongous vehicles are equipped with bathrooms, kitchens, beds, and all he over living luxuries. In addition, the Formula 1 racing (and other racing categories) have used the normal car, and upgraded it to go up to 300 miles per hour! This, according to some is a great hobby to watch, and creates jobs for many people (drivers, mechanics, etc.).

As for the power plants, electricity has a similar case. When electricity was discovered, it was so intriguing, that it was blindly accepted. There is nothing wrong with electricity, but the most efficient way to produce it, is fossil fuel burning. Unfortunately, nothing good comes without costs. It took a while to find out that the pollution coming from power plants was serious. Even when it was found, it was for the most part ignored, because people have become so reliant on electricity. Imagine twenty-four hours where worldwide fossil fuel burning power plants had power outages. The only people who this will not affect are the poor people, native tribes who live in the wild, etc. Although more than 2 billion people do not have electricity, it would still be talked about everywhere, and even if you normally read the newspaper, you would be affected. There would be complete havoc.

Nowadays, most people completely support cars and fossil fuel burning power plants; however, this is starting to change. More and more people are starting to use bikes and hybrids instead of cars or using solar panels to generate their own electricity. This is because the society as a whole is starting to realize the problems of fossil fuel burning. People are starting to awaken.

Here is an image of Formula 1 cars, racing against each other 

Where does it come from?

Where does all this toxic pollution come from? It is all the leftover trash from creating energy. After burning fossil fuels, the leftover gases are forms of air pollution. It is like when you eat a candy bar. You get to eat the great candy, but the wrapper is leftover, and then fills up the land fill. Is it worth the candy bar? One wrapper might not make that much of difference. However, imagine thousands and thousands of these wrappers.

But what causes Ozone thinning? The answer is chlorofluorocarnons (CFC's). These are chemical compounds of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, which are sold under the name, freons. Have you ever heard of "freons?" Probably not. Have you ever heard of a refrigerator or an air conditioner? Probably. Shown below is a table with a select group of CFC's, their names, and where each one can be found.

CFC-11 Trichlorofluoromethane - Refrigerators, aerosols, foams
CFC-12 Dichlorofluoromethane - Refrigerators, aerosols, foams, air conditioners
CFC-13 Trichloro-Trifluoroethane - Electronics, dry cleaners, fire extinguishers
CFC-14 Dichloro-Tetrafluoroethane - Aerosols
CFC-114 Freon - Pollutants from Nuclear Power Plants

Some alternatives to these ozone thinners are hydrochlorofluorocarnons (HCFC's). Below is another table with alternatives to CFC's.

HCFC-22 Chlorodifluoromethane - Air conditioners, refrigerators, foams
HCFC-152a Difluoroethane - Aerosols, refrigerators

As you can see, most of the CFC's have alternative HCFC's, so whenever you buy a refrigerator or air conditioner, ask about CFC's and HCFC's, and see if you can help save the ozone.

Where did the most commonly used four-stroke combustion cycle come from? It originally came from internal combustion and was invented by Nikolaus Otto, in 1867. In honor of Otto, this cycle is sometimes referred to as the Otto cycle.

Where did the Hybrid car come from? The Hybrid vehicle came from many inventors and engineers, from a number of countries. It originated through the first car, the battery and electric cars all combined. It was improved time and time again, but originally, it was a simple horse buggy with a makeshift combustion and a battery.

Here is an image of the first ever Hybrid car.

How does it work?

Now you know all the problems with fossil fuel burning. But how does it work, and how do alternatives and solutions work? To this question, there are multiple parts. How the internal combustion of a gasoline automobile works, how its alternatives work, how coal-burning power plants work, and how its alternatives work. I will answer the questions in their respective order below.

Gasoline Internal Combustion

Below are the steps explaining the cycles of the combustion:

  • The piston starts at the top, the intake valve opens, and the piston moves down to let the engine take in a cylinder full of air and gasoline. This is called the intake stroke. Only a tiny drop of gasoline is necessary.
  • Next the piston returns to its upward position to compress this fuel/air mixture. Compression allows more of the mixture to fit in a smaller area, thus making the explosion more powerful. Now the engine is ready for the next cycle, so it intakes another charge of air and gas and the process repeats.
  • When the piston reaches the top of its stroke, the spark plug emits a spark to ignite the gasoline. The gasoline charge in the cylinder explodes, driving the piston down.
  • Once the piston hits the bottom of its stroke, the exhaust valve opens and the exhaust leaves the cylinder to go out the tail pipe.

  • As this process repeats itself, the piston goes around and around, making the wheels rotate. Notice that the motion that comes out of the internal combustion engine is rotational. In an engine, the linear motion of the pistons is converted into rotational motion by the crankshaft. The rotational motion is perfect, because you need rotational motion to make the wheels rotate.

    So what are the alternatives to this polluting technology? Of course, there is the option of biking, taking a bus, carpooling, taking a train, etc., but what if you want a real alternative like a car that does not pollute. Some of the options are fuel celled cars, Hybrid cars, and solar powered cars.

    Fuel Cells

    In each alternative, after the power is provided, it is simply a matter of putting the energy to use. The real problem is to find a better energy source of electricity. Here is a great example; the fuel cell.  Here are the steps of how a fuel cell works:

        Hydrogen - Anode (negatively charged)

    1. A molecule of Hydrogen (H2) is pumped into one side of the fuel cell
    2. The H2 molecule splits into two Hydrogen ions, or atoms with two electrons (H+) and two electrons (e-)
    3. The Hydrogen ions (H+) move through the membrane (electrolyte) which blocks electrons
    4. The electrons (e-) bypass the membrane and go through an external circuit instead, creating an electric current to be used to run an electric motor
        Oxygen - Cathode (positively charged)
        5.  A molecule of Oxygen (O2) from the air enters the other end of the fuel cell
        6.  The (O2) molecule splits into two separate Oxygen (O) atoms
        7.  A strongly negatively charged Oxygen atom attracts and combines with two Hydrogen ions (positively charged and from the              membrane) and two electrons (from the external circuit) to form a molecule of water (H2O)
        8.  The water (H2O) is released as a harmless byproduct of the reaction

    Here is a diagram illustrating the procedure:
    After this whole process, all that is polluted is water and the car has electricity to run, only using Hydrogen (the most abundant gas in our atmosphere). One of these simple reactions only produces about 0.7 volts. To produce a greater voltage, many separate fuel cells must be combined to form a fuel cell stack (a group of multiple fuel cells). Constant improvements in the engineering and materials used in these cells have increased the power density to a level where a device about the size of a small piece of luggage can power a car!


    This vehicle uses a combination of gasoline and electric battery to run, therefore it pollutes, but only 10% of what a gasoline car needs. How does it work and what makes it so popular? Read on to find out.

    A gasoline car burns gasoline, which creates internal combustion that makes motion which powers the engine, which powers the transmission, which finally powers the wheels. An electric car's battery provides energy to the motor that directly moves the wheels. The Hybrid uses a mixture of these, in one of three different systems.

    Series - The gasoline engine never directly powers the car. Instead, the gasoline engine drives the generator and the generator either charges the battery or powers the electric motor which drives the wheels.

    Parallel - The gasoline engine connects to the transmission, as do the batteries, electric motor, and generator. Both the gasoline engine and the electric motor power the wheels. Given that everything is attached to the transmission, the gasoline engine can recharge the batteries.

    Split - The gasoline engine drives one axle and the electric motor drives the other. The car can switch between them as the conditions vary. There is no connection between the electric components and the gasoline components, except through the road.

    Hybrid cars contain the following parts:
    • Gasoline engine - The hybrid car has a gasoline engine much like the one you will find on most cars, however the engine on a hybrid is smaller and uses advanced technologies to reduce emissions and increase efficiency.
    • Fuel tank - The fuel tank in a hybrid is the gasoline storage (It takes about 1,000 pounds of batteries to store as much energy as 1 gallon of gasoline)
    • Electric motor - Advanced electronics allow the electric motor to act as a motor as well as a generator (it can draw energy from the batteries to accelerate the car, but also acting as a generator, it can slow the car down and return energy to the batteries)
    • Generator - The generator is similar to an electric motor, but it acts only to produce electrical power (used mostly on series hybrids)
    • Batteries - The batteries are the energy storage device for the electric motor (unlike the fuel tank, the electric motor can put energy into the batteries as well as draw energy from them)
    • Transmission - The transmission on a hybrid car performs the same basic function as the transmission on a conventional car

    Here is a diagram explaining select parts of the Hybrid.
    As well as all the normal functions a Hybrid has, it gets triple the mileage, and can recharge the battery when going downhill!
    Solar Power

    As you may have guessed, the car below is powered by solar panels on the roof of the car. I have already covered what happens after the electricity is created, but here's how the solar panels work.

    Photovoltaic cells (photo = light, voltaic = electricity), convert sunlight directly into electricity. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are made of special materials called semiconductors such as silicon. When light hits the cell, a portion of it is absorbed within the semiconductor. The intense energy knocks electrons loose, allowing them to flow freely. PV cells also all have one or more electric fields that act to force electrons freed by light absorption to flow in a certain direction. This flow of electrons is a current, and by placing metal contacts on the top and bottom of the PV cell, you can draw off the current for external use (for example, the current can power a car). This current, together with the cell's voltage (which depends on the number of built-in electric fields), defines the power (or wattage) that the solar cell can produce.

    Why does our solar cell absorb only about 15 percents of the sunlight's energy? Visible light is only part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the complete EM spectrum is made up of a range of different energy levels. Since the light that hits the solar cell has photons of a wide range of energies, it turns out that some of them will not have enough energy and others will have so much energy. If they have less energy than needed, the they will simply pass through the solar cell as if it were not there and if photon has more energy than the required amount, then the extra energy is lost. These two effects alone account for the loss of around 70 percent of the energy loss.

    Here is an image of a solar powered car.
    Fossil Fuels

    Besides cars, fossil fuels are also used to make power. Power plants also account for enormous amounts of air pollution. Fossil Fuel Burning Power Plants (such as coal, oil etc.) are very simple. The coal is burnt, which creates a lot of heat, while water is boiled by this heat. The water then turns to steam and is forced through a turbine at 3,500 psi. The steam pushes against a series of turbine blades that turn the turbine shaft. The turbine shaft is connected to the shaft of the generator, where magnets spin within wire coils to produce electricity. Then the steam mixes with cool water to reform into water. Then the water is re-heated and the whole process restarts.

    Out of the entire power industry, coal power plants contribute 96% of sulfur dioxide emissions, 93% of nitrogen oxide emissions, 88% of carbon dioxide emissions, and 99% of mercury emissions. In addition, this unhealthy source of power contributes to smog, soot, acid rain, toxins and global warming. Nitrogen oxide emissions from huge dirty coal plants with tall smokestacks in the Midwest are often blamed for increased smog levels in many eastern regions because smog and its precursor pollutants are easily transported hundreds of miles downwind from pollution sources. More than 137 million Americans continue to breath unhealthy, smog polluted air. Even our national parks have not escaped the smog caused by coal power plants. Regional haze from airborne pollutants has reduced annual average visibility in the U.S., to about one third in the west and to one quarter in the east, of natural conditions. Smog concentrations increased at 22 of 31 National Park Service monitoring sites from 1990-1999. Some of these coal companies have argued that their new so called "clean" power plants don't pollute as much and that by 2018, their pollution will be cut down by 70%. That is very good, but 2018 is a long ways and pollution needs to be acted upon now. In addition, even if these reduces occur, fossil fuel burning will still be the leading polluter.

    When inhaled, smog causes a burning of the cell wall of the lungs and air passages. This eventually weakens the elasticity of the lungs, making them more susceptible to infections and injury and causing asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. This danger is present for anyone who inhales smog, although children, elderly, and those with respiratory problems are at a higher risk of developing health problems associated with smog pollution. A UCLA School of Medicine study found that over time, repeated exposure to smog and other air pollutants can cause as much damage to the lungs as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. In addition, a recent study found that high smog levels in the eastern US cause 159,000 trips to the emergency room, 53,000 hospital admissions, and 6 million asthma attacks each summer.

    The burning of coal emits sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide gases, which can form soot, when they react with the atmosphere. In addition, coal fired power plants also emit soot directly from their smokestacks. Scientists increasingly believe soot to be the most dangerous air pollutant, blaming it for 64,000 deaths per year in the US.

    Soot causes bacterial and viral respiratory infections like pneumonia, as well as chronic lung diseases, like asthma, that destroy lives over the course of years. Soot from power plants triggers an estimated 603,000 asthma attacks nationwide every year. In addition, studies have found that soot may cause heart attacks and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and that the incidence of strokes and heart failure is greater in areas with high levels of soot.
    Fossil Fuel burning power plants are one of the largest sources of toxic metal compound pollution. Together they released more than one billion pounds of toxic pollution in 1998, including 9 million pounds of toxic metals and metal compounds and 750 million pounds of dangerous acid gases. One of the most dangerous toxins emitted is mercury. Coal contains trace amounts of mercury that are released into the air when the fuel is burned to produce electricity. The health hazard results when mercury falls to the earth with rain, snow, and in dry particles. Mercury is a serious toxin, and accidental high-level exposure can result in severe nervous system damage, even death.

    Burning fossil fuels such as coal releases carbon dioxide pollution, which is extremely bad for the environment. The US has four percent of the world's population yet emits 25% of the global warming pollution. Power plants emit 40% of US carbon dioxide pollution, the primary global warming pollutant. In 1999, coal fired power plants alone released 490,500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (32% of the total emissions for 1999). These outrageously high levels of carbon dioxide are well on their way to doubling.

    Here is a diagram explaining how a coal power plant works.

    The big problem with this, is that the burning of coal creates mass air pollution. Some of the alternatives to coal power plants are fuel cell power, solar power, nuclear power, wind power, and waterpower. Fuel cells and solar power have already been discussed, but take a look at nuclear fusion, aeronautical power, hydroelectricity, and geothermal power.

    Nuclear Power

    Nuclear Power accounts for more than 15% of American electricity and America contains 25% of the world's nuclear power plants. Why is this process of creating electricity beginning to become so popular? Find out below.

    One of the metals needed in Nuclear Power is Uranium (or less commonly used plutonium). Uranium is originally formed in stars (when stars exploded, the dust from these shattered stars came together to form our planet). When a uranium nucleus approaches and is captured by a neutron, it splits into two lighter atoms and throws off two or three new neutrons. The two new atoms then emit gamma radiation as they settle into their new states. This process of Nuclear Fission, occurs in a matter of picoseconds (1/1,000,000,000,000 seconds), and an incredible amount of energy is released in the form of heat and gamma radiation. In each of these fissions, about one-thousandth (0.001) of a BTU (British Thermal Units) is produced.
    0.001 BTUs may not seem like much, however there are an innumerable number of uranium atoms in a pound of uranium. In fact, there are so many uranium atoms, that a pound of highly enriched uranium as used to power a nuclear submarine or nuclear aircraft carrier is equal to about the same amount of power as one million gallons of gasoline. When you consider that a pound of uranium is smaller than a baseball, and a million gallons of gasoline would fill a cube 50 feet per side (as tall as a five-story building), you can get an idea of the amount of energy available in just a little bit of uranium.

    After all this heat is created, there is very little difference between a nuclear power plant and a fossil fuel burning power plant. Water is turned to steam to drive turbines, which generates electricity. Why aren't all power plants nuclear powered? Because nuclear power plants have their own problems:

    • Mining and purifying uranium is not a very clean process
    • If something goes wrong, then nuclear power plants can scatter tons of radioactive dust into the atmosphere
    • Storage and Disposal of Nuclear waste is extremely dangerous and difficult

    Here is a diagram of the steps to create nuclear power.

    Wind Power

    In wind power, wind blows by fan blades, and the wind rotates the blades. This in turn rotates a gear system to increase the power generated. Then the mechanical energy is transferred into a magnetic field, which converts the energy into electricity. Finally, the electricity is sent to the generator, which changes the electricity from 700 volts to 33,000 volts. This whole process is completely environmentally safe.

    Here is an image of a few wind turbines.


    To create hydroelectricity, you need to first find a river and then build a dam there. Then the water flowing through the river is forced through a channel full of colossal turbines, therefore turning them. After the water turns the turbines, it is allowed to start flowing freely again at the bottom. As for the turbines, the rotational energy is sent to the generators and then to the transformers, to eventually convert the water-force into electricity. This process does not pollute the air, however it can damage the ecosystem of some marine species such as the salmon (and other fish).

    Shown above is an animation of a hydro-dam.

    Geothermal Power

    In the modern era, we are capable of acquiring highly pressurized steam, without burning a dangerous fossil fuel or creating contaminating nuclear reactions. The Earth's core produces intense heat, which we can drill wells into. These geothermal reservoirs bring  pressurized steam to the surface of the Earth, which can be used to turn turbines in a similar fashion to coal burning power plants, except without any air pollution. After the process, the steam is reinserted into the Earth's crust in order to re-pressurize and re-heat. It can then be re-mined later on.

    Here is a diagram of geothermal power.

    Now that you have taken a glimpse at the problems with fossil fuel burning technologies and how they work, as well as their alternatives, we can now move on to understand how these technologies change.

    How does it change?

    The next section of the ICE-9 procedure is the change category. The first essential question in this section is "How does it change". This section will explain what changes have and/or may occur(red) with fossil fuel burning and hybrids.

    The fossil fuel burning problem has passed through numerous phases of change since it was first recognized in the late 19th century. At first, this problem was not a big deal, because although steam trains were used there was not mass singular vehicle transportation. In addition, power plants had not yet started to arise. Therefore, fossil fuel burning was not even known as a problem to most.  As cars and power plants were developed and depended upon, fossil fuel burning was for the most part, overlooked, because of the benefits of its creators. Now only recently, awareness has begun, and this problem is becoming a major research field. Many people are constantly trying to find a cure for diseases cause by pollution (e.g. lung and heart disease). It is predicted that air pollution rates are to nearly double within the next few decades.


    This graph demonstrates how CO2 levels (red) and temperature
    levels (blue) have skyrocketed in the last hundred years.
    If this graph is to continue at the rate it is now, we as a planet, are in for some serious trouble. In addition, as new alternatives to fossil fuel burning arise, along with them will arise novel problems.

    These graphs show how coal usage and uranium and thorium release have increased
    exponentially and have been predicted to continue at this rate.

    This graph demonstrates the steady increase of carbon emissions since 1950.

    As far as the Hybrid is concerned, it has come a long way. From being a small wooden cart to a state-of-the-art modern transportation technology, this vehicle has undergone many changes. In the future, this technology may evolve by having electricity wirelessly transferred to the vehicle eliminating the need for batteries, finding a way to harmlessly give off the by-product of gasoline burning, or maybe something else. In other words, Hybrids have great potential.

    How does it change us?

    Fossil fuel burning can change people in many ways. Only a few of the things that it does are change our daily lives, cause mass disease, as well as societal changes. As for disease, fossil fuel burning causes cancer, lung disease, asthma, etc. The diseases cause thousands and thousands of death annually (refer to introduction) and are rapidly growing. In 1900, 34,300 people died from fossil fuel burning. In 2000, 2,417,000 people died, and now our hospitals have much more advanced medical treatment. Furthermore, fossil fuel burning is helping Global Warming and Ozone Thinning, which could also lead to numerous more deaths. Although fossil fuel burning does cause all these harms, it is also creating many jobs and aiding research to find cures too many diseases.

    Another aspect of change on humans is daily life. Gasoline powered cars give us the ability to travel vast distances in little time. In 1900, to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles in one day, would not have been nearly possible. Some people do not realize the power of a car. Just imagine what one day would be like, if no cars would work, there would be mass havoc. Because of these cars, also suburbs have been created (because people can live outside of town, and then drive into town to get to work or school), rather than everyone living in the urban areas (city) or rural (farms). This important change has caused many small towns to arise.

    The other major contributor to air pollution is fossil fuel burning power plants. These change us by providing us with power, which is also extremely relied upon. One day without electricity would be devastating to the whole planet. Overall, the major contributors of fossil fuel burning are all heavily relied upon, therefore causing many harmful and a few helpful impacts on humans.

    Hybrid vehicles are also changing us all the time. By polluting less than the regular gasoline car, the Hybrid is causing less disease. This in turn makes the average human life span grow. In addition, the Hybrid forces us to stop at gas stations half or even one-third the normal amount of times. This amazing technology is also creating jobs for many people, who are trying to further develop its abilities.

    How do we change it?

    Both fossil fuel burning and the Hybrid have been changed by human beings plenty of times. Since the awareness of fossil fuel burning and the invention of the Hybrid, many improvements have been established. Just a few of them will be described in this section.

    Fossil fuel burning has been a problem to the human race ever since cavemen had too much smoke from fires in their caves, but real mass air pollution from fossil fuel burning did not occur until the mid 1800's. In 1866, a group of Botanists noticed plants starting to disappear around big cities and factories. The first solution that was created was a bag filter, in which smoke or smog is forced to pass through a filter. All of the harmful chemicals are trapped in the filter, and then sent to construction companies to use in concrete.

    Humans have also changed air pollution by finding alternatives to fossil fuel burning. Some of these have previously been discussed in How does it work as Nuclear Power, Wind power, Solar Power, Hydroelectric Power, and Geothermal Power. In addition, people influence the path of fossil fuel burning by creating environmentally friendly organizations such as Greentreks and Envirolink as well as by using it.

    As far as the Hybrid is concerned, it all started with Leonard da Vinci and his ideas. Later in 1903, the Paris Electric Car Company built the first Hybrid. Then in 1905, Howard Piper, an American engineer, successfully patented a Hybrid accelerating from 0 - 25 in 10 seconds (that was amazing back then because this took one-fourth the regular time). Next, the Austrian, Jacob Lohner and Company started building Hybrids under Ferdinand Porsche (the father of the founder of the Porsche company). Ferdinand eliminated the trouble with transmission in the Hybrid.

    As time passed away, other car companies such as Siemens Schucket Company (Berlin), Wood's Motor Vehicle Company (Chicago), and Galt Motor Company (Ontario) helped develop the Hybrid. Each company added on to the Hybrid and solved a problem with the car. For example, in 1914 the Galt Motor Company expanded the top speed to 30 miles per hour and 70 miles per gallon.

    Over the years, more and more advanced developers have added onto the Hybrid, until finally in 1997, Toyota came out with the Prius, a phenomenal breakthrough. This technology will continue to develop and more and more Hybrids will appear.

    What are its Costs and Benefits?

    Each of the different primary, secondary, and alternative sources of energy each have their own costs and benefits. This section will discuss these costs and benefits, accompanied by PMI charts (plus, minus and interesting). This section will also include the costs and benefits of Hybrid cars.

    Fossil Fuels

    Fossil fuel burning is currently the most efficient method of power. In addition, fossil fuel burning, is a cheap easy method of creating power. Unfortunately, fossil fuel burning is also the leading source of air pollution from all power sources, and causes numerous diseases. In addition, fossil fuel burning causes vast environmental destruction.

    Plus Minus Interesting
    • Cheap and Easy
    • Extremely efficient
    • Tens of billions of dollars spent on health from fossil fuel burning
    • Causes many diseases
    • Causes mass air pollution
    • Non-renewable energy sources
    • Can release lead into the environment
    • 1 gallon of gasoline (7 pounds) can produce the same amount of power as 1,000 pounds of battery
    • Within 10 years, all of Earth's gasoline will be eradicated
    • Accounts for approximately 50% of American electricity
    • A gasoline powered car only utilizes about 25% of the gasoline energy created

    Nuclear Power

    Nuclear power is also very powerful and a novel alternative to fossil fuel burning. Unfortunately, nuclear power has its own set of problems. First, nuclear reactions are highly unstable. In addition, the process of nuclear power causes air pollution, and destroys the ozone layer.

    • Causes less pollution than fossil fuel burning
    • Very efficient energy source
    • Very dangerous and can cause mass havoc is there is a disaster
    • Provides 17% of American CO2 pollution
    • Creates harmful CFC's that destroy the ozone
    • Non-renewable energy source (uranium)
    • Can release mercury into the environment
    • Cannot be used to power a vehicle
    • Helps develop science in many fields and areas
    • A nuclear reaction involves atomic science
    • If the uranium is highly enriched, one pound (size of a baseball) an produce more power than a million gallons of gasoline

    Ethanol, Methanol, and Propane are all fossil fuels, however they are much more environmentally friendly than gasoline or coal. Ethanol and Methanol are both alcohol based gases and can be produced by distilling starch-based agriculture such as corn, barley, wheat, etc. In addition, either ethanol or methanol can be put in a mixture with gasoline (85% (M)ethanol and 15% Gasoline) to make M85; a more efficient and slightly less pollutive alternative to pure gasoline. Propane (a.k.a. Liquefied Petroleum Gasoline) also has serious cutbacks on pollution compared to gasoline. There is a solid 60% less Carbon Monoxide pollution and 20% less Nitrogen Oxide, although Propane only creates about 70% of the energy that gasoline creates.

    Plus Minus Interesting
    • Causes less pollution than pure gasoline
    • Has a better octane rating than gasoline
    • Can be created domestically and is a renewable energy source
    • Costs less than gasoline
    • Create only about 70% of the energy that gasoline creates
    • Much harder to find these gases than regular gasoline stations
    • Propane tanks are 20 times as puncture resistant than gasoline tanks
    • Propane is the most accessible alternative fuel source in the U.S. with over 3,300 stations across the country

    Fuel Cells
    Fuel cells are probably the most interesting way of creating electricity. They give off zero emissions, and are extremely safe. In addition, the main gas used in Fuel Cells is Hydrogen, which has the best octane rating of all gases.

    Plus Minus Interesting
    • Hydrogen has the best octane rating out of every gas
    • Extremely safe
    • Causes zero pollution emissions
    • Hydrogen is hard to find
    • Hydrogen creates only about 1/3 of the BTUs that gasoline does
    • Hydrogen is said to be highly volatile (explosive)
    • Hydrogen can be pressurized and be put into a smaller space than other gases
    • Although Hydrogen does not create that many BTUs, fuel cells improve  Hydrogen's efficiency as well as allow more Hydrogen to be stored
    • Fuel cell stacks the size of a big briefcase can power a car

    Solar Power
    Solar Power is another non-polluting energy source. In addition, solar power is a renewable energy source. Unfortunately, solar power has many costs, and not too many benefits. Overall, until solar power efficiency is improved, it is only acceptable as a back up to gasoline.

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    • Causes no pollution in the process of creating electricity
    • Renewable energy source
    • Not very efficient
    • Quite expensive
    • Can only create energy in sunlight
    • The sun gives of more energy in one minute, than all Earth uses in one year
    • Solar panels usually only convert about 8% - 25% of the sunlight absorbed, into electricity

    Wind Power
    Wind power is yet another renewable energy source that causes no pollution. In addition, many myths about wind power are not true, and wind power is actually a quite positive energy source with a hopeful future. The main costs of wind power are the initial cost of making a turbine, and the fact that only certain locations will have enough wind to create a steady energy source.

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    • Causes no pollution in the process of creating electricity
    • Has a moderate efficiency
    • Renewable energy source
    • Quite expensive initial cost
    • Can only create electricity in the wind
    • Cannot be used to power a vehicle
    • About 45% of wind energy is converted into electricity
    • Wind turbines are very silent
    • After the initial cost of creating a wind turbine, it only costs 4 per kilowatt hour

    Hydroelectricity is different from every other method of creating electricity because of its costs. The method of the turbine is very similar, to other turbine powered energy sources, except that in this case, the turbine is powered by water. One element needed to create hydroelectricity is a dam on a river. These dams are cheap and cause zero air emissions, however this method of energy has many "side effects".

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    • Dams are inexpensive to build
    • Hydroelectricity is a renewable energy source
    • Hydroelectricity causes zero air emissions
    • Creates an efficient power supply
    • Dams can cause mass flooding
    • If a dam cracks, then a disaster would occur
    • Dams kill marine wildlife, and fishermen loose their jobs
    • Dams cause water pollution
    • Can only be made on flowing river locations
    • Cannot be used to power a vehicle
    • Building a dam can cause increased fog in the vicinity
    • One third of the countries world-wide rely on hydroelectricity for half of their power

    Geothermal Power
    Geothermal Power is very interesting and novel way of finding steam to turn a turbine. It is pretty much the same as coal power, except there are no air emissions, because they steam is already made underground, by hot rocks. This is one of the greatest power sources, but the main drawback is that it can only be done at select locations as opposed to fossil fuel burning.

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    • Renewable energy source
    • Causes no pollution
    • After initial cost, very cheap to run
    • Geothermal Power can only be conducted at a few special locations
    • Hazardous gases and minerals can be hard to dispose of
    • Cannot be used to power a vehicle
    • Certain location can "run out of steam" for up to decades
    • Geothermal mining can aid discovery in many sciences


      Hybrids are the highlight of this section, and are meant in terms of a hybrid car as opposed to a fossil fuel burning car. Hybrid vehicles are a hot new topic and they are very helpful and interesting. From being lighter and smaller, to being environmentally friendly, and economically friendly, the hybrid has many costs and benefits, however the benefits seem to win out.

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    • Hybrids are lighter, smoother, and more aerodynamic than regular cars
    • Hybrids have an extremely superior mileage to the regular car
    • Hybrids cause much less pollution than the common car
    • The California government gives tax deductions for up to $2000 for the usage of a hybrid vehicle
    • Hybrids accelerate slower than normal cars
    • Hybrids are smaller and more lightweight than normal cars, making them more vulnerable to destruction in a car accident
    • In a hybrid, you have to change the battery more often, but you have to buy gasoline less often
    • When a hybrid goes downhill, or when the brakes are applied, the battery is slightly recharged
    • Hybrids are much quieter than normal cars

    How do we evaluate it?

    This section is special, because two different people can have the exact same thing in every other section, but totally disagree over this section. This section takes the PMI charts from the costs and benefits, and then is opinionated with personal value systems. In this section, I will apply my own value system to different energy sources.

    I believe that a perfect energy source should have a good balance of efficiency, safety, and environmental friendliness. In addition, it should be renewable, and not too expensive. Fossil fuel burning falls out because although efficient and cheap, it is too hazardous to health, and the environment, and is non-renewable. Nuclear power is interesting, however, it is not safe, non-renewable, and it can release mercury into the environment. Ethanol, Methanol and Propane are similar to gasoline, however they are much less pollutive than normal gasoline. They are also less efficient and harder to find. This mostly rules this energy source out also.

    As for Fuel Cells, I think that they are great. They are quite efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly. The main set back is that you need Hydrogen to power fuel cells. Overall, Fuel Cells are to be seriously considered. Solar Power is another safe, environmentally friendly and renewable energy source. The problem is that Solar Panels are expensive and not very efficient. If solar technology is improved, then solar power also can have a bright future. Wind Power is safe, environmentally friendly, renewable, and reasonably priced. The efficiency of wind power is okay, but the required locations are a slight problem, but this one also makes it to the next round.

    Hydroelectricity is one of the worst methods of power in this value system, because although efficient and renewable, dams are expensive, not safe, and not at all environmentally friendly. Geothermal Power is a novel way of doing things, which is efficient, environmentally friendly, renewable, and after an initial cost, quite reasonably priced. Geothermal Power however has a few hazards along with specific locations, but still makes my book. Last but not least, the Hybrid. I believe the Hybrid is a great technology. They are extremely efficient, environmentally friendly (more than a normal car) and not expensive. The hybrid also makes it to the next round.

    Overall, I believe that Fuel Cells and Hybrids are the best choice for vehicles. At the present moment, I believe Hybrids are better, but as Fuel Cell technology improves, it will soon be the best. As far as stationary power sources go, I think that Wind Power and Geothermal Power are the best. If Solar Panel efficiency were improved, then it would be the best, however currently its conversion rates are a little too low.


    Overall, I have learned a lot about Fossil Fuel Burning, its costs and benefits and how it works. In addition, I have discovered numerous alternatives and many that are actually better. I have decided that the best alternatives are Fuel Cells, Hybrids, Wind Power, Geothermal Power, and Solar Power. I hope that you have found this research project informative and helpful, and that you figure out the best alternative energy source for yourself and put it to use. So, stop polluting with fossil fuels and start using healthy alternatives!

    This graph shows the top eighteen polluting countries by annual tons per person.


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