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Curriculum: Agriculture: Energy & Environmental Technology [ 119.22(c)(6)]

The Texas Legacy site hosts a variety of educational curricula, lesson plans, keys and ideas, and supporting media, including video, databases, transcripts and other material.  Below you can find the TEKS Agriculture standards for Energy and Environmental Technology, particularly Energy as described in section 119.22(c)(6), with relevant activities drawn from this archive.

Goal:  The student recognizes the use of natural resources for energy:

  

Excerpts of TEKS Text

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Suggested Activities

 

(A)  identify natural resources used for energy;

 

 

 

Here, students can find varied discussions of energy resources, including both fossil and renewable resources, such as those provided by the agricultural industry.  There is also extensive coverage of energy-related policy in the TexasLegacy.org archive.

 

A wide variety of natural resources are used for energy, as discussed by TexasLegacy.org narrators.

About 38% of the electricity generated in the state comes from combustion of coal and lignite John Prager of Smithville, a former miner, discusses the extraction of lignite.

Roughly 11% of the state's electricity comes from nuclear facilities, which in turn rely on uranium mining.  Ben Figueroa, a social worker in Kingsville, and Father Frank Kurzaj, a priest from Panna Maria and San Antonio, discuss the political and religious controversies that arise over the mining of uranium, and the disposal of the waste leachate.

Somewhat less than 1%, but still a significant number of megawatts, are delivered by hydroelectric dams.  One of the larger such dams is the facility at Toledo Bend, which is discussed by Bridge City resident Sue Bailey in the compilation video, Ripples on a Pond. At the other end of the scale, Terry O'Rourke speaks in the  transcript from his experience building a small hydro plant in the California Sierras.

Wind is a rapidly increasing source of commercially-generated electrical energy.  Smitty Smith and Russel Smith, energy advocates from Austin, explain the current and future potential of wind power to provide a cleaner and reasonably-priced source of energy.

 

 

(B)  identify agricultural products used for energy;

 

TexasLegacy.org narrators, many of whom are ranchers and farmers who've struggled with the long decline of the agricultural industry, are excited by the opportunities on the land for renewable sources of energy.

 

There have been discussions about the use of biomass from agricultural operations for generating energy.  Some of the talk has centered on the cultivation, harvesting and processing of perennial grasses, much like what would have been found in native prairies (please see excerpts from Junction farmer Bill Neiman and Celeste ecologist Jim Eidson).

However, one of the most important agricultural products that could be used for energy is simply siting, and exposure to the wind.  Ranchers in the Trans Pecos and Panhandle are already securing lucrative leases for windmill sites, and enabling related local jobs for construction, maintenance, and monitoring.  Please hear the story from Smitty Smith.

 

 

(C)  discuss renewable and non-renewable energy resources; and

 

Many TexasLegacy.org narrators bring a deep interest in renewable energy from their concern about climate change, air quality, strip mining, and other environmental problems associated with non-renewable sources.

 

As we strike the peak of the Hubble Curve and look at the likelihood of declining oil production, and also consider the consequences of climate change and the risks of geopolitical instability surrounding petroleum production, renewable energy is becoming more attractive.

For details on energy discussions, both renewable and non-renewable, please search the TexasLegacy.org website, interview log, and/or history timeline, entering phrases such as "energy" or similar terms.

Aside from these closely related energy concerns, students might want to consider two connected topics that might not come immediately to mind - the petrochemical industry and the negawatt opportunity.

For instance, some of the concerns about non-renewable energy revolve around the related Texas petrochemical industry which relies on fossil fuels as a feedstock, and consumes energy for its process.  Think about the experiences of those who work in the plants (Pasadena petrochemical worker, Steve Smith), monitor the plants (Houston inspector, Brandt Mannchen), live near the plants (Beaumont minister, Roy Malveaux), reside downwind (Houston dentist, George Smith or Houston realtor, LaNell Anderson), or look at the health effects from the plants' products (Galveston toxicologist, Marvin Legator or Houston pathologist, David Marrack).

One of the cheapest and most efficient forms of renewable energy that is being discussed in Texas involves demand reduction, or "negawatts".  Since close to half of greenhouse gas emissions are charged to buildings, a good deal of effort is being put into better insulation, more efficient appliances, less embodied energy in structures, and so on.  Sustainable building expert Gail Vittori and architect Pliny Fisk offer many lessons in this area.

 

 

(D)  identify policies affecting energy.

 

As a major leader in the global energy business, Texas has a number of people who are expert in conventional and alternative energy policies, some of whom are represented in the archive.

 

For many years, particularly since the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, one of the liveliest policy debates concerning energy has revolved around nuclear energy policy.  Supporters of the nuclear industry have pointed out the relative lack of greenhouse gas emissions and the promise of cheap operation.  Critics have pointed out the generous federal research and liability insurance subsidies, the pattern of cost overruns and design flaws, the toxicity of the fuel and waste, and the national security risk from enrichment for weapons. 

To better understand the discussions of how nuclear policies have affected the energy debate, please consider the following segments, as they track the industrial process from cradle to grave. 

Mining of "yellow cake" uranium ore stirred concern among Ben Figueroa and Father Frank Kurzaj.  

Chemistry professor Pat Suter was alarmed at the lax handling of uranium ore during transport, while musician Gary Oliver became concerned about the transport of the radioactive waste after processing and generation.

Andy Sansom and Betty Brink, journalists who covered the construction of the South Texas and Comanche Peak nuclear plants, both learned of design flaws, construction errors, coverups, and worker intimidation.  Some went beyond written critiques of the plants under construction, and became involved in civil disobedience (see Jim Schermbeck's excerpt). 

Some critics' opposition to American nuclear energy policy had to do with the connection with nuclear weapons (for instance, the Pantex peace activist, Mavis Belisle), or having their patriotism impugned (Amarillo retailer Beverly Gattis). 

Others, such as the Austin utility board member, Shudde Fathwere opposed due to the high and uncertain cost of the electricity these plants would generate and sell.

Still other critics focused on the downstream effects of the nuclear plants, of how their waste might be handled.  Some opponents (Sierra Blanca's Bill Addington, Spofford's Tootsie Herndon and Dell City's Mary Lynch and Jim Lynch) found themselves concentrating on the problems of low-level radioactive waste disposal.  Additional adversaries (such as Tonya Kleuskens in the Panhandle town of Dawn) faced the challenges from proponents of high-level radwaste storage/disposal. 

 

 


 
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2007