Investigating Fuel Sustainability

Middle School High School Undergraduate
Unit Stand-Alone Activity

This set of lessons addresses the socio-scientific issue of sustainable fuels. Like most socio-scientific issues, there is no simple answer and even more complex solutions do not apply equally everywhere. Students address the complexity by first exploring the meaning of sustainability and how it applies to fuel production and use. Students then research the steps involved in producing multiple fuels or energy sources for vehicles including fossil fuels, biofuels, and electricity produced in a number of different ways. They explore the environmental impacts of each step with particular emphasis on carbon emissions. Students dig one step deeper as they examine data on the yields of different biofuel crops.

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Earth Science



Environmental Science

Physical Science


Social Studies

Carbon Cycle & Climate Change

Sustainable Energy Systems

Energy, Fuels, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Data Analysis, Systems Thinking

Familiarity with fuels and sustainability helpful but not required

Five 50-minute class periods

No extra supplies required