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There’s No Such Thing as a Free Megawatt: The Marcellus Shale as a Gateway Drug to Energy Literacy (revisited)

October 14, 2012

The Marcellus Shale and hydraulic fracturing (often referred to as fracking) has made many people suddenly very interested in where their energy comes from. This is a teachable moment — a chance to engage the public in deepening their understandings of the energy system. We’re approaching the opportunity with a few key ideas and key questions in mind and we face substantial educational challenges.

Key Ideas:

  • The Marcellus Shale and its natural gas cannot be deeply understood without understanding it in the context of the larger energy system.
  • Our energy system is in constant flux.
  • All large scale energy production has negative environmental impacts.

Key Questions:

  • Should we be using this kind of energy?
  • Should we be using this much energy?

Educational Challenges:

  • Like other controversial issues, the Marcellus Shale involves conflicting world views.
  • Issues associated with teaching complex systems, risk analysis, and environmental justice come together in the teaching of energy and climate.

The rest of this post provides a brief overview of new and newly updated resources. If you’re in a hurry, take a look at what’s below, but if you want to dig right into the resources, follow this link to the detailed presentation which also includes links to the other resources described below. You’ll likely find that link more engaging than the description that follows.

This post offers some resources we at the Paleontological Research Institution are using in our outreach related to address these ideas, questions and challenges. It’s partially an update (thus the “revisited” in the title) of a blog post from about a year ago entitled, “There’s no such thing as a free megawatt: the Marcellus Shale, energy and the environment“.  The heart of that post was a presentation given at the Science Teachers’ Association of New York State’s 2011 annual meeting. That presentation and the associated resources, have been updated substantially over the past 11 months and provide a very quick overview of the Marcellus Shale, the technologies being used for extracting natural gas from it in Pennsylvania (and other state within the Marcellus region) and which will likely be used in New York State, if the moratorium on slickwater horizontal high-volume hydraulic fracturing is lifted.

In addition to the updated version of There’s no such thing as a free megawatt (now subtitled: the Marcellus Shale as a Gateway Drug to Energy Literacy), is the poster that borrows the subtitle, “The Marcellus Shale as a Gateway Drug to Energy Literacy” presented at the just completed North American Association for Environmental Education‘s annual conference.

A Google Earth file showing aspects of the Marcellus and the energy system can be found here.

Here’s a linked screen grab of the Prezi followed by information and a link for the poster.

A screen grab of There’s No Such Thing as a Free Megawatt: The Marcellus Shale as a Gateway Drug to Energy Literacy Prezi

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A shrunken version of the poster is below. Click on the image below or the title above to download a high resolution version of the poster.

The Marcellus Shale as a Gateway Drug to Energy Literacy Poster

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A screen grab from the Marcellus Google Earth file.

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The poster has highlights and some slightly different information than the Prezi used for presentations. One difference is that the poster has a bit more text in certain areas as it was a standalone display outside of the hour and a half poster session. It also has nowhere near the amount of content as the Prezi, which is typically used for an hour long talk — and has material for a second hour long talk (originally presented at the National Science Teachers’ Association annual conference in 2011).

Resources referred to within this post:

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Megawatt: The Marcellus Shale as a Gateway Drug to Energy Literacy Prezi

The Marcellus Shale as a Gateway Drug to Energy Literacy Poster (PDF)

The Marcellus Shale & the Broader Energy System Google Earth (kmz) File

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