What Powers the World?

WORLD

Flick the switches to see where the world would go dark without fossil fuels, which countries rely the most on nuclear, and who is using entirely renewable power to keep the lights on. (GoCompare.com)

Use our interactive activity to better understand “Electricity: Sources and Challenges.”

Discussion Ideas

Map by GoCompare.com

Map by GoCompare.com

 

  • Flick the switch on fossil fuels using the interactive map, or take a look at the .gif above. Is fossil fuel use concentrated in a few areas? What might be some reasons for this?
    • Concentrated? No, fossil fuel use is pretty evenly distributed around the electricity-using world. (Note that this world does not include huge swaths of Africa, Central Asia, and South America.)
    • Reasons? The infrastructure to extract, burn, and deliver electricity from fossil fuels is very efficient. The networks are generally reliable and relatively inexpensive.

 

Map by GoCompare.com

Map by GoCompare.com

 

  • Flick the switch on nuclear energy using the interactive map, or take a quick look at the .gif above. Is nuclear energy use concentrated in a few areas? What might be some reasons for this?
    • Concentrated? Yes, large-scale reliance on nuclear power is almost entirely concentrated in the Western developed world.
      • Exceptions to this include South Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, Argentina, and India.
    • Reasons? The technology and infrastructure demanded by a nuclear energy program are not insignificant.
      • Equipment (nuclear reactors and their components) is expensive to manufacture and maintain.
      • The infrastructure needed to establish a nuclear energy program includes educational institutions, businesses, and government investment that most developing nations do not yet have.
      • In addition, trade in equipment, technology, and components involved in nuclear power are strictly controlled by international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

 

Map by GoCompare.com

Map by GoCompare.com

  • What is renewable energy?
    • Renewable energy describes electricity derived from sources that naturally renew themselves in a reasonable amount of time.
    • Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and ocean-derived sources such as wave, tidal, and algal energy. The most popular (and controversial) source of renewable energy is hydroelectricity.
    • Electricity from renewable sources is derived in different ways. Tidal, wave, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power rely on turbines harnessing the energy created by moving fluid. Active solar power converts light to electricity on the atomic level. Biomass, such as wood or solid waste, is burned.

 

  • Flick the switch on renewable energy using the interactive map or take a quick look at the .gif above. Is renewable use concentrated in a few areas? Why or why not?
    • Concentrated? Sort of. Heavy reliance on renewables is largely concentrated in the BRIC nations (minus, significantly, the R); Scandinavia; Southern Europe; and Canada.
    • Reasons? In each of these countries, government and businesses have made a concentrated effort to invest in renewable energy.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

GoCompare.com: What Powers the World? (data from the International Energy Agency)

Nat Geo: Electricity: Sources and Challenges activity and interactive activity

Nat Geo: What is non-renewable energy?

Nat Geo: What is nuclear energy?

Nat Geo: What is renewable energy?

One response to “What Powers the World?

  1. Pingback: 10 Things We Learned This Week! | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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