AP Environmental Science : Energy Usage

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP Environmental Science

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Energy Usage

Which of the following is the predominant industrial energy source in the United States currently, in 2015?

Possible Answers:

Coal

Nuclear energy

Fossil fuels and natural gas

Geothermal energy

Hydroelectric energy

Correct answer:

Fossil fuels and natural gas

Explanation:

While coal was the predominant source of energy during the Industrial Revolution, advancements in petroleum extraction and refining resulted in petroleum and natural gas becoming the dominant industrial fuel source in the 1950s. This pattern has existed to this day.

Example Question #2 : Energy Usage

Which of the following most accurately defines "Energy Star"?

Possible Answers:

An internationally-recognized standard for energy-efficient consumer products, formed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy

A standard for energy-efficiency drafted by private companies that manufacture electronics and consumer goods

A federal energy-efficiency standard mandated for consumer electronics and appliances by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy

A program created by the Department of Energy that offers federal rebates for Energy Star certified home appliances, which have higher energy efficiency than the federal standards

A collaborative program formed by private companies that manufacture consumer appliances and the Environmental Protection Agency to set an industry standard of energy efficiency

Correct answer:

An internationally-recognized standard for energy-efficient consumer products, formed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy

Explanation:

The Energy Star certification is a standard of energy efficiency for consumer electronics and appliances that is higher than what is required by federal standards. The program was a joint venture by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy and has since become an internationally-recognized standard.

Example Question #3 : Energy Usage

Why might driving an electric car prove equally damaging to the environment as driving a car that runs on gasoline. 

Possible Answers:

Electric cars still contribute to traffic congestion and idling vehicles are a large contributor to greenhouse gas emmissions. 

Electric cars are actually not completely electric. They still contain an internal combustion engine and switch to running on gasoline after the electric battery has died or the car reaches a certain speed. 

Electric cars are often built in third world countries, where factories and firms are not subject to environmental protection or accountability laws. 

If the electricity comes from a polluting source (e.g. coal), then the electric car still contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emmissions indirectly. 

The lithium batteries in electric cars contain toxic chemicals that are difficult to store. 

Correct answer:

If the electricity comes from a polluting source (e.g. coal), then the electric car still contributes to pollution and greenhouse gas emmissions indirectly. 

Explanation:

Electric cars with a gas engine are classified as Hybrids, not All-Electric Vehicles. The other answers address the environmental impact of manufacturing and parts, and while these impacts are substantial, their ongoing impact is miniscule when compared to the footprint from regular driving. The majority electricity in America is generated by the burning of fossil fuels, which means driving an electric car regularly still has a carbon footprint and a significant one at that. 

Example Question #4 : Energy Usage

Which of the following scenarios most accurately depicts the tragedy of the commons?

Possible Answers:

Collective farming of wine grapes in communities in California.

Allocation of all nuclear wastes to one site in Nevada.

Agreements among ranchers to jointly manage common grazing land.

Depletion of fishing stocks in the North Atlantic.

Using national forests for wood production and harvesting.

Correct answer:

Depletion of fishing stocks in the North Atlantic.

Explanation:

The tragedy of commons is a term used today to describe a situation wherein individuals acting independently and rationally according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the greater population by depleting a common resource. In opposition, the examples of ranchers managing common ground and collective farming of grapes are examples of individuals working together in a common interest. Additionally, allocating nuclear waste to one area is rather an example of sacrificing a small area for the greater population, and using national forests for wood production and harvesting is simply disobeying the everyone's interests by depleting resources and breaking the law. However, the depletion of fishing stocks is a perfect example of the tragedy of the commons: It is the ravaging of a greater population's shared natural resource in favor of individual and commercial interest. 

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