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Some common fossils fuels are coal, petroleum, and natural gas. 

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Often times when vegetation and animal remains die, they become buried, and heat and pressure form peat. Further compression leads to lignite, sub bituminous coal, and then anthracite, energy dense coal that is high in carbon. Coal is dense, plentiful, easy and safe to transport, and does not need a lot of refining. It is harmful to the environment because when it’s burned, it releases sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, Co2, and radioactive gases (Friedland, Relyea, & Courard-Hauri, 2012).

Petroleum is a mix of hydrocarbons, water, and sulfur. It is used for motor vehicle combustion, as well as a raw material for plastics, lubricants, raw materials, and cleaning solvents. The remains of dead ocean dwelling phytoplankton form over millions of years and migrate to the highest point of porous rock. Wells are then drilled into the rock to reach the deposit. Petroleum is convenient to transport since it’s liquid, energy dense, and burns cleaner than coal. Unfortunately, it releases mercury, lead,arsenic, and sulfur when burned. Like coal, it must be extracted from underground but because it’s liquid, there is the risk of oil spills (Friedland, Relyea, & Courard-Hauri, 2012).

Natural gas is a component of petroleum and it made up of 80-95% methane, 5-20% ethane, and butane and propane.  It’s less dense than oil, and therefore sits on top of it in petroleum. Some advantages of natural gas are that it’s easy to transport through pipelines, and when burned, releases 60% less Co2 than coal. Natural gas is harmful to the environment because it must be extracted using fracking, which requires drilling a large horizontal hole into the rock. Fracking fluid, which is filled with chemicals, is pumped into the ground and creates cracks. This allows the natural gas to be pumped out. Fracking is harmful to the environment because it uses up large quantities of water and releases harmful chemicals into the ground which can contaminate aquifers, and harm living organisms (Friedland, Relyea, & Courard-Hauri, 2012).

Cleaner energy sources such as wind or solar energy may benefit communities in the Northwest Territories.

Wind turbines are about 100 M tall, and wind turns a turbine which turns a generator, generating electricity. They are often placed in rural locations, and must be near electrical transmission lines. Some benefits of wind turbines are that wind is a free renewable energy source, they only require preventative maintenance 2-3 times a year (Nextera Energy, 2018), they can share land with grazing cattle, and they do not emit fossil fuels or other air pollutants. Some costs of wind turbines are that they can harm migration patterns of birds, and that the batteries used are expensive and difficult to recycle (Friedland, Relyea, & Courard-Hauri, 2012).

Solar walls can be made of photovoltaic systems which convert sunlight into electricity. They are composed of three layers. The bottom layer is made of boron which binds to silicon, creating a positive charge. The top layer is made of phosphorus which binds with silicon creating a negative charge. The middle layer is composed of a semiconductor metal. When sunlight hits the cells, the electrons move through an external circuit to travel between the positively and negatively charged layers. This electrical current generates electricity( Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015).  Some advantages of solar panels are that sunlight is a renewable resource, no Co2 or other chemical emissions are created, they are non invasive, and they do not make noise, and they last 30-50 years. A disadvantage of using photovoltaic cells is that the manufacturing of them is expensive, uses lots of energy and water, and uses lots of toxic chemicals.  (Friedland, Relyea, & Courard-Hauri, 2012)

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