Chemistry - Fuels and Pollution (AQA)
Fossil fuels release carbon dioxide, that has been locked away for millions of years, into the atmosphere.

Chemistry - Fuels and Pollution (AQA)

Crude oil and other sources of fuel is one of the topics studied in GCSE Science. This is the third of six quizzes on that subject and it looks specifically at the pollution caused by fuels.

We have the Industrial Revolution to thank for the quality of life that we enjoy today. If it wasn't for fossil fuels, the Industrial Revolution would probably not have happened. Before the Industrial Revolution, charcoal was the main fuel. It is made by heating wood in conditions of low oxygen. As the Industrial Revolution got underway, more and more coal was needed to fuel steam engines and furnaces. The development of factories and improvements to the steam engines caused further increase in the demand for coal. In the middle of the 19th Century, oil lamps were still powered by whale oil which was very expensive. In Derbyshie, a scientist discovered how to distil a substitute, kerosene.

About 10 years later, people started drilling for oil in Texas, USA, and found plenty. Fractional distillation of this crude oil revealed many other chemicals that could be used as fuels and it wasn't long until the first engines were made that burnt the petrol, or gasoline, fraction. Later, engines that ran on other fractions were developed, including the jet engine.

Crude oil and coal are both formed from ancient biomasses found in rocks. Coal formed from trees and plants that grew in swampy warm forests and crude oil formed from the remains of dead sea plants and sea creatures. Since they were formed millions of years ago, they are called fossil fuels.

Pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels has been recognised for some time. Here in the 21st Century, we still use coal and fuels from oil but have also begun to develop biofuels. Biofuels are produced from plant material and by allowing plants and animal dung to rot down, producing 'biogas'. They are therefore potentially renewable. But whatever the source of our fuels, they create pollution. Fossil fuels release carbon dioxide that has been locked away for millions of years. Many scientists believe that this is creating problems with our climate and causing global warming.

One of the pollutants from burning fossil fuels is carbon dioxide. To which of the following environmental issues does it contribute?
The hole in the ozone layer
Acid rain
Global dimming
Global warming
Levels of CO2 have risen sharply since the second world war
What are biofuels?
Fuels made from animals
Fuels made only from plants
Fuels made from any living thing or its waste
Fuels made only from animal dung
Biofuels can be made from plants or plant and animal waste as it rots down producing methane gas
Why is carbon dioxide from fossil fuels a particular issue?
It is slightly radioactive
It is more polluting than the carbon dioxide breathed out by animals
Plants can't absorb it
It was locked away millions of years ago and so is adding to that which is present in the air today
This upsets the balance as the number of plants living on the Earth cannot remove it as fast as it is being added. Too much CO2 in the air could lead to a 'runaway' greenhouse effect which would kill off most of the life on Earth
Why is burning biofuels less of a problem than burning fossil fuels?
They don't produce any CO2 when they burn
They are renewable and don't release carbon locked away millions of years ago
They are cheaper and easier to produce when compared to fossil fuels
All of the above
Although burning biofuels does release carbon dioxide, burning them is 'carbon neutral' because the amount of carbon dioxide released when they are used is the same as the amount absorbed by the plants as they grew. But they are not quite carbon neutral overall as fossil fuels need to be burned in order to grow and make them
Which one of the following could be an ethical argument against growing plants for biofuels?
Farmers would earn more money
You need a lot more people to produce biofuels than fossil fuels
It could make fuel prices lower
It could increase food prices or cause food shortages
Land that could be used to grow food crops might be used to provide the raw materials for biofuels instead
Which impurity in fuels causes acid rain when it burns?
This burns to form sulfur dioxide. Low sulfur fuel is available at many petrol stations, especially in big cities where there are lots of cars
Which of the following is a balanced equation that shows how sulfur dioxide is formed?
S + O → SO
S + 2O → S2O
S + O2 → SO2
2S + O2 → 2SO2
This type of question tests if you can get a formula from the name of a chemical and recognise a balanced equation
Apart from sulfur, what else from burning fuels is a major contributor to acid rain?
Carbon monoxide
Di-hydrogen oxide
Unburnt fuel
Nitogen oxides
At the high temperatures inside vehicle engines, even the normally unreactive nitrogen is converted to nitrogen oxides. These are highly acidic
Which of the following might be directly caused by burning fuels?
Respiratory system problems
Bladder problems
Broken bones
Many of the gases produced by burning fuels are irritants to the lungs
Which of the following products of burning fuels could be responsible for global dimming?
Tiny solid particles
Water vapour
Carbon dioxide
Nitrogen oxides
These particles reflect some of the Sun's heat back into space, reducing the apparent effects of global warming. You might see this as a good thing but what happens when laws to reduce the amount of this type of pollution take effect?
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Crude oil, hydrocarbons and alkanes - AQA

Author:  Kev Woodward

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