AP Environmental Science Practice Test: Energy Resources & Consumption

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Question 1
The largest contributor of renewable power in the United States is

A
Wind
B
Solar thermal
C
Solar photovoltaic
D
Geothermal
E
Hydroelectric
Question 1 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). As of 2015, Hydroelectricity accounted for 46% of all renewable power produced in the United States. The most common type of hydroelectric power plant uses a dam on a river to store water in a reservoir. Water is released from the reservoir and flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity.
Question 2
Which country has the greatest number of nuclear power plants on a per capita basis?

A
England
B
United States
C
Spain
D
Japan
E
France
Question 2 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). As of 2015, France had 58 operating nuclear reactors and a population of 65 million. The United States and Japan had 99 and 43 operating nuclear reactors, with populations of 320 million and 126 million, respectively. The French government has focused on nuclear power because of France’s limited natural energy resources.
Question 3
Which of the following pairs is the predominant source of fuel for electricity generation in the United States?

A
Natural Gas and Oil
B
Oil and Coal
C
Nuclear fuels and Solar Power
D
Coal and Natural Gas
E
Hydroelectric dams and Oil
Question 3 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). The predominant source of fuel for electricity generation in the United States is natural gas and coal. As of 2016, coal and natural gas together account for 65% of the electricity produced in the United States. Nuclear accounts for approximately 20%.
Question 4
Which type of coal has the lowest energy content?

A
Bituminous
B
Sub-bituminous
C
Lignite
D
Anthracite
E
All of these have equal energy content
Question 4 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Coals are ranked from low to high in this order: Lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous, anthracite. Lower ranked coals are softer, lighter, contain less carbon, and have less energy content than higher ranked coals.

Coal starts off as peat. After a long amount of time, heat, and burial pressure, it is metamorphosed from peat to lignite. Lignite is called "immature" coal at this stage of development because it is rather light in color and remains soft. As time passes, lignite increases in maturity by becoming darker and harder, and is then classified as sub-bituminous coal. With more time, pressure, and heat, more chemical and physical changes occur and the coal is classified as bituminous. At this point the coal is dark and hard. Anthracite is the last of the classifications, when the coal has matured completely. Anthracite coal is very hard and shiny.
Question 5
Which of the following is NOT one of the advantages of natural gas as an energy source?

A
Burning it releases no pollutants.
B
It is efficient for cooking and home heating.
C
It can be used as a fuel for vehicles.
D
It is abundant.
E
It can be stored and transported.
Question 5 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). The burning of natural gas does release pollutants. The advantage is that it burns cleaner than other fossil fuels, producing half the carbon dioxide as coal and about a third less than oil. It also emits fewer amounts of toxic chemicals like nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide.
Question 6
Currently, most high-level radioactive waste from nuclear reactors in the United States is

A
stored in deep ocean trenches.
B
buried in Yucca Mountain.
C
reprocessed into new fuel pellets.
D
chemically modified into safe materials.
E
stored at the power plant that produced it.
Question 6 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (E). Used nuclear fuel is stored at the nation's nuclear power plants in steel-lined, concrete pools filled with water or in massive, airtight steel or concrete-and-steel canisters. In the mid-1980s, plans were made to store the majority of the spent nuclear fuel at a central repository underneath Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But the project languished primarily due to opposition from Nevada residents who don’t want to import this dangerous material. Critics of the plan also worry that natural forces such as erosion and earthquakes could make the storage facility unstable. These nuclear isotopes can remain hazardous to humans for hundreds of thousands of years.
Question 7
When did oil production in the United States first peak?

A
1965
B
1970
C
1982
D
2006
E
2010
Question 7 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Oil production in the U.S. first peaked in 1970, which was predicted by M. King Hubbert. He is known for the Hubbert Peak Theory, which states that the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. However, with the advent of fracking, U.S. oil production began rising sharply again in 2009, and it is quickly approaching the 1970 peak. The amount of production in the U.S. no longer follows a bell-shaped curve. The theory turned out to be wrong as it failed to predict the effects of new technology. Advancing technology now enables discovery of new oil resources, access to known resources that were previously thought to be unrecoverable, and extraction of a larger percentage of oil via secondary and tertiary recovery methods.
Question 8
The function of a yaw drive in a wind turbine is to

A
transfer mechanical energy to the generator.
B
convert mechanical energy into electricity.
C
keep the rotor facing into the wind as the wind direction changes.
D
turn the blades.
E
convert kinetic energy into mechanical energy.
Question 8 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). The yaw drive is an important component of the wind turbines' yaw system. To ensure the wind turbine is producing the maximal amount of electric energy at all times, the yaw drive is used to keep the rotor facing into the wind as the wind direction changes. The wind turns the blades, which are connected to the gearbox, which in turn is connected to the generator. The gearbox transfers mechanical energy to the generator. The generator converts mechanical energy into electricity.
Question 9
Which of the following is true of passive solar designs?

A
These designs use mechanical and electrical devices for heating and cooling.
B
These designs have windows, walls, and floors that are made to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter, and reject solar heat in the summer.
C
These designs have solar hot water systems which use pumps or fans to circulate fluid.
D
These designs use low-impact building materials and permeable concrete instead of conventional concrete to enhance the replenishment of ground water.
E
These designs include onsite generation of renewable energy through solar power, wind power, hydro power, or biomass .
Question 9 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Passive solar design uses sunlight without active mechanical systems. This is in contrast to active solar design which uses external sources of energy to power blowers, pumps and other types of equipment to collect, store and convert solar energy.
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