Have you been paying attention in class?  Here’s a chance to test your “energy literacy” – don’t worry, you get to grade your own paper. Answers below (go ahead and cheat even!). But if you want to nerd out a bit or try to get a good grade, we invite you to revisit the referenced columns at www.paulandcynthiaenergymatters.blogspot.com. Extra credit if you email us!

1. During the big polar vortex freeze of January 2021 Texas experienced a massive blackout and failure of its power grid. The main cause of the failure was (article #20):
a. Frozen wind turbines
b. The Green New Deal
c. Water freezing up in natural gas pipelines
d. Snow on solar panels

2. True or False – Currently there are twice as many solar jobs in the U.S. as jobs in the coal industry (article #45)

3. True or False: Currently the world’s largest direct-air carbon capture plant can only capture enough carbon to compensate for the CO2 output of 300 average Americans (article #41)

4. True or False: An acre of photovoltaics produces about 10 times as much energy as an acre of corn grown for ethanol (article #22)

5. True or False: Cats are responsible for approximately 30 times as many bird deaths as wind turbines.(article #32)


6. In Maine, with its standard mix of electricity generating sources, you will generate about how much less CO2 by installing an air source heat pump than you would using just an oil furnace? (article #13)
a. 25% less
b. 50% less
c. 75% less

7. True or False: Biomass can produce up to 20 times more energy than wind power can using the same acreage of land. (article #7)

8. True or False: Up to 50% of Maine’s farmland might be needed to power the state with photovoltaics. (article #27)

9. Rank the following greenhouse gases by their current significance for global warming: (article #43)
a. Methane
b. Nitrogen oxides
c. Sulfur hexafluoride
d. Carbon dioxide
e. Refrigerants (aka f-gases)

10. How far do you need to drill down in most places on Earth to reach enough geothermal energy to heat your home?  (article #36)
a. 15 feet
b. 300 feet
c. 2 miles
d. all the way to China

Check out the answers below. How did you do? Send us your results, your questions, and your critiques! We love hearing from readers – No question is dumb – or at least no dumber than we are at times…



  1. c. –  along with non-winterized natural gas power plants! BTW they still have not fixed the problems –

2. False. There are 6 times as many solar jobs, and expanding exponentially.

3. True. Why everyone is acting like CCS will rescue us is a complete mystery.

4. True: Talk about wasting farmland!

5. False. Estimates range from 3000 to 8000 times as many birds killed by cats as by turbines. Picture one dead bird under a turbine surrounded by 8,000 cats clutching birds in their jaws.

6. c. 75% less CO2 with a heat pump!


7. False. It’s the other way around – sustainable biomass uses 20 times the acreage needed for wind farms.

8. False. All of Maine’s power needs could be met with an area equal to 12% of Maine’s farmland. And why not prioritize abandoned gravel pits for solar?

9. d, a, b, e, c. Don’t let ‘em tell you it’s not CO2. It is.

10. c. – True geothermal is out of reach for most but a ground source heat pump can use the 45-degree F ground to heat your home!


Paul Stancioff, PhD., is Professor Emeritus of Physics at UMF. Cynthia Stancioff re-words everything he writes. Email: [email protected] or [email protected] Previous columns and links can be found at https://paulandcynthiaenergymatters.blogspot.com/.

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