Environmental Science and International Politics: Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989, and Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009

By David E. Henderson; Susan K. Henderson | Go to book overview

Appendix 2. Chemicals in Fossil Fuels

One of the first tools of the early chemists was fire. We now understand that fire is the result of atoms and molecules reacting with oxygen from the air. The reactions of fuel with oxygen have provided power for humans since the discovery of fire. Much of the progress of human society has been made possible through access to more and more concentrated sources of energy. Early humans used wood and dung for cooking and warmth. The discovery of coal provided a more concentrated source of energy. Oil was another highly concentrated source.

Coal can be considered to be mostly pure carbon. The problem of acid rain is due to small sulfur impurities in coal. For the present, we are interested only in the carbon. Petroleum consists of a wide range of hydrocarbon molecules that contain only carbon and hydrogen. There are also a number of liquid fuels available for transportation that include oxygen atoms in the hydrocarbon molecules. The next section will give you the tools to understand the names and structures of these molecules.


LARGER MOLECULES OF CARBON, OXYGEN,
AND HYDROGEN

One of the unique things about atoms of carbon is their ability to link with other atoms of carbon to form large structures containing hundreds or even thousands of carbons linked together. No other atom has this property to the same extent as carbon.

The chemistry of molecules containing carbon is called organic chemistry. This name derives from the fact that early chemists believed that organic molecules contained some vital force and could only be made by living organisms, hence the name organic chemistry. Great was the shock in the early 1800s when scientists made the first organic molecule from inorganic chemical starting materials. The history of this discovery is an interesting example of how discoveries in science can have an impact on the thinking of society and even on religion.

You can construct a large number of molecular models of organic chemicals with a model set. The easiest way to make them is to link the carbons together to form long chains and add hydrogens along the edges of the chain. One can make a series of these, each of which has one additional carbon atom in the chain with two additional hydrogens attached. The name for this type of molecule is normal hydrocarbons. You may also attach carbons along the side of the chain at any carbon to produce a branching effect. This class of molecules is known as branched-chain hydrocarbons.

The names of the normal hydrocarbons having one to ten carbon atoms are shown in Table 3. These names are important in that they form the root names of most organic molecules. The names for C-1 to C-4 hydrocarbons make sense only in that they reflect the discovery of these substances. Butane, for example, gets its name from the fact that butter contains a four-carbon compound. After C-4, the names derive from the Latin for the number. You will see that most of these names are familiar from the names of geometrical objects like a hexagon or octagon.

As the number of carbons becomes larger, the number of possible ways to construct molecules from them goes up very rapidly. Although there are only three C5 hydrocarbons, there are 18 C8 hydrocarbons and 75 ways to construct a C10 hydrocarbon. Different structures for the same molecular formula are called isomers. Gasoline

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Environmental Science and International Politics: Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989, and Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Note to Instructors viii
  • How to Play These Games 1
  • Contents 8
  • Figures and Tables 11
  • 1 - Historical Background 14
  • 2 - The Game 35
  • 3 - Roles and Factions 41
  • 4 - Core Texts and Supplemental Readings 44
  • Bibliography 106
  • Acknowledgments 109
  • Appendix 1- Introduction to Environmental Philosophy 110
  • Appendix 2- Introduction to Environmental Economics 116
  • Appendix 3- Using Numbers to Make Arguments 119
  • Appendix 4- Study Questions for Reading Assignments 121
  • Contents 124
  • Figures and Tables 127
  • 1 - Historical Background 129
  • 2 - The Game 153
  • 3 - Roles and Factions 159
  • 4 - Core Texts and Supplemental Readings 162
  • Acknowledgments 164
  • Appendix 1- Green House Gases 165
  • Appendix 2- Chemicals in Fossil Fuels 168
  • Appendix 3- Quantitative Look at Combustion Reactions 172
  • Appendix 4- Leaked Draft Document by Danish Delegates 180
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