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Year 7 & 8 TOC


Time scales for regeneration

LO: Considering timescales for regeneration of resources

A resource that is renewable, means that it can be replaced or replenished at the same rate it is used. Something which is non renewable takes a very long time to be replaced. Think about the gas you use when you use a Bunsen burner. If you burn 1 litre of gas, that’s 1 litre less of gas in the world. 

Eventually non-renewable resources will be made again, but not in our lifetime. This process will take over hundreds of thousands of years, so if we continue to use these non-renewable resources in the same way we do today, they will eventually run out for all humans. 


  1. How we use resources in Australia
  2. How long it takes resources to regenerate
  3. How do we generate electricity using resources

How we use resources

Australia is a very mineral and resource rich country, however we don’t use everything we mine for ourselves. A lot of what we mine actually gets exported to other countries. 

Even though we have so many other types of resources available, coal and petrol are still our largest contributors to our energy needs. Relying on these fossil fuel resources as our main source of energy creates environmental issues like global warming, ozone depletion and the green house effect. We’ll talk about these later in this chapter. 

Check out the table below. This is a break down of Australia’s energy consumption broken down by resources. 

ResourcePercentage of Australia's energy production

As you can see from the table above, coal is Australia’s most used resource, but it’s also the worlds most used energy resources! 

In Australia we have an estimated  500 years worth of brown coal left and currently our exports of coal accounts for more than half of Australia’s energy exports. 

We are: 

  • one of the world’s largest exporters of uranium, 
  • the world’s largest exporter of coal and,
  •  ranked sixth in terms of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. 

Okay, so you’ve learnt that fossil fuels, like oil, gas and coal come from dead matter that died over 100 million years ago. But, does that mean your filling up with T-rex every time you fill up the car??

(source: https://www.peakoil.net/headline-news/the-economist-oil-is-yesterday-s-fuel)

The short answer is no.

Fossil fuels actually consist of dead plants. Coal from trees and natural gas & oil from algae. Over millions and millions of year dead plants that were at the bottom of ancient rivers accumulated and were buried. Eventually being placed under huge amounts of pressure. The further they sunk the closer they got to the Earth’s core and the hotter they became. Eventually it got so hot they turned into oil. Some got even hotter and turned to gas!

So, your not burning dead T-rex, but dead algae instead.

How long does it take to regenerate?

Fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas and crude oil take millions of years to generate. Coal takes 300 millions to create!
Uranium, another non-renewable resource, was formed 6.6 billion years ago in supernovae, according to the World Nuclear Association.

How do Power stations work

In the above section we’ve spoken a lot about how resources can be used to generate energy, but how does it actually work? 

The first thing we need to understanding that we can’t create energy, but we can convert it. Scroll through the slides below for more information on generating electricity. 


  • In Australia, coal is our most used resource to generate electricity. 
  • Fossil fuels, like coal, have a negative effect on the environment and take millions of years to regenerate. 
  • To generate electricity we need to spin a turbine to turn a generator

Select and drag the words into the correct boxes in the diagram below.

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