Lesson Plan Overview

Oil Crisis:
Get Into The Game

How Bad Can It Get?

Life Is Starting To Change

Elasticity and Collapse

Oil Dependency
Among Nations

Food Without Oil


Preparation and Community

Lessons Learned

Your World Without Oil


Elasticity and Collapse

The economy continues to falter under the burden of a World Without Oil. The shortages and outages are forcing almost everyone to try to adapt. Many people and businesses are elastic – they are trying alternatives to oil, such as carpooling and consolidation. Many individuals, families, businesses and in some cases entire industries, however, are finding that they have no good alternatives to energy from cheap oil – they are inelastic. This lesson investigates the factors that define elasticity in relation to oil – factors such as lifestyle, geography, setting (urban, suburban and rural) and community. People have begun viewing transportation in a much different light.

As you present developments in the oil crisis, ask the students to talk realistically about the effects in their own lives, as if the oil crisis were really happening. As they try to anticipate what will happen next in the crisis, they will naturally explore the role that resources have in their lives.

Lesson Objectives
Students will:

Before the Lesson

Part 1: Set the Stage
Student Page for this lesson is here:
This page summarizes ideas and instructions for students.

  1. Re-immerse the students: briefly remind them of what's happened previously in a World Without Oil.
  2. Watch Kal's "Small-Town Shortage" video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmY9OMBdPLc  
  3. Read Anda's Week 11 webcomic about college roommates:

Part 2: Take Action
  1. As a class discuss the long-term prospects of a reduced oil supply on our national economy.
  2. Divide the following WWO citizen reports among the groups.  After reviewing their assigned article, have groups report on the specific concerns voiced by the author and the long term prospects of the situation. What is their analysis of the concerns? Are they serious?
  3. Most of these events affects specific locations. Ask students how the geographical location and the setting impacts the significance of the concerns. Do problems and shortages affect urban, suburban, and rural areas differently? Why or why not?

Part 3: Lesson Activity
  1. Review with students the concept of elasticity – defined here as the ability to adapt to events in time to avoid collapse, especially by having options.
  2. Drawing from the group activity, ask them to consider what systems rely heavily or exclusively on oil. Tell them these industries are considered inelastic and therefore cannot be sustained without it or without an inexpensive and unlimited supply.
  3. Next ask them to consider geographic location and population density of an area.  Does the location (urban, suburban, or rural) affect the elasticity? Or geography (such as Hawaii)? How?
  4. Have students return to their groups and do an analysis of the elasticity/inelasticity of their immediate community.  The groups should list about ten of the industries, businesses, and government provided services available.  For each they should evaluate its elasticity in relation to oil.  What industries will be lost?  How will transportation in the area be affected?  Are there viable alternatives?
  5. Briefly, what aspect of oil makes it such a hard resource to replace? (Where does the energy in oil come from? When was it stored?)
  6. Before closing, ask students about  the larger implications of elasticity for local, national, and global economies. Was there anything that could have been done to prepare?
Part 4: Reflect
The students should have a clear idea of how their regional community depends upon oil.  For this lesson, students should focus their reflections on the greater economic changes happening around them as oil-dependent industries struggle or fold.  Use the following questions to help guide their reflection:

Part 5: Take It Further
Distribute this to your students:

As the oil shortage creates dramatic economic shifts, people are needing to redefine many of their day-to-day activities.  PeakProphet at Notes from the Heartland asks us to look at a life beyond oil:

In this post he challenges you to look at what you do and how much energy it consumes.  Then try and find ways to reduce or eliminate that consumption.  To take it further today, read PeakProphet's post and complete his mission.  Make sure to post your list to your blog and add any drawings, photographs, or video that might help illustrate your potential life changes.

Additional Resources

Independent Lens Electric Shadows Independent Television Service Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ken Eklund, Writerguy
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National Standards (McREL)

Overarching (All Lessons)

Standard 44.
Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world

Level IV (Grades 9-12), Benchmark 2:
Understands rates of economic development and the emergence of different economic systems around the globe (e.g., systems of economic management in communist and capitalist countries, as well as the global impact of multinational corporations; the impact of black markets, speculation, and trade in illegal products on national and global markets; patterns of inward, outward, and internal migration in the Middle East and North Africa, types of jobs involved, and the impact of the patterns upon national economies; the rapid economic development of East Asian countries in the late 20th century, and the relatively slow development of Sub-Saharan African countries)


Lesson 4: Specific Standards


Standard 10: Understands basic concepts about international economics

Level IV, Benchmark 2: Knows that a nation has an absolute advantage if it can produce more of a product with the same amount of resources than another nation, and it has a comparative advantage when it can produce a product at a lower opportunity cost than another nation

Level IV, Benchmark 6: Understands that public policies affecting foreign trade impose costs and benefits on different groups of people (e.g., consumers may pay higher prices, profits in exporting firms may decrease), and that decisions on these policies reflect economic and political interests and forces


Standard 9: Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Level IV, Benchmark 2: Knows how human mobility and city/region interdependence can be increased and regional integration can be facilitated by improved transportation systems (e.g., the national interstate highway system in the United States, the network of global air routes)

Level IV, Standard 11: Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Level IV, Benchmark 3: Understands the relationships between various settlement patterns, their associated economic activities, and the relative land values (e.g., land values and prominent urban features, the zoned uses of land and the value of that land, economic factors and location of particular types of industries and businesses)

Standard 12: Understands the patterns of human settlement and their causes

Level IV, Benchmark 5: Understands the physical and human impact of emerging urban forms in the present-day world (e.g., the rise of megalopoli, edge cities, and metropolitan corridors; increasing numbers of ethnic enclaves in urban areas and the development of legislation to protect the rights of ethnic and racial minorities; improved light-rail systems within cities providing ease of access to ex-urban areas)

Standard 17: Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

Level IV, Benchmark 1: Understands how the processes of spatial change have affected history (e.g. the development of the national transportation systems in the U.S.)

Standard 18.  Understands global development and environmental issues

Level IV, Benchmark 1: Understands the concept of sustainable development and its effects in a variety of situations (e.g., toward cutting the rain forests in Indonesia in response to a demand for lumber in foreign markets, or mining the rutile sands along the coast of eastern Australia near the Great Barrier Reef)


State Standards (All Lessons)