New SAT Reading Practice Test 88: Alternative Energy

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Alternative Energy—two authors consider the state of alternative energy solutions.


No one is sure how much available oil is
left, but considering our oil reserves took
hundreds of millions of years to form, time to
depletion is little more than a blink of an eye.
05So we have two options—stop relying on oil
or use it up and watch the ensuing chaos.
One promising alternative fuel source
is ethanol. Our ancestors have been fermenting
organic matter to make ethanol
10for thousands of years. Today ethanol is
primarily consumed in alcoholic beverages,
but why not also use it to power our cars?
This alternative fuel is made by fermenting
crops such as wheat, corn, and sugarcane.
15One glucose molecule is broken down to
form two ethanol molecules and two carbon
dioxide molecules. Because it is made
from organic matter, it is renewable—a big
pro compared to oil. Another benefit is that
20it's domestically made, so we don't have to
rely on other countries for it. Unfortunately,
it's slightly more expensive per mile than
gasoline. Additionally, because its production
uses crops, widespread implementation may
25cause an increase in some food prices.
Another promising alternative is biodiesel.
Biodiesel is made out of animal fats, plant
fats, and even used grease from restaurants.
The glycerol backbone is removed from
30the fat, breaking the fat into three separate
chains, which are then reacted with an alcohol
to form the biodiesel. This type of chemical
reaction is called a transesterification.
Like ethanol, biodiesel is also renewable and
35domestically produced. It's also completely
nontoxic and biodegradable. Unfortunately,
like ethanol, it's also more expensive. While
they may be more expensive, both of these
fuel sources produce fewer greenhouse gases
40than regular gasoline. A couple extra dollars
is a small price to pay for the environmental
friendliness and self-sufficiency that these
alternatives would provide.
Our current alternatives may not be perfect,
45but that's no reason to be discouraged.
The time for alternative fuel exploration is
now. Why wait for oil to run out when superior
sources of energy are already available
and more are within reach?


50There is a natural tendency to confuse
change with progress. This is perfectly understandable,
especially considering that we
went from inventing electricity to perfecting
aviation to reaching the moon all in a time
55period analogous to just a blink in the grand
scheme of human history. Such prodigious
leaps have left us hungry for more leaps,
and there are benefits to restlessness, even
if entropic; throw enough aimless darts in
60every direction and you'll find a bull's eye,
even if by accident.
But, such leaps have also left us skeptical
against inaction, and now there is a proclivity
to mistake the status quo for the stagnation
65of standing still. Call it the New Coke effect,
where society takes three misguided steps
back in its interminable urgency to keep
moving forward.
That said, I will be the first to admit that
70the future livelihood of an industrialized
world most likely hinges on change, namely
the discovery of an effective, inexpensive
source of renewable energy. But, as the
federal government wastes billions here
75and billions there throwing money at hopeless
companies with hapless executives
(Solyndra, for instance), I can't help but feel
like renewable energy is New Coke. Certainly,
we have not yet perfected our energetic ways
80and means, but why are we so obsessed with
discarding what we have now?
Principally, despite decades of apocalyptic
forecasting of peak oil, petroleum output is
as healthy as ever. In fact, petroleum companies
85are leaving the industry not because oil
reserves are dwindling, but rather because
oil production is so massive that demand
is falling considerably. Case in point: oil is
currently selling at a third the cost of bottled
So, yes—the day most likely will come
when the wells run dry. But, until then, let us
celebrate our good fortune and be thankful
for what we have.

1. The author of passage 1 most strongly implies in paragraph 1 (lines 1-6) that the choice of whether to pursue alternative energy is

  • A. multi-faceted.
  • B. obvious.
  • C. ambiguous.
  • D. premature.

2. As used in line 30, the word "breaking" most closely means

  • A. flouting.
  • B. eliminating.
  • C. separating.
  • D. categorizing.

3. The author of Passage 1 suggests in lines 44-49 ("Our current . . . reach") that extensive research into alternative energy resources should begin

  • A. in the coming centuries.
  • B. in the coming decades.
  • C. in the coming years.
  • D. immediately.

4. Lines 59-61 ("throw . . . accident") can best be paraphrased as

  • A. systematic, focused research will lead to a successful result.
  • B. amateur researchers should be put on equal footing with academic researchers.
  • C. nearly all useful recent innovations have come as the result of chaotic creativity.
  • D. if you try enough different things, something will eventually work.

5. As used in line 82, the word "apocalyptic" most closely means

  • A. pessimistic.
  • B. technical.
  • C. asymmetric.
  • D. deceitful.

6. The author of Passage 2 primarily uses the example in lines 88-90 ("Case in . . . water) to

  • A. show how water prices reflect relatively high demand for it.
  • B. illustrate how oil prices reflect relatively low demand for it.
  • C. explain how oil has come to be more plentiful than water.
  • D. demonstrate why consumers find fewer uses for oil than water.

7. The author of Passage 1 would most likely state that the author of Passage 2 needs to make what important clarification to his statement in lines 82-84 ("Principally . . . ever")?

  • A. To what extent this applies to just domestic petroleum production
  • B. Whether the petroleum produced is organic and renewable
  • C. If the petroleum production will generate greenhouse gases.
  • D. If the petroleum mentioned here will be more or less expensive than ethanol

8. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 7-10 ("One promising . . . years")
  • B. Lines 19-21 ("Another . . . for it")
  • C. Lines 37-40 ("While . . . gasoline")
  • D. Lines 40-43 ("A couple . . . provide")

9. What evidence from Passage 1 would the author of Passage 2 most effectively use to support his statement in lines 78-81 ("Certainly . . . now")?

  • A. Lines 1-4 ("No one . . . eye")
  • B. Lines 15-19 ("One glucose . . . oil")
  • C. Lines 21-25 ("Unfortunately . . . prices")
  • D. Lines 29-32 ("The glycerol . . . biodiesel")

10. Which statement best summarizes the overall relationship between the two passages?

  • A. Passage 2 and Passage 1 are in direct opposition to each other when it comes to the question of the association of petroleum with greenhouse gas emissions
  • B. Passage 2 explores the association of petroleum with contemporary popular culture far more than does Passage 1
  • C. While both passages are concerned about petroleum depletion, Passage 1 advocates immediate action and Passage 2 calls for patience
  • D. While both passages are interested in alternative energy solutions, Passage 2 focuses on government funding and Passage 1 focuses on scientific innovation