Environment, Energy, & Society


The rising global demand for fossil fuels, coupled with increasing concern about global warming, have made the search for affordable alternative energies a matter of local, national, and international importance. The path towards alternative energy infrastructures for the 21st century requires careful consideration of economic, environmental, technological, and political factors. This interdisciplinary course will blend current events, guest speakers, lively discussion, and a wide array of literature to separate fact from fiction in the heated debate concerning our nation's energy and climate future. Topics will include:  i) an overview of America's current energy structure, including the science and technology underlying each energy source,  ii) a review of key energy policies and precedent from the last several decades to present, including the Kyoto Protocol and the new California carbon mitigation bill, and iii) a look into the future of America's energy structure, with an emphasis on emerging technologies and policy development. Students will write briefs on topics covered in the first half of the course and, for the second half of the course, work in teams to conduct independent research into an energy-related question of their choosing.