Energy defines how we live. It is what keeps us alive, moves us around, and shapes our relationships with each other. The discovery and exploitation of concentrated forms of energy from the earth — coal and oil, the two principal fossil fuels — gave rise to the industrial revolution and launched parts of the world on a trajectory of rapid economic growth. Fossil fuels also have been a source of social and geopolitical conflict. In the future, the world’s appetite for energy is predicted to grow at a staggering rate, and the impacts of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels are expected to become more severe. Eventually, humans will have to draw on a wider array of energy sources. We appear to be at the beginning of a transition to using “unconventional” forms of fossil fuels and non-fossil fuel energy. This transition offers opportunities, but it also presents challenges and problems. As in the past, the United States and other energy intensive societies will have to make choices about how to find and consume energy. These choices are not easy, and they are inherently political. They must attempt to balance the interests of different stakeholders. They must consider factors of price and cost (including social and environmental costs) that are not static and are often based on assumptions about the future that are highly uncertain. Finally, there is the challenge of making local, regional, and national policy toward energy markets that transcend these boundaries and are often global in scope.
The purpose of this course is to take a close look at how these policy choices in energy have been made by the United States in the past and what choices we face in moving into a new energy future. We examine the historical and contemporary aspects of U.S. governmental planning and policymaking on a wide range of energy issues in global context. We explore the legal, political, and administrative dimensions of producing energy from fossil fuel, nuclear, and renewable sources; we look at how energy policy shapes systems of transportation, power and electricity generation, geopolitics and national security, and consumer and financial markets; and we consider how the impacts of energy development affect the environment and environmental policy.
This class fulfills an intermediate core requirement for the Environmental Policy and Planning degree (EPPL).