Fueling the Future

“Fueling the Future” is an interdisciplinary energy resources seminar class I developed for the Global Environment cluster course at UCLA in 2014. I then taught a version for graduate students at the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine in 2019. The syllabus can be downloaded here and below is the latest version of my reading list.

I have gotten very positive feedback from students on the assigned textbook The Quest by Daniel Yergin. It’s quite readable, particularly his chapters on the scientific discoveries that led to our current understanding of natural and anthropogenic climate change. I still use these selected chapters as primers for students without a science background. However, I’d hesitate to build my course around this book again. Renewable technologies have vastly changed since the 2011 publication date, and Yergin has a real love for hero stories that largely focus on white, male scientists. The scientific workforce of the future is becoming – and will need to be – far more collaborative and diverse.

There are numerous emerging voices and new media that reflect this diversity in climate change science, environmental justice work, and energy innovation. Any version of this course I taught in the future, I would use a selection of papers, articles and media from diverse authors, including several from the following reading list. For the most recent graduate version of the course, you’ll see in the reading list below that student interest guided many of the topics, and we discussed several current events from fall 2019. I’ll also highlight two student publications that originated as term papers in this course – Casey Olechnowicz led the paper “Industry Leaders’ Perceptions of Residential Wood Pellet Technology Diffusion in the Northeastern U.S.” for Sustainability. Suman Acharya published his review paper “Role of renewable energy technologies in climate change adaptation and mitigation: A brief review from Nepal” in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

Week 1. Introductions

Yergin (2011) The Quest Introduction and Ch 20 “The Urgency of Fuel Choice”

Week 2. Fossil Fuels – How Did We Get Here?

Yergin (1990) The Prize Ch 27 “Hydrocarbon Man”

Jacobson, M.Z. (2009) Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security. Energy and Environmental Science 2, 148-173. doi: 10.1039/b809990c

Stokes, L.C. and Breetz, H.L. (2018) Politics in the U.S. energy transition: Case studies of solar, wind, biofuels, and electric vehicles policy. Energy Policy 113, 76-86. doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2017.10.057

Duncombe, J. and Cartier, K.M.S. (2019) Scientists Praise Urgency, Aggressive Plans in Climate Town Hall. Eos 100, doi: 10.1029/2019EO132403.

Week 3. Coal Extraction and Generation

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 17, 21

Stewart Burns, S. (2005) Introduction from “Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal Surface Coal Mining on Southern West Virginia Communities, 1970-2004.” Dissertation, West Virginia University.

Walsch, B. (2012) “The War on Coal.” (2012) Time Magazine Special Issue

Robertson, C. (2019, Aug 19) Unpaid Miners Blocked a Coal Train in Protest. Weeks Later, They’re Still There. The New York Times.

Week 4. Green New Deal

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 22

Gunn-Wright, R. and Hockett, R. (2019) The Green New Deal. New Consensus.

Mayewski, P. (2019, Feb 25) The Green New Deal Offers a Possible Route to Conquer Climate Challenge. Bangor Daily News.

Roberts, D. (2019, Mar 30) The Green New Deal, explained. Vox.
supplemental YouTube video here

K., I. (2019, Feb 11) The Problem with the Green New Deal. The Economist.

Week 5. Unconventional Oil and its Externalities

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 12, 16, 23

The Future of Oil. (2012) Time Magazine Special Issue

Kolbert (2017, Dec 20) Will the Tax Bill finally defeat the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? The New Yorker.

Vox Creative (2019, Oct 16). Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling controversy, explained. Vox.

Ellsmoor, J. (2019, Jul 27) Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Fights Back with Clean Energy. Forbes.

Week 6. Biofuels

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 24, 33

Fairless, D. (2007) Biofuel: the little shrub that could – maybe. Nature 449, 652–655.

Various Advantages and Disadvantages of Biofuels. (n.d.) Conserve Energy Future.

Kelly, S. and Renshaw, J. (2019, Sept 11) White House pushes biofuel deal to biofuel producers, oil refiners: sources. Reuters. doi:10.1038/449652a

McKibben, B. (2019) Money is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns. The New Yorker.

Week 7. Climate Policy

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 25, 27

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2019) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate – Fact Sheet

McGrath, M. (2019, Sept 25) Climate change: U.N. panel signals red alert on ‘Blue Planet.’ BBC News

Mooney, C. and Dennis, B. (2019, Sept 25) New U.N. climate report: Monumental change already here for world’s oceans and frozen regions. Washington Post.

Current Event: PG&E Power Outages in California

Fuller, T. (2019, Oct 10) Californians Confront a Blackout Induced to Prevent Blazes. The New York Times

Ho, V. (2019, Oct 11) California power shutoff: how PG&E’s actions hit the medically vulnerable the hardest. The Guardian

Cagle, S. (2019, Oct 12) California power shutoffs: when your public utility is owned by private investors. The Guardian.

Rosenbaum, E. (2019, Oct 10) Fighting fire: If PG&E now has power to shut you down, it’s time to take control of your energy needs. CNBC.

Week 8. Indigenous Energy Sovereignty and Activism

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 26, 31

McGuirk, S. (2017, Sept 28) Sovreignty. AnthroBites, Society for Cultural Anthropology. [podcast]

Boffa, A. (2019, Oct 14) ‘We Are Nations:’ What Environmental Justice Looks Like for Indigenous People. Gizmodo.

Landau, K. (2019, Oct 14) On Indigenous Peoples Day, new ideas for American Indian land rights. The Brookings Institute.

Week 9. Wind, Solar and New England energy

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 29, 30

Brooks, D. (2019, Sept 26) Merrimak Station power plant almost never runs these days. Concord Monitor.

Fortuna, C. (2019, Feb 20) Renewable Energy Projects Power New England Away From Fossil Fuel Dependence. Clean Technica

Natural Resources Council of Maine, 2018. Solar Energy is looking up in Madison, Maine.

ISO New England (n.d.) Solar Power in New England: Concentration and Impact.

Yanchury, A. and Herzog, M. (2017) Offshore wind sets sail in New England. Sailors for the Sea.

Week 10. Energy Research and New England Hydropower

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 28

Westervelt, A. (2016) The Bell Labs of Energy, Drilled podcast Season 1 Episode 2. Critical Frequency Network.

Morgan, G. (2019, Apr 16) How Canada’s other major energy export could light up New England states. Financial Post.

Wheeler (2019) Hydroelectric Dams are Destroying the Gulf of Maine fishery. Bangor Daily News.

Bever, F. (2017) These Young Entrepreneurs See Opportunity Flowing Through Maine’s Decaying Dams. Maine Public Radio.

Gellerman, B. (2016, Dec 2) New England’s Largest Battery is Hidden Inside a Mass. Mountain. WBUR

Hayes, 2013. The Regal Fight for Storm King Mountain. Vassar College WordPress.

Revkin, A. (2015, Apr 14) How a Hudson Highlands Mountain Shaped Tussles Over Energy and the Environment. New York Times Dot Earth blog

Week 11. Latin America Energy Sovreignty

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 5, 6, 13

Stiftung, R. (2016, Dec 12) Retenergie – An Italian Energy Collective and Green Energy Supplier. Democracy Energy.

Ariza-Montobbio, P. (2016) Energy sovereignty: politicising an energy transition. EJOLT.org

Krumholz, W. (2019, Apr 29) Petroleum Powerhouse – Why America no Longer “Needs” the Middle East. The National Interest.

Arnold, C. (2019, Oct 14) Ecuador Reaches Fuel Subsidy Deal To End Violent Protests. NPR

Week 12. Coastal Energy

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Ch 19

du Houx, 2014. Tidal Power in Maine. Maine Insights.

Seelye, K. (2017, Dec 19) After 16 Years, Hopes for Cape Cod Wind Farm Float Away. The New York Times.

Eilperin, J. (2016, Sept 15) Obama designates MPA in the North Atlantic. The Washington Post.

National Ocean Service (n.d.) What is the Exclusive Economic Zone? National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dennis, B. (2017, May 3) Environmental Groups sue Trump adminstration over offshore drilling. The Washington Post.

Dept of Interior (2019, Oct 17) Interior Proposes Region-Wide Oil and Gas Lease Sale for Gulf of Mexico.

Week 14. The Future of Energy in an Age of Climate Crisis

Yergin (2011) The Quest. Conclusion

Klein, N. (2018, Aug 3) Capitalism killed our climate momentum. The Intercept.

Roberts, D. (2019, Nov 1) The radical reform necessary to prepare California’s power system for the 21st century. Vox.