Energy and Modern Society

EMSC 420 / STS 420 / SOC 420

Fall 2009, TR 9:45-11:00 a.m.,  104 Chambers

Course Objectives

The principal objective of this course is to generate and deepen awareness of issues related to energy conversion and its environmental and social consequences.  Students from different disciplines will discuss energy supply and demand in a science/technology/society context, considering environmental impact, human values, economics, and future prospects of sustainability.  Different views on social history of energy use will be reviewed to provide a perspective of evolution into modern society and energy futures.

Student Involvement in Learning
Students are expected to lead and participate in class discussion. Reading the assigned material is a prerequisite to a good contribution in class. 
Attendance is required. The  grades for teamwork will depend on each individual's performance and contribution in the project.  Students have the option of forming their  teams  (two or three students in each team) to lead discussion on topics listed in the course outline. All the teams and discussion topics will be finalized by September 8, 2009.  Being in a team is not required, but strongly encouraged.  Students who choose to work alone are expected to work harder. 


Dr. Semih Eser, Professor of Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering

Office: 114A Hosler Building
Phone: 863-1392; Fax: 865-3248

Office  Hours: TR 3:00- 5:00 p.m.

Required Reading

V. Smil, "Energy," Oneworld, Oxford, England, 2006.
J. M. Dukert, "Energy," Greeenwood Guides to Business and Economics, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut; London, 2009.
V. V. Vaitheeswaran, "Power to the People," Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, 2005.

Selected readings from following publications will be provided as pdf, or other electronic media:

M. E. Eberhart, "Feeding the Fire: The Lost History and Uncertain Future of Mankind's Energy Addiction," Harmony Books, New York, 2007.
L. R. Brown, "Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble," Earth Policy Institute, 2006.
J. Peet, "Energy and Ecological Economics of Sustainability," Island Press, Washington, D.C., 1992.

Supplementary Resources


The Eleventh Hour <>
The Inconvenient Truth <>

Books and Magazines

Scientific American, Special Issue "Energy's Future," Vol. 295, No.3, September 2006.
C. Morris, "Energy Switch," 2006.
J. Farley, J. Erickson, H. E. Daly, "Ecological Economics:  A Workbook for Problem-Based Learning," 2005
B. J. Hanson, "Energy Power Shift," 2004.
E. S. Cassedy and P. Z. Grossman, "Introduction to Energy," 1998.
J. Gever, R. Kaufmann, D. Skole, C. Vörösmarty, "Beyond Oil," 1987.
D. Yergin, "The Prize," 1991.
W. Sachs,"For Love of the Automobile: Looking Back into the History of Our Desires," 1992.
J. J. Kraushaar and R. A. Ristinen, "Energy and Problems of a Technical Society," 1993.
Scientific American, Special Issue "Energy for Planet Earth," Vol. 263, No.3, September 1990.

Crossword Puzzles

Course Assignments

An Initial Essay (one-page long) to briefly describe what you expect to (or would like to) learn in this course. Tuesday, September 1.

Class presentation/leading discussion on a topic/reading material assigned to the team.  Discussion points, or presentation will be posted on the Discussion Board 24 h before the class scheduled for the team topic.   

Four Readiness Assessment Tests (RATs): unannounced 15-minute quizzes to include questions on the reading assignments and/or discussion in previous classes. RATs will usually be open-book, open-notes tests.   Material posted on the Discussion Board could make good RAT questions.

A Semester Paper on your presentation/discussion topic, or any other energy topic you would like to write about.   Due by November 20.

Participation (in class, or on-line): Ask, or answer questions, or  provide substantive comments in class, or on the Discussion Board.

A Final Essay (one-, or two-page long) to reflect on what you have learned in this course with reference to your initial essay. Due by December 10.

Course Grade

Initial Essay: 5%;  Class Presentation/Leading Discussion: 20%; Semester Paper: 20%;  RATS: 40% (10% each), Final Essay: 5%; Participation (in class, or on-line):10%.

Course Outline and Assignments

August 25: Introduction to the course; Energy views and STS Themes; Energy supply in the world and in the U.S. -
Write a one-page essay on what you expect to learn in this course.
Due on September 1; submit to ANGEL dropbox by 11:59 p.m. (5% of the course grade)

Energy in Nature and Society

August 27:
Energy: Definitions, General Concepts and Measures - Smil: 1-21; Peet: pp. 3-15 (pdf)

September 1:
Energy in Nature, Energy Flows - Smil: 22 -53; Peet: pp. 3-15 (pdf)

September 3:
Energy in Human History - Smil: 54-83

September 8:
Lighting the Fire of Fossil Fuels - Smil: 85-120

September 10:
The Energy Dilemma: The Inconvenient Truth at The Eleventh Hour - Smil: 120-126;

September 15:
Energy Now and in the Future - Smil: 133-176

Energy and Economy

September 17:
Energy in the Balance - Dukert: 1-23  (Team 1)

September 22:
How Much is Enough? Dukert: 24-48 (Team 2)

September 24:
How Much Does It Cost- Dukert: 49-79 (Team 3)

October 1: 
Reliability of Supply - Dukert: 80-110; Peet: 192-218 (pdf) (Team 4)

October 6: 
Environmental Factors- Dukert: 111-141; Peet: 219-234  (pdf)  (Team 5)

October 8: 
Time, the Often Overlooked Factor - Dukert: 142-165 (Team 6)

October 13:
National Energy Policy and Its Economic Implications -  Dukert: 166-183 (Team 7)

October 15:
Looking Ahead to "Sustainable Development" -  Dukert: 166-183;  Peet: 235-254 (pdf); Göncüoğlu (pdf) (Team 8)

October 20: Guest Speakers: Dr. Gene Bazan and Dr. Tania Slawecki - Thinking Our Way Out of the Energy Crisis 1

October 22: Guest Speakers: Dr. Gene Bazan and Dr. Tania Slawecki - Thinking Our Way Out of the Energy Crisis 2

A Different View Point, A Coming Energy Revolution?

October 27:
Introduction: The Coming Energy Revolution  and Micropower - Vaitheeswaran: 3-45 (Team 9)

October 29: Enron vs. Exxon/Electricity Deregulation and California Experience - Vaitheeswaran: 46-93 (Team10)

November 3:
Oil Addiction and Global Warming - Vaitheeswaran: 94-160; (Team 11)

November 5:
Air Pollution &  Rachel Carson vs Adam Smith- Vaitheeswaran: 161-219 (Team 12)

November 10: 
Hydrogen Economy and Fuel Cells - Vaitheeswaran: 223-260; (Team 13)

November 12:
A Renaissance for Nuclear Power?/Micropower Meets Village Power- Vaitheeswaran: 274-315 (Team 14)

November 17:
Energy Future - Vaitheeswaran: 317-327; Smil: 156 -176 (Team 15)

Renewable Energy Alternatives

November 19:
Renewable Energy Technologies 1 (Introduction and Biomass Power) -,1&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL (Team 16)

November 24 & 26: Thanksgiving

December 1: 
Renewable Energy Technologies 2 (Solar Power);  (Team 17)

December 3:
Renewable Energy Technologies 3 (Wind Power);

 (Team 18)

Energy Conservation

Websites for Energy Savings in All Sectors -

December 8 :
Residential and Commercial  Energy Conservation; ; (Team 19)

December 10:
Transportation Energy Conservation-; (Team 20)

Final essay due by 11.59 p.m on December 10


Your team presentation/leading discussion should touch on the main ideas/points in the assigned reading material to focus one, or more of the following four categories

1) A Brief Historical Account
2) Technological Aspects
3) Social Aspects
4) Environmental Aspects

Presentations should not take more than 20 minutes, discussion could take the rest of the class period. Every group member must deliver a part of the presentation, or actively lead discussion on the topic.
  Discussion leaders are responsible to make sure that the conversation does not go off track.  The instructor will intervene, if necessary, to focus the class discussion.

Grading of Presentations

Grading of the presentations/discussion leadership will be based on:

1) Relevance and depth of the presented material in an STS context; incorporation of supplementary material from the literature

2) Clarity of the presentation and visual aids/effectiveness in leading discussion
4) Responses to questions and comments during presentation/discussion
5) Confidential participation grades you will receive from each partner in the team to make sure that everybody shares the workload.

Semester Paper Paper Topic Length and Format of the Paper Grading of the Paper
Course Policy

Expectations: Honesty, integrity, equity,  timeliness, regular attendance, participation, and hard work - keys to professionalism and success.

This course adopts the Academic Integrity Policy of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences that can be found at
Any breach of academic integrity will be handled according to the procedures outlined in the College's policy.

If a student feels that his or her academic freedom has been violated, "Resolution of Student Classroom Problems" Senate Policy 20-00 should be consulted and followed.

Students can then follow the procedures listed in R-6: "Classroom Academic Freedom Conference and Mediation"

Grade Scale

    A: 94-100 
    A-: 90-93
    B+: 85-89
    B: 80-84
    B-: 75-79
    C+: 70-74
    C: 60-69 
    D: 50-59 
    F: less than 50