2008-09 Catalog

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Program Description

Energy Matters: Building the Path to Sustainability

NEW! Last Updated: 05/18/2009

Spring quarter

Faculty: John Perkins Environmental history and policy; biology

Major areas of study include energy, environmental assessment, environmental history, environmental futures

Class Standing: Juniors or seniors; transfer students welcome.

Prerequisites: At least one but preferably three quarters of work in either environmental studies or political economy and social change

Energy Matters: Building the Path to Sustainability

The US currently consumes about one-fourth of the world's energy supplies, and for several reasons the current pattern is neither healthy nor sustainable. Climate change, energy insecurity, and peaking of oil and gas production are the most important challenges to sustainability. By 2100, the energy economy will be different but in ways not yet clear.

Maybe countries will figure out how to consume less energy yet preserve their health and environment. Maybe countries will develop sustainable, alternative, renewable energy. It's also possible, however, that individuals and governments will make ill-advised and ineffective decisions. Rather than finding solutions, we may remain in a serious mess.

Energy Matters frames the problems in terms of the two major sides of the energy economy: (a) the supply of fuels and resources and (b) the demand for and use of energy. Ultimately the supplies will match demand, and in many cases the best solutions will stem from reducing demand for and use of energy. Nevertheless questions of energy supplies will always remain of utmost importance.

Within the framework of looking at energy supplies and demands, we will first explore the current energy economy: fuels (oil, coal, gas, nuclear, hydropower, and renewables), uses (electricity, transport, space heating and cooling, commercial, agriculture, food processing-transport-preservation, water supply and purification, manufacturing), and major problems (pollution, climate change, peaking, political insecurity, and unequal distribution). We will then turn to the major alternatives: wind, solar, geothermal, waves, and biomass. In the third section of the program, we will examine the pathways to a sustainable energy future.

This framework will allow us to explore many topics, ranging from small scale to global. They include: Evergreen's carbon emissions and efforts to reduce them; Washington State and the Western Climate Initiative; the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast; cap-and-trade versus taxes for reducing carbon emissions; ending the US addiction to oil; solutions for peaking of oil and gas production; the centrality of conservation and efficiency; building support for renewable alternatives; the strengths and weaknesses of nuclear power; energy and social justice; and the sustainability of alternative energy. We will highlight special topics, e.g. efforts to reduce energy consumption at Evergreen and the proposals from the new administration of President Barack Obama.

Energy Matters will introduce a number of methods for energy analysis. These include carbon-emission audits, field interviews, life-cycle analysis, risk assessment, and alternatives assessment.

Credits: 16 per quarter

Enrollment: 25

Books: www.tescbookstore.com

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in Energy resource analysis and management; environmental policy; environmental planning and assessment

Planning Units: Environmental Studies