GEP 373 Energy, Technology, and Society, Spring 2022

  • Instructor: Professor Daniel Soto
  • Office: Schulz Cubicles
  • Email:
  • Meeting Time: T/Th 3:00 pm -- 4:50 pm
  • Classroom: Darwin 31
  • Units: 4

Student Hours and Email

Signup is online and can be accessed through my website at Student hours (also called office hours) are your opportunity to meet with me one-on-one for anything that helps your learning.

When you send email, please put [GEP 373] in your subject line. This helps me identify and respond to student emails more quickly.

Course Catalog Description

A lecture/discussion course designed to assist students in understanding energy as a fundamental measure of organization, structure, and transformation in society. Principal topics include: energy history; thermodynamics; energy resources and conversion technologies; global issues and trends; environmental impacts; energy economics, institutions, and politics. Elementary quantitative analysis.

Course-level Learning Objectives

  • Development of critical thinking skills applied to global energy issues
  • Develop model thinking and quantitative estimation skills for energy use
  • Understanding of the multiple technical, social, and policy issues surrounding energy implementations

If you perform the work required for this class, you will be able to evaluate and improve parts of our energy system. You will be able to use mathematics, computational tools, physics, and social science to start understanding our complex energy system. Through developing your critical thinking skills as well as your quantitative abilities, you will also be able to suggest or evaluate new ideas in our energy system. After this course, you can be an important part of our energy transition.

Class Organization and Schedule

In the first part of the class you will learn a set of concepts and tools that empower you to make rough quantitative estimates of problems. We will then apply these to our energy system as it exists and look at the positive and negative outcomes from our energy system. Last, we will apply these ideas to our energy system at SSU and in Sonoma County and suggest ways to improve it.

Course Schedule

This course schedule posted here is subject to change.

  • 25 Jan -- 01 Feb: History and Context
  • 03 Feb -- 15 Feb: Energy Estimations and Models
  • 17 Feb -- 24 Feb: Energy Services and Conversion
  • 01 Mar -- 08 Mar: Thermal Energy Production
  • 10 Mar -- 17 Mar: Renewable Energy Production
  • 22 Mar -- 24 Mar: Spring Break (Campus Closed)
  • 29 Mar: Renewable Energy Production
  • 05 Apr: Energy and Fire
  • 07 Apr -- 19 Apr: Energy and Society
  • 21 Apr -- 12 May: Carbon Inventories

Coursework Grading

The course has two main graded components:

  • Homework and Classwork: 50%
  • Assessments and Exams: 50%

Homework and Classwork is due regularly throughout the semester and is awarded full credit if complete and on time. Assessments and Exams will be assigned each few weeks, and will receive only recieve credit if they meet the critera set for that problem. There will usually be multiple opportunities to resubmit these assessments and exams for credit with a small points deduction.

Class Texts

You will be writing documents that contain both written text and calculations. You may be expected to purchase a one-semester subscription to CoCalc which allows you to create computations.

There is no required text to be purchased for this class. You will read from several texts and the readings will be supplied on Canvas.

The texts we will draw from are:

  • Sustainability without all the Hot Air, MacKay. You can download the text in PDF format at
  • Natural Capitalism, Lovins. Available for download in PDF format at
  • Randolph and Masters, Energy for Sustainability
  • Hinrichs and Kleinbach, Energy: Its Use and the Environment

Classroom Technology

I will announce when you need to bring a laptop to class to work on assignments. For every class, please bring a device that will allow you to access the internet and Google Docs and Sheets. If you don't have access to devices, I can point you to campus resources.

Late Work Policy

The classwork deadlines are chosen so that your work reinforces the work done in class. I realize that this is not always possible, so there is a one week grace period where late work receives full credit. After that grace period, any late work will receive passing credit (70%).

However, students often have circumstances beyond their control that interfere with their studies. If you believe you have a compelling case for turning in a late assignment for full credit, make an office hours appointment with me and we can discuss it.


This class is designed for you to learn from your classmates through synchronous discussions. Ideally you will attend during class time, but there will be many things that make that difficult (work, family, pandemics) and there is no grade for attendance. However, I may contact you over email if I think your attendance is affecting your learning.

If you have difficulty meeting your educational goals this semester because of outside difficulties, please reach out as early as possible and we can look for solutions.

Class Norms and Agreements

Respectful tone in classroom

Civility is required from all students during discussions and interactions. In general, I expect students to be supportive of each others learning goals.

Willingness to take risks and experiment

I frequently try new approaches to teaching and learning that you may find unusual. These are always with the intention of making this class as beneficial to you as possible.

University Policies

There are important University policies that you should be aware of, such as the add/drop policy; cheating and plagiarism policy, grade appeal procedures; accommodations for students with disabilities and the diversity vision statement. Go to this URL to find them.

Also important are the policies around withdrawals or incompletes and your options if you or your family falls ill. The university policies can be found at this link .

Coronavirus Pandemic

In the event that your life or our class is directly or indirectly disrupted by the virus, let me know and we'll construct a plan. If there is an interruption in classes, all deadlines will be postponed. After we return, I will post the new deadlines after consulting with students.

Natural Disasters

If the campus is closed, any assignments or work that were due during the closure will be postponed. When the campus is reopened, we will discuss a new schedule and new assignment due dates. If you are personally affected by a natural disaster but the campus isn't closed, you will be granted extensions on any work.

Basic Needs

Any student who believes their performance in the course may be affected by their access to sufficient food, stable housing, or their citizenship status is encouraged to seek out assistance from Sonoma State. If you are comfortable with it, please notify me as well so I can help direct you to any available resources.