Energy, Technology, and Society, GEP 373, Fall 2017

Instructor Daniel Soto
Classroom Environmental Technology Center (ETC)
Meeting Time MW 10:00 am - 11:50 am
Units 4
Office Stevenson 3016E
Teaching Assistant Austin Beach (beachau@sonoma)

Office Hours

Signup is online and can be accessed through my website at

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.

Learning Objectives

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 understand our complex energy system and suggest ways to improve it. You will be able to evaluate the arguments of others and decide if the evidence they provide is compelling. Our energy system and climate change are intertwined. After this course, you can be an important part of our energy transition.

  • 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

In this course you will come to understand our energy system as well as the impacts it makes on our environment. 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.

Class Texts and Tools

You will be writing documents that contain both written text and calculations. We will be using a tool called the Jupyter Notebook since it allows you to do this. You will be expected to purchase a one-semester subscription to CoCalc where we can use these notebooks as a class.

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

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

Course Components

To develop your skills and reinforce your learning, we will be reading and reflecting, writing calculations and explanations, and taking in-class examinations and quizzes.

Reading Reflections and Discussions

In addition to learning the relevant material, students will be challenged to integrate and interrogate new ideas presented during readings and discussion.

You will complete the reading and a short reflection and questionnaire the night before class. In class, you will discuss the reading in groups to bring out your main interests in the reading. We will then convene as an entire class and discuss.


By completing the homework regularly, you will develop skills necessary to take a question and get estimate for the answer. You will also develop your ability to communicate and explain these estimates in writing.

You are encouraged to work in teams and discuss the strategies and even numerical answers you are getting. You are strongly discouraged from looking at other students completed assignments before it is due. If you look at your classmates completed work, you are denying yourself the opportunity to construct the solution on you own and will prevent you from developing your skills.


By participating in classroom work regularly, you will gain skills you need to collaborate with others on problem solving. You will take quizzes in class in groups where everyone receives the same grade. This is designed to help you collaborate and communicate your ideas so that everyone in the group agrees. You will get multiple attempts on each question. Each incorrect answer will receive a grade deduction. Someone in each group will need access to a smartphone or laptop since part of the quiz will be on Moodle. If you have an unexcused absence on the day of work, you will not receive credit for that day's assignment. Quizzes will be in class and will often be unannounced.


By completing a research and estimation project, you will develop skills to evaluate new ideas to improve our energy system. In teams, you will choose a question related to energy and the environment and then use techniques from this class to create estimates. The learning goals are for you to explore relevant topics in energy resource use in a ways similar to professional work. There will be a separate document that explains the expectations for the project that I will hand out in a few weeks.

You will be creating personal carbon inventories and writing emissions reduction plans. We will discuss other possibilities in the class.



  • Homework average above 90%
  • Quiz average above 90%
  • Exam average above 90%
  • Project that exceeds expectations


  • Homework average above 80%
  • Quiz average above 80%
  • Exam average above 80%
  • Project that exceeds expectations


  • Homework average above 70%
  • Quiz average above 70%
  • Exam average above 70%
  • Project that meets expectations


  • Homework average above 60%
  • Quiz average above 60%
  • Exam average above 60%
  • Project that meets expectations

Course Schedule

This course schedule posted here is subject to change.

  • Wed 23 Aug - Mon 28 Aug (Class 1 - 2) Context and Fundamentals
  • Wed 30 Aug - Mon 11 Sep (Class 3 - 5) Energy Estimations and Models
  • Wed 13 Sep (Class 6) Energy Services
  • Mon 18 Sep - Wed 20 Sep (Class 7 - 8) Energy Conversion
  • Mon 25 Sep - Wed 27 Sep (Class 9 - 10) Energy Production
  • Mon 02 Oct - Wed 04 Oct (Class 11 - 12) Midterm 1
  • Mon 09 Oct - Wed 11 Oct (Class 13 - 14) Energy and Economics
  • Mon 16 Oct - Mon 23 Oct (Class 15 - 17) Life Cycle and Cost Analysis
  • Wed 25 Oct - Mon 30 Oct (Class 18 - 19) Energy and Society
  • Wed 01 Nov - Mon 06 Nov (Class 20 - 21) Environmental and Societal Impacts
  • Wed 08 Nov - Mon 13 Nov (Class 22 - 23) Energy Access
  • Wed 15 Nov - Wed 29 Nov (Class 24 - 27) Energy Policy, Baselines, Reductions
  • Mon 04 Dec - Wed 06 Dec (Class 28 - 29) Project Wrapup

Final Exam

The final exam will be held in the ETC from 11 am - 12:50 pm on Monday, December 11th, 2017. You can verify this schedule here.

Reading Links

Our class readings are in PDF format or are online.

  • Mon 28 Aug 2017 - MacKay Chapter 1
  • Mon 28 Aug 2017 - ENSP 330 Notes on Energy History
  • Wed 30 Aug 2017 - HK Chapter 2 Energy Mechanics
  • Wed 30 Aug 2017 - ERG Toolkit
  • Wed 06 Sep 2017 - HK Chapter 3 Conservation of Energy
  • Mon 11 Sep 2017 - HK Chapter 4 Heat and Work
  • Mon 11 Sep 2017 - IPCC Energy Primer
  • Mon 11 Sep 2017 - Hewitt Chapter 6 Energy
  • Wed 13 Sep 2017 - MacKay Chapter 3 Cars
  • Wed 13 Sep 2017 - MacKay Chapter 7 Heating and Cooling
  • Mon 18 Sep 2017 - ENSP 330 Notes Physical Science Fundamentals link
  • Mon 23 Oct 2017 - E4S Ch 5 Energy Analysis and Life-Cycle Assessment link
  • Wed 08 Nov 2017 - Indonesia Energy Sector Assessment link
  • Mon 27 Nov 2017 - Masters Energy for Sustainability Chapter 17 Energy Policy link
  • Mon 27 Nov 2017 - Paris Negotiation Summary link

Reading Reflections

Homework Links

The homework will be distributed electronically and I'll provide links here.

  • Wed 06 Sep 2017 (Class 4) - Twenty Questions
  • Mon 18 Sep 2017 (Class 7) - Unit Conversions and Estimations
  • Mon 25 Sep 2017 (Class 9) - Power and Energy Units
  • Mon 02 Oct 2017 (Class 11) - Energy Conversion Estimations
  • Mon 30 Oct 2017 (Class 19) - Project Questions
  • Mon 06 Nov 2017 (Class 21) - Project Question and Plan (paper submission)
  • Wed 15 Nov 2017 (Class 24) - Project Outline
  • Wed 29 Nov 2017 (Class 27) - Project Rough Draft
  • Wed 06 Dec 2017 (Class 29) - Project Final Draft


Excused Absences: I grant excused absences when I receive a notification before the start of class with a brief and compelling reason for the absence. You do not need to reveal any personal information in your reason. You can find a link for our absence form here.

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.

Minimize electronic distractions: An important skill is self-regulation against distractions. Electronic devices are a potent source of distraction. However, we will not ban their use since they can be productive. We will frequently use Internet-connected electronic devices (phones, tablets) for learning purposes. However, using devices for social networks or other uses during class time is strongly discouraged.

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.