Energy, Technology, and Society, ENSP 330, Fall 2016

Instructor Daniel Soto
Classroom Environmental Technology Center (ETC)
Meeting Time MW 12:00 noon - 1:50 pm
Units 4
Office Rachel Carson Hall 12
Teaching Assistant Angel Garza (garzaa@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 SageMathCloud 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.

The work you produce in this class will be practice for the work you will do in the professional world. Homework will be turned in the night before class, usually on SageMathCloud. You may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire as well. In class, you will critique a solution provided by the instructor. After that, you will provide each other with feedback on their assignments. Bring a copy of your work either on paper or electronically so that your peer group can read it and ask questions. After you have critiqued each other, you will turn in a self-assessment.

If you do not turn in the homework on time, you will be asked to complete a similar assignment where you have made substantial changes showing that you understand the course material. Since after the assignment the entire class has access to the solution, we ask you to turn in something different.


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.


Assignments include written problems and reading reflections.


  • Earn passing grade on all assignments
  • Quiz average above 80%
  • Exam average above 80%
  • Project that exceeds expectations


  • Earn passing grade on all but 2 homeworks
  • Quiz average above 70%
  • Exam average above 70%
  • Project that exceeds expectations


  • Earn passing grade on all but 4 homeworks
  • Quiz average above 70%
  • Exam average above 70%
  • Project that meets expectations


  • Earn passing grade on all but 6 homeworks
  • Quiz average above 70%
  • Exam average above 70%
  • Project that meets expectations

Course Schedule

This course schedule is tentative and subject to change. This syllabus is posted online and I'll announce in class when I make any changes.

  • Wed Aug 24 -- Introduction
  • Mon Aug 29 -- History of energy
    • Suggested Reading: Mackay-01, HK-01-Introduction
  • Wed Aug 31 -- Estimations
    • Suggested Reading: ERG Toolkit, ENSP 202 Notes
    • Reading Reflection Due: RR 1 (David Roberts)
  • Wed Sep 7 -- Estimations
    • Homework Due: HW 1 20 questions
  • Mon Sep 12 -- Estimations
    • Suggested Reading: Hewitt Ch 6, HK-02-Energy Mechanics, HK-03-Conservation of Energy
    • Reading Reflection Due: RR 2 (Scranton)
  • Wed Sep 14 -- Energy Conversion
  • Mon Sep 19 -- Energy Conversion
    • Suggested Reading: HK-04-Heat and Work
    • Homework Due: HW 2, Mathematical Tools
  • Wed Sep 21 -- Energy Conversion
    • Suggested Reading: IPCC Energy Primer
    • Reading Reflection Due: RR 3 (Lovins)
  • Mon Sep 26 -- Energy Conversion
  • Wed Sep 28 -- Energy and Society
    • Suggested Reading: E&S-3, E&S-4
    • Homework Due: HW 3, Project Topics
  • Mon Oct 3 -- Energy and Society
    • Suggested Reading: Coase Social Cost, Hardin Tragedy
    • Reading Reflection Due: RR4 (Robbins)
  • Wed Oct 5 -- Energy and Society
    • Suggested Reading: HK-07 Energy from Fossil Fuels, HK-08 Air Pollution and Energy Use
  • Mon Oct 10 -- Energy Production
    • Suggested Reading: HK-13 The Building Blocks of Matter, HK-14 Nuclear Power Fission, Moore 2005
  • Wed Oct 12 -- Energy Production
    • Suggested Reading: HK-12 Electricity from Solar, Wind, and Hydro
    • Reading Reflection Due: RR5 (Socalow)
  • Mon Oct 17 -- Mid-Semester Review
  • Wed Oct 19 -- Sustainability Day - No Class
  • Mon Oct 24 -- Midterm
  • Wed Oct 26 -- Life Cycle Energy and Cost Analysis
    • Suggested Reading: Masters Energy for Sustainability Chapter 5
  • Mon Oct 31 -- Life Cycle Energy and Cost Analysis
    • Homework Due: HW 5, Outline
  • Wed Nov 2 -- Transportation
    • Suggested Reading: Mackay-03 Cars, NC-02 Reinventing the Wheels
    • Reading Reflection Due: RR6 (Nuclear)
  • Mon Nov 7 -- No Class
    • Homework Due: HW 6, Outline Feedback
  • Wed Nov 9 -- Transportation
    • Reading Reflection Due: RR7 (EPA Fracking)
  • Mon Nov 14 -- Agriculture
    • Suggested Reading: Mackay-13 Food and farming, NC-10 Food for Life
  • Wed Nov 16 -- Agriculture
    • Homework Due: HW 7, First Draft
  • Mon Nov 21 -- Buildings
  • Wed Nov 23 -- No Class
  • Mon Nov 28 -- Global Access to Energy
    • Suggested Reading: Power Africa Report, Grist Article
    • Homework Due: HW 8, First Draft Feedback
  • Wed Nov 30 -- Global Access to Energy
    • Suggested Reading: HK-09 Global Warming and Thermal Pollution, NC-12 Climate, NC-14 Human Capitalism
    • Reading Reflection Due: RR8 (Sovacool)
  • Mon Dec 5 -- Global Access to Energy
    • Homework Due: HW 9, Project Final Draft
  • Wed Dec 7 -- Wrapup and Final Review

The final exam will be held in the ETC from 11 am - 12:50 pm on Friday, December 16th. You can verify this schedule here.

Due Dates

  • 11:59 pm Sun. Nov. 27th, First Draft Feedback
  • 11:59 pm Tue. Nov. 29th, Reading Reflection 7 EPA Fracking
  • 11:59 pm Tue. Nov. 29th, Reading Reflection 8 Sovacool
  • 11:59 pm Sun. Dec. 4th, Final Project Submission
  • 12:00 pm Wed. Dec. 7th, Hard copy of all makeup work

Reading Links

Many of our class readings are in PDF format and can be found in this folder.

The readings that are on line are linked here:

Homework Links

Extra Credit


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.