*Freshman Seminar 42H. U.S. Energy Policy and Climate Change

How we produce and use energy has major implications for the economy, energy security, and climate change. The U.S. “energy revolution” – nonconventional oil and gas production (fracking), increasing use of renewable energy, and reduced demand – has contributed to a sharp decline in U.S. oil imports, a 12% reduction in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, a shift away from coal, and economic growth. With these technological and economic changes have come wild swings in national climate policy, as Obama-era regulatory and subsidy policies designed to shift from fossil fuels to renewables are replaced by the Trump administration with policies to promote and subsidize fossil fuel use and production. The conceptual framework is economics (but no prior economics is assumed), a powerful tool for understanding market failures and for designing government policies that are efficient, effective, and appropriate. The course starts with a review of the U.S. energy sector, climate science, and climate economics including carbon pricing. The course then dives into four current policy issues: (1) the regulation of CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants; (2) biofuels policy; (3) fossil fuel extraction policy and the “keep it in the ground” movement; and (4) fuel economy standards. In each case we will evaluate the policy landscape with a focus on the economic and climate consequences. The course concludes with an assessment of the reasons for the changes from the Obama to Trump administrations, and the implications for future energy and climate policy.

Notes: The seminar meets for 2 hours only within the time block, M, 3:30-5:30.​








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  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2018-2019 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
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