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Course Materials

If you are a former student and would like a copy of the latest lecture slides, please contact Diana Gragg ( for access to the Box folder.

Class Management and Syllabus

How the Course Works



Course Readings and Videos

Understanding Energy YouTube Channel - for energy videos about all different energy topics See below for a listing of some of the carefully curated videos and readings we assign in the course:


The Unfolding Energy Revolution

How America can leave fossil fuels behind, in one chart (Vox 2020) [11 minutes]

Electric cars could wreak havoc on oil markets within a decade (Bloomberg 2016) [4 minutes]

Our Amazing Clean Energy Future has Arrived (Foreign Policy 2021) 


 Al Gore: The Case for Optimism on Climate Change (TED 2016) [25 minutes]

Powering Sustainable Energy for All by Ban Ki-Moon (NYT 2012) [3 pages]

Tony Seba: Clean Disruption - Energy & Transportation (CRES) [1 hour]

The innovations we need to avoid a climate disaster (TED 2021) [50 minutes]


Energy Basics, the Environment, and Equity

The Essentials of Energy (It's Okay To Be Smart 2015) [6 minutes]

Beyond the Anthropocene | Johan Rockström (World Economic Forum 2017) [22 minutes]

How Tesla will Change the World (Wait But Why 2015) 


Climate Change and Environmental Racism (PBS 2016) [26 minutes]


Introduction to Fossil Fuels and Prospecting for Oil and Natural Gas

Oil and Gas Formation (EarthScience 2014) [3 minutes]

Oil and natural gas resource categories reflect varying degrees of certainty (EIA Today in Energy 2014) [2 pages]


Overview of the oil and gas exploration and production process (eTech International 2012) [7 pages]

Petroleum ( 2019) [4 pages]

Overview of the Petroleum Industry Part 1 (Gulf Publishing Co 2009) [8 minutes]

Fossil Fuels 101 (Student Energy 2015) [3 minutes]

1973 Oil Crisis (Victoria Flores 2014) [4 minutes]


Oil and Natural Gas Drilling and Well Completion

Overview of the Petroleum Industry Part 3 Drilling a Well (Gulf Publishing Co 2009) [9 minutes]

VIP Rig Tour (2012) [12 minutes]

Life of an onshore well: finding and producing tight or shale oil and gas (Shell 2013) [6 minutes]

The Largest Oil Rig in the World - Perdido (Shell 2013) [20 minutes]


Shale Gas and Horizontal Drilling - Videos 3-6 (Chesapeake Energy 2013) [13 minutes]


Oil Production and Transportation

Overview of the Petroleum Industry Part 4 (Gulf Publishing Co 2009) [10 minutes]

Oil Sands 101 (Student Energy 2015) [3 minutes]

More stringent marine sulfur limits mean changes for U.S. refiners and ocean vessels (EIA Today in Energy 2019)

The future of Big Oil flaring in the Permian Basin and the climate challenge (CNBC 2021)


How Offshore Oil Rigs Work (Wendover Productions 2020) [2 minutes]

The Impact Of Abandoned Oil Wells On The Environment (Oil Price 2021)

Occidental Delivers World First Carbon-Neutral Oil (Oil Price 2021)

Maritime chokepoints are critical to global energy security (EIA Today in Energy 2017)

Where our oil comes from - brief (EIA Energy Explained) [1 page]

Where our oil comes from - in depth (EIA Energy Explained) [1 page]


Oil Refining and Products

Neighbors of the Fence (The Bitter Southerner 2012)

What is Refining? (EKT Interactive 2020) [6 minutes]


The True Cost of Fossil Fuels (Scientific American 2013) [4 pages]

Dr. Norm Hyne: Oil Refining (2014) [23 minutes]



Coal ( 2015) [4 pages]

Methods of Mining (KGS) [2 pages]

Where Our Coal Comes From (EIA Coal Explained) [1 page]

The Big One (Edmonton Journal 2010) [1 minute]

Mine of the Future (Rio Tinto 2014) [5 minutes]

This town powered America for decades. What do we owe them? (CNN Opinion 2021) [9 minutes]

4 Major Asian Nations Cancel 80% of Planned Coal Power Projects After Fossil Fuel Market Crashes in 2020 (Good News Network 2021)

How Steel Might Finally Kick Its Coal Habit (Wired 2021)

The history and future of coal, explained (DW 2021) [8 minutes]

The Coal Plant Next Door (ProPublica 2021)


Scientists Seek Ban on Mountaintop Mining (Discovery 2010) [4 minutes]

Report finds widespread contamination at nation’s coal ash sites (March 4, 2019)

North Carolina orders Duke Energy to excavate all coal ash (ABC News 2019)

Toxic Waste in the US: Coal Ash (VICE News 2015) [25 min]

RIP Coal. Long Live Coal Country (Grist 2019)

Wyoming lawmakers sprint to save coal (Casper Star Tribune 2021)

Coal mines emit more methane than oil-and-gas sector, study finds (Renew Economy 2020)

North Dakota Officials Block Wind Power in Effort to Save Coal (NPR 2021)


Natural Gas

Natural Gas 101 (Student Energy 2015) [4 minutes]

Mark Zoback - Natural Gas Issues (Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy 2013) [24 minutes]

The Power of Natural Gas: Complementing Renewables for a Sustainable Energy Future (GE Power 2020) [4 min]

Methane: The other important greenhouse gas (EDF 2014) [3 min]


Liquified Natural Gas 101 (Student Energy 2015) [2 minutes]

Where Our Natural Gas Comes From (EIA Natural Gas Explained) [1 page]

The Business of Natural Gas (Southern Gas Association 2013) [5 minutes]

Natural Gas Processing (American Petroleum Institute 2017) [5 pages]

Natural Gas Pipelines (American Petroleum Institute 2017) [6 pages]


The Grid - Electricity Transmission, Industry & Markets

Electricity ( 2015)

Why wind and solar power are such a challenge for energy grids (Vox 2015)


Why are birds not electrocuted on power lines? (Naked Scientists 2011) [4 minutes]

How Electricity Is Delivered To Consumers (EIA 2020)


Electricity Generation

Coal-Fueled Power Plant (MidAmerican Energy 2013) [7 minutes]

Combustion-Fueled Power Plant (MidAmerican Energy 2013) [7 minutes]

How is Electricity Generated in Your State? (NYT 2019)

The 'duck curve' is solar energy's greatest challenge (Vox 2018) [4 minutes]


Electricity (Bill Nye the Science Guy 2012) [7 minutes]

Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis Version 14.0 (2020)

Electricity is a Secondary Energy Source (EIA Electricity Explained)

Nuclear and coal will account for majority of U.S. generating capacity retirements in 2021 (EIA Today in Energy 2021) 

Renewables account for most new U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2021 (EIA Today in Energy 2021)

Hourly electricity consumption varies throughout the day and across seasons (EIA Today in Energy 2020)


Energy Storage

Energy Storage 101 (Energy Storage Association 2019) [watch first 40 minutes]

Why Tesla is building city-sized batteries (Verge Science 2018) [7 minutes]


Virtual Field Trip to the Tesla Gigafactory (The Verge 2018) [7 minutes]


Nuclear Energy

Uranium (

Nuclear Energy Explained: How does it work? 1/3  (Kurzgesagt 2015) [5 minutes]

88,000 tons of radioactive waste - and nowhere to put it (Verge Science 2018) [7 minutes]

The Eyes of Nye - Nuclear Energy [26 minutes]

The Good Stuff: Is Nuclear Power Good or Bad? [14 minutes]


3 Reasons Why Nuclear Energy Is Terrible! 2/3 (Kurzgesagt 2015) [4 minutes]

3 Reasons Why Nuclear Energy Is Awesome! (Kurzgesagt 2015) [4 minutes]

Spent Fuel Storage at Diablo Canyon Power Plant (PG&E 2011) [11 minutes]

How nuclear energy works (ENECeducation 2009) [5 minutes]

How is Uranium Mining Conducted in the United States? (NEI 2012) [5 minutes]

Where Our Uranium Comes From (EIA 2017)

Nuclear reactor restarts in Japan displacing LNG imports in 2019 (EIA Today in Energy 2019)

In 2019, 9 of the 10 highest-generating US power plants were nuclear plants (EIA Today in Energy 2020)

How two cutting edge US nuclear projects bankrupted Westinghouse (Reuters 2017)

Toshiba offloads its memory chip arm with $18bn deal to ease woes (UK The Telegraph 2017)


A Decarbonized Electric Power Sector

The missing puzzle piece for getting to 100% clean power (Vox 2020)

How Do Electric Utilities Make Money? (AEE 2015)


Big but affordable effort needed for America to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, Princeton study shows (Princeton 2015)

How The U.S. Can Build A 100% Clean Grid (CNBC 2021) [20 minutes]


Energy and Climate Change

How the Earth’s Climate Works and the Greenhouse Gas Effect (RedSnappa 2016) [6 minutes] 

The Coming Storm of Climate Change (Bloomberg 2017) [3 minutes]

Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss - James Balog (TedEd 2013) [19 minutes] 

Stephen Schneider – Climate One Montage (Stanford Woods Institute 2013) [7 minutes]

The Business Case for Taking Action on Climate Change (Inc. 2017) 

How You Can Stop Global Warming (NRDC 2017)

Coronavirus Holds Key Lessons on How to Fight Climate Change (Yale Environment360 2020)

The most effective ways to curb climate change might surprise you (CNN 2019)


Science Tells Us How To Help US Citizens Accept Climate Change (CleanTechnica 2017)


Energy at Stanford

Stanford Energy Systems Innovations - SESI [4 minutes]

Sustainability at Stanford 2019-2020 In Review


Climate Resilience Virtual Summit [1.5 hours]

Stanford University Energy and Climate Plan 2015 ed.

Explore Energy Website (ways to engage at Stanford )

Sustainable Stanford Fact Sheets 


The following course materials will be updated weekly,  as we go along the Spring 2021 quarter course:


Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage

How does Carbon Capture and Storage Work? (Australian Coal Association 2010) [5 min]

Money is Pouring Into Carbon Capture Tech, But Challenges Remain (CNBC 2021) [17 min]

How does a Fuel Cell Work? (Naked Science Scrapbook) [4 minutes]

What is Green Hydrogen and Will It Power the Future? (CNBC 2021) [15 minutes]


MIT Climate Action 4: Economy-wide deep decarbonization beyond electricity; Carbon mgmt. panel (Stanford 2020) 

Green Hydrogen Plant in Saudi Desert Aims to Amp Up Clean Power (WSJ 2021)

The global race to produce hydrogen offshore (BBC 2021)

Dutch Students Just Unveiled the World's First Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft (RobbReport 2021)

Mainspring Energy launches its flexible fuel generator with a $150 million NextEra Energy contract (Tech Crunch 2021)


Introduction to Renewable Energy

Sustainable Energy in America: Factbook (Bloomberg New Energy Finance 2021)


Renewables 2020 Global Status Report (REN21 2020) – recommend the Executive Summary and Ch. 1 [36 pages]

U.S. Renewable Energy Factsheet Pub. No. CSS03-12 (Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan 2020)



MidAmerican Energy Hydroelectric Power Plant Virtual Tour (MidAmerican Energy 2013) [10 minutes]

Three Gorges Dam Project (Ali Kazi 2012) [7 minutes]

Where Hydropower is Generated (EIA Energy Explained) [1 page]

Bill Gates backs 'game changer' hydropower technology in global energy transition (Recharge News 2020)


REN21 Global Status Report 2020, Hydropower Chapter - pg. 98 (REN21 2020) [5 pages]


Biomass - to be updated May 10, 2021

Research on Converting Biomass to Liquid Fuels (NREL 2010) [5 minutes]

Algae-based Products for a Sustainable Future (Cellana 2012) [3 minutes]

Current and Potential Biogas Production (American Biogas Council 2014) [2 pages]

Biomass ( 2015) [5 pages]

Southern states lead growth in biomass electricity generation (EIA Today in Energy 2016) [1 page]

Commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant opens (EIA Today in Energy 2014) [1 page]

Renewables 2016 Global Status Report - Biomass (REN21 2016) [7 pages]


Energy Efficiency as a Resource

The smart grid and the promise of demand-side management (McKinsey 2010) [7 pages]

Removing Disincentives to Utility Energy Efficiency Efforts (NRDC 2012) [6 pages]

Powering Sustainable Energy for All by Ban Ki-Moon (NYT 2012) [3 pages]

Fusion Energy Explained (PHD Comics 2014) [8 minutes]


Wind Energy

Wind ( 2015) [4 pages]

Wind Farm Virtual Tour (MidAmerican Energy 2013) [7 minutes]

From the Ground Up: Building our energy future, one turbine at a time (MidAmerican Energy 2015) [6 minutes]


Solar Heat and Photovoltaics

Solar ( 2015) [4 pages]

Solar Farm Virtual Tour (MidAmerican Energy 2013) [6 minutes]

How do solar panels work? - Richard Komp (TED 2016) [5 minutes]

Solar Photovoltaic Cell Basics (DOE 2013) [1 page]

The Power of the Sun - The Science of the Silicon Solar Cell (UCTV 2008) [22 minutes]


Geothermal Energy

Geothermal Energy: A Renewable Option (GEO) [10 minutes]

GeoExchange Heating and Cooling System (GeoExchange 2007) [4 minutes]

Geothermal Heats Up (KQED QUEST 2011) [11 minutes]

Geothermal ( 2015) [4 pages]

What is an Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS)? (DOE 2015) [2 pages]

Geothermal Power: It’s Hot! (Thomas H. Culhane 2007) [2 minutes]

Where Geothermal Energy is Found (EIA Geothermal Explained) [1 page]

Renewables 2016 Global Status Report - Geothermal chapter (REN21 2016) [3 pages]

How Does a Heat Pump Work? (chaffeeair 2012) [4 minutes]


The Peas: Concentrating Solar Power, Ocean Energy, and Fusion

2014: The Year of Concentrating Solar Power (DOE 2014) [13 pages]

Ivanpah, the World’s Largest Solar Thermal Power Plant (Bloomberg) [2 minutes]

Ocean Energy Systems (IEA 2014) [8 minutes]

OTEC: The Future of Baseload, Dispatchable Renewable Energy (Makai Ocean Engineer 2015) [5 minutes]

Fusion Energy Explained (PHD Comics 2014) [8 minutes]

Renewables 2016 Global Status Report - CSP chapter (REN21 2016) [4 pages]

Renewables 2016 Global Status Report - Ocean chapter (REN21 2016) [4 pages]

Renewable Energy From the Deep Ocean (Thomas Plocek 2007) [4 minutes]

What is Fusion? [1 page]


Energy for Transportation

How Tesla Will Change the World (Wait but Why 2015) [25 pages]

The Peak Oil Myth and the Rise of the Electric Car (Bloomberg 2016) [3 minutes]

How does a fuel cell work? (Naked Science Scrapbook 2011) [4 minutes]

Fuel economy improvements are projected to reduce future gasoline use (EIA Today in Energy 2017) [1 page]

California program encourages adoption of zero-emission vehicles (EIA Today in Energy 2016) [1 page]

Experience Electric (Center for Sustainable Energy 2014) [2 minutes]

Cadillac ELR Coupe 2014 Commercial [1 minute]

Upside: Anything is Possible (Upside 2014) [1 page]


Energy for the Developing World

Energy for Human Development - Executive Summary (Breakthrough Institute 2016) [7 pages]

More Than a Lightbulb (Center for Global Development 2016) [37 pages]



Energy 101 Book cover with curved lines of color on the left and title on the right

There is no formal textbook for Understanding Energy this year. However, we strongly recommend:

Webber, M. (2014) Energy 101: Energy, Technology and Policy. The University of Texas at Austin.

This e-book is an excellent primer on technology, economics and policy that is intended to complement the lectures and other readings, especially for those new to the world of energy. The book is available through the publisher's website and is periodically updated (at no additional cost).