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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.

Syllabus and Class Management


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:

Evolving Energy Revolution

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

Why 2016 Could Be a Turning Point in the Energy Revolution (Bloomberg 2015) [3 minutes]

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

Fossil Fuels still dominate US energy consumption despite recent market share decline (EIA Today in Energy July 1, 2016) [1 page]

Energy Basics, the Environment, and the History of Fossil Fuels

Johan Rockstrom: Let the environment guide our development (TED 2010) [18 minutes]

Petroleum ( 2015) [4 pages]

Introduction to Fossil Fuels and Prospecting for Oil and Natural Gas

How deposits are formed (Planete Energies 2014) [2 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]

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

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

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

US crude oil exports went to more destinations in 2016 (EIA Today in Energy 2017) [1 page]

Despite growth late in the year, US crude oil production decreased in 2016 (EIA Today in Energy 2017) [1 page]

Oil Refining

Refining oil and gas (Planete Energies 2014) [2 minutes]

Petroleum refining basics (2009) [8 minutes]

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

A Simple Guide to Oil Refining (EWP) [2 pages]


Coal ( 2015) [4 pages]

Methods of Mining (KGS) [2 pages]

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

How do we mine coal? - Underground processes (Oresome Resources) [1 minute]

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

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

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

Natural Gas

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

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

How LNG is Produced (Shell 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]

Electricity Generation

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

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

Electricity ( 2015) [6 pages]

Electricity Explained (EIA) [2 pages]

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

Electricity Transmission, Industry, and Markets

How Electricity is Delivered to Consumers (Electricity Explained) [1 page]

Why wind and solar power are such a challenge for energy grids (Vox 2015) [4 pages]

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

Energy and Climate Change

Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate (NYT 2016) [6 pages]

Global Warming at Work (Chasing Ice 2012) [13 minutes]

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

Pathways and obstacles to a low-carbon economy (McKinsey 2017) [7 pages]

Mickey Mouse Mitigation Measures (Energy Institute at Haas 2016) [3 pages]

Nuclear Energy

Uranium ( 2015) [4 pages]

The Eyes of Nye Nuclear Energy (Bill Nye 2014) [25 minutes]

How Nuclear Energy Works (ENECeducation 2009) [5 minutes]

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

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

Is Nuclear Power Good or Bad? (The Good Stuff 2016) [14 minutes]

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

Radioactive Waste - Backgrounder (USNRC 2015) [5 pages]

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]

Introduction to Renewable Energy

New Energy Outlook 2016 (Bloomberg New Energy Finance 2016) [3 minutes]

Renewables share of US energy consumption highest since 1930s (EIA Today in Energy 2015) [1 page]

Fossil fuels have made up at least 80% of US fuel mix since 1900 (EIA Today in Energy 2015) [1 page]

Renewables 2016 Global Status Report - Executive Summary and Ch 1 (REN21 2016) [15 pages]

Energy Efficiency, Energy Conservation, and Demand-Side Management

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]

Energy from Biomass

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]


Hydroelectric Power Plant Virtual Tour (MidAmerican Energy 2013) [11 minutes]

Hydropower - includes ocean power ( 2015) [4 pages]

Three Gorges Dam Project (Ali Kazi 2012) [7 minutes]Where Hydropower is Generated (EIA Hydropower Explained) [1 page]

Renewables 2016 Global Status Report - Hydropower chapter (REN21 2016) [5 pages]

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 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).