Jackson teaches about the energy shocks of the 1970s and how people's behavior was altered when petroleum-based energy became precious. “It seems that it is not so precious now, and people consume it in excess -- as evidenced by the muscle cars that are very popular now and the fact that the most popular selling vehicle in America gets just 15 miles per gallon.”
Course materials include industry specific books such as Titan, the Life of John D. Rockefeller; The Boom, How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World, and the 2007 film There Will Be Blood, about a California oil man during the oil boom of the early 20th century. Lecture topics range from the history of oil; oil disasters; petroleum politics; the 1970s Arab oil embargo; geology; permeability; refining; fracking and other topics. Course objectives are that students will learn where most of our country’s energy comes from, how we get it, and how geopolitics effects our supply of energy. This includes the importance of petroleum and natural gas-based energy on the development of our modern society and the need to mitigate their effects on the world’s climate.
Homework consists of 500-word essays in the first half of the semester and quantitative problems in the second half. Essay topics range from interviewing a person who lived through the oil shocks of the 1970s; exploring whether renewable energy is truly renewable; and writing an obituary about John D. Rockefeller.
One class assignment tasks students with trying to debunk a common belief held by some petroleum engineers who say that it takes more energy to create a wind or solar power installation than the amount of energy they will produce over their lifetimes. As students conduct their research they discover that there is an energy return on energy invested: for wind power the energy return on energy invested is very high; solar is almost as high.
Jackson’s point in this assignment is that people need to think of petroleum as the bridging fuel that we invest to make these sources of renewable energies.
“My ultimate goal is to educate students as to where the energy they use comes from and how it gets to us, and to help them understand that climate change is real and that we all need to take responsibility for reducing carbon emissions,” says Jackson.
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