Energy Decisions, Markets, and Policies Course
Energy Decisions, Markets, and Policies
This course examines the choices and constraints regarding sources and uses of energy by households, firms, and governments through a number of frameworks to describe and explain behavior at various levels of aggregation. Examples include a wide range of countries, scope, settings, and analytical approaches.
A required subject for the energy studies minor, this class introduces students to basic concepts and methods of analysis used across the social sciences to understand how the production, distribution and consumption of energy are determined and experienced. The readings and discussion materials illustrate and analyze both the choices and constraints regarding sources and uses of energy, introducing students to diverse frameworks, theories, and conceptual tools (e.g. economic, organizational and managerial, political, social, and cultural) for describing and explaining behavior at various levels of aggregation (e.g. individuals, households, firms, social movements, and governments). As a survey of social science perspectives and analytic tools, the course is not intended to prepare you to be an expert in any particular area, but rather to prepare you to use the tools of the social sciences to understand and shape real energy decisions, markets, and policies.
The central insights of the course will include the importance of recognizing and taking account interdependencies among actors and systems; the need to make explicit what are often tacit assumptions and taken-for-granted habits of thought, behavior and practice; the unanticipated consequences of purposive social action; the heterogeneity in human conditions, cultures and societies; and the iterative reflexivity (volatile feedback loops) characteristic of contemporary social action.
We will show that what sometimes seem to be purely technical issues often have massive human, individual and collective/social components that must be dealt with to direct changes. There is no one solution to the energy problem, which is a, if not the, central piece of our environmental conundrum. Too often, however, we do not pay sufficient attention to the organizational, economic, distributional and cultural components of problems that have important technical dimensions.
The course will include examples of cost-benefit, organizational, and institutional analyses of energy production, transformation, and use as well as public policy choices affecting distribution and consumption. More specific topics include the role of markets and prices, financial analysis of new energy-related technologies; institutional path dependence; economic and political determinants of government regulation; the impact of regulation on decisions and feedback into the political/regulatory/energy system. Examples will be drawn from various countries and settings.