One of the hottest issues affecting society today is the energy we use to sustain our lifestyles. Our consumption of energy in this society is prodigious. Because of the ease of recovery, distribution and use, most developed societies today rely upon fossil fuels for the source of this energy. These fossil fuels are, by definition, in finite supply and have obvious negative attributes. The question becomes what to do in the future. This hotly debated subject is affecting all aspects of society including federal policy issues, life style choices, the race to develop alternative energy technologies, and environmental issues. There are strong pressures to develop sustainable substitutes for fossil fuels. The success of these substitutes will lie in the economics of the processes chosen as they have to compete cost effectively with fossil fuels.

This course will provide an overview of alternatives to fossil fuels to examine need, technologies for production, environmental, economic and social impacts of these alternatives, and policy issues controlling development of the industry. Each of the issues addressed will examine it from a technical, environmental, social, policy and economic view point. The concept is to provide students with a broad exposure to this rapidly evolving industry to identify the problems and work on solutions.

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to

• How does lifestyle influence energy consumption?

• What are biofuels and what are they used for?

• What are the limitations of biofuels?

• What are the current technologies for making biofuels?

• What is biomass?

• What are thermochemical processes for converting biomass into biofuels?

• What are enzyme-based processes for making biofuels?

• What are anaerobic digestors?

• What factors that influence the economics of biofuel production?

• What is the impact of biofuel production on land use?

• What are the other environmental impacts of biofuel production?

• How does governmental policy affect biofuel production?

Assignments include:

• The course will have 3 parts to it: 1) assigned readings; 2) students presentations on the topic of the day; and 3) group discussions. It is designed for all students, irrespective of their background.

Readings include:

Readings will be chosen from recently published sources