BIO / EES 105 - Energy in Our World
Course Description

BIO / EES 105 - Energy in Our World addresses a variety of topics related to the production and consumption of various forms of energy.  The topic will be examined from various perspectives, including technical, environmental, sociopolitical, and economic.


This course addresses the concept of energy from various perspectives.  In its most basic form, energy is pervasive physical force found in the universe.  Energy drives all biological processes, and is the currency by which all levels of the biological hierarchy- from individuals to the biosphere – are measured. 


The rise of human civilization was based on developing systems to capture energy and transform it into forms that allow us to do useful work such as growing food and providing shelter and clothing.  Modern society depends upon energy to drive our machines, give us light, and regulate our thermal environment.  Over the past century, the energy to satisfy that demand has largely come from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, or (since the 1950s) from nuclear fission.


During the past thirty years, some have questioned the wisdom of depending on fossil fuels because: (1) they are often produced by countries hostile to the U.S., (2) the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion lead to potentially catastrophic climatic change, and (3) the supply of fossil fuels may be limited.  Similarly, concerns over nuclear power include inherent safety of reactors and the deposition of waste material. 


To address those concerns many advocate the development and implementation of alternative renewable energy like wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydrogen.  While those individuals laud the advent of alternatives, others express skepticism that they might not contain enough energy to meet demand, and may have their own environmental shortcomings.  Moreover, within the past five years, our energy picture has been potentially transformed by new technologies to extract natural gas from deep rock.  But those technologies are often perceived as risky and many advocate that they be abandoned.  So how would we meet our energy demands? 


Despite the fact that energy is such an important topic, our education system does not treat it as a discrete field of study – as we do for history, political science, music, biology, or economics.  Within the past several years, concerns have been expressed that people suffer from “Energy Illiteracy.”  But yet energy is an often discussed and debated topic. 


This course explores our current energy situation, exploring the different sources of energy, the ways that they are transported to market, and whether we can – or should – take steps to reduce consumption.  To answer these questions, we take a broad perspective, including science, engineering, policy, communication, and business.  The goals is to help you better understand energy in our world, and to contribute productively to ongoing discussions about production, distribution, and consumption.


This course coordinates with an “Energy 101” initiative developed by the Department of Energy.  On that basis, it brings to Wilkes perspectives on energy literacy being considered at the national level.

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This page posted and maintained by Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D., Biology Department, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766. (570) 408-4758,