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FU-BEST 30: Energizing Europe: 21st-Century Renewable and Fossil Transformations

InstructorDr. Thomas W. O'Donnell
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits


Today, the EU is a world leader in alternative energy efforts, most notably Germany’s Energiewende, which aims to replace coal and nuclear with wind and solar electricity. However, the EU is also interconnecting member-state gas, electrical and transport systems and unifying its energy markets aided by its new European Energy Union (EEU) — whose formation was spurred by the Ukraine crisis and Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian gas. In Energizing Europe, we investigate how these transitions impact EU carbon emissions, resources, economy, society, and geopolitical security. We begin by surveying the EU's energy resources and infrastructure as compared to the USA's. We then study Europe´s energy transitions from medieval times through its 20th-century energy crises and wars. With this preparation, we begin a study of Europe’s intended 21st-century energy transitions. Topics include: (i.) Germany’s Energiewende, its technical, economic, and social challenges and its impact on EU neighbors; (ii.) problems of oil dependence and traffic congestion in the German and EU transport sectors; (iii.) EU natural gas policy – external issues including dependence on Russia and pipelines through Ukraine, attempts to diversify with Norwegian, North African and Caspian gas and with US liquefied natural gas (LNG); and internal issues such as market unification, interconnection of pipelines, anti-monopoly efforts, fracking, and competition from cheap carbon-intensive coal; (iv.) finally, we examine German rejection of nuclear energy in light of risks and promises of next-generation reactors. Throughout, students follow current German, EU and related global energy affairs. This course should be of interest to students of both social and natural sciences.