gradWhat determines the cost of a ton of coal? Is OPEC an oligopoly? Should we subsidize low-carbon energy or tax fossil fuels? Do Prius owners drive more?

These are among the questions I cover in my Economics of Energy class. I’ve taught this class at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs for the past five years. I hope to receive your feedback on how to improve this course.

The course has two goals: to provide a set of tools to approach these and many other fundamental questions in energy economics, and to do so in plain English. Last year’s syllabus reflects this philosophy, but there’s always room for improvement. The topics, elaborated in the syllabus, are:

Week 1: Demand basics
Week 2: Supply basics
Week 3: World oil supplies
Week 4: Oil market behavior
Week 5: Energy security
Week 6: Electricity
Week 7: Curbing pollution: How far and how fast?
Week 8: Designing mitigation policies
Week 9: Clean energy
Week 10: Energy paradox
Week 11: Development
Week 12: Green Paradox

Are these the right topics to begin with? Which ones are missing? Which should be dropped?

Moreover, what are the right reading materials for each of the topics? Are there more recent ones? Are there some classic readings that are missing? Is there a book or two worth adding?

The course syllabus already reflects the collected wisdom of five years of teaching and inputs—direct and indirect—by many others who have come before. It includes an extensive acknowledgment section at the end. My objective is to help students develop a holistic view of energy policy by teaching a class that’s both comprehensive and focused on economic tools.