As consumers and citizens, individuals vote everyday on a range of energy choices; and collectively, those votes have significant consequences on the economy, the environment, and society. In Economics 180: Citizens, Energy, and Sustainability, Caroline Noblet introduces students to the language and skills required to critically address a range of energy issues. Noblet acknowledges that most students in her course are not going to pursue a career in engineering or energy economics. Rather, her goal is to provide students with the conceptual knowledge necessary to be a more informed energy voter.
An economist by training, Noblet has worked on a number of energy-related projects, mostly investigating consumer behavior toward energy resources. Given Maine’s burgeoning wind industry, Noblet and her colleague Mario Teisel chose this particular area as the focal point of their recent study of public attitudes and perceptions toward different types of wind power—land-based, near shore, and offshore
According to Noblet, often local and regional energy issues, like those that frame her own work, can effectively serve as reference points for larger themes or trends, and can facilitate a meaningful discussion of tradeoffs, benefits, and drawbacks. For her, the critical element is for students to understand energy issues on multiple levels, from the individual scale to the global scale, and to draw connections among them. While Citizens, Energy, and Sustainability is broad in nature, students also engage in focused group projects, which allows them to investigate a topic of their choosing with more depth.
This course satisfies two general education requirements: population and environment and social contexts and institutions. More importantly, it challenges students to consider the implications of energy choices, making them more informed decision-makers and perhaps even sparking a wider interest in the subject.