University of Dayton Chautauqua Course


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Chautauqua Course DAY-19


Energy and Sustainability: What Every Faculty Member Should Know


ROBERT J. BRECHA, Department of Physics, University of Dayton


May 18-20, 2015 in Dayton, OH                                                                                Apply: DAY


Note:  This course has course fee of $195 (in addition to the $100 application fee), which covers course-related expenses.  Optional reduced rate lodging will be available to early applicants. See also course DAY-20 on climate change which immediately follows this course.


We believe that the topic of Energy and Sustainability is of vital importance to everyone in our country.  An effective way to ensure a well-informed citizenry is through a knowledgeable faculty presenting material in appropriate courses.


One definition of sustainability is that we learn to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Given that economic growth and technical progress in our society is based to a large extent on the use of finite supplies of fossil fuels, a natural question arises as to how standards of living can be maintained in the face of future scarcity of those resources.  In this course we will examine theories of fossil fuel depletion, look at both geological and economic indicators of fossil-fuel scarcity, and discuss non-conventional fossil-fuel resources and the concept of net energy.

An important part of the course will be to investigate the potential for renewable and non-fossil energy sources.  What might be required of our energy system in the future if concerns about climate change result in a shift to non-carbon energy sources?  Are electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles really a solution to our energy problems? Where is most of our energy used, and what are the most effective ways of reducing carbon emissions and fossil-fuel consumption?  How much can the capacity of renewable energy realistically be expanded?  These and other questions will lead to lively discussions and new insights.


For college teachers of: all disciplines.  Prerequisites: none.  Presentations will assume basic science, and will not assume specific topic information.



Tentative Costs for 2015

Application fee: $100

Course fee: $195 [Due in March 2015]

Optional campus lodging: $58 per person per night in a single



Dr. Brecha is Professor in the Physics Department and the Renewable and Clean Energy Program at the University of Dayton. His research training was in experimental and theoretical quantum optics; after joining the UD faculty in 1993, he focused on diode laser spectroscopy of molecular oxygen and ultracold atom physics. Increasing interest in the issues of peak oil, climate change, energy system transformation and broader societal and economic implications have led to a switch in research activity. Since 2006 he has been a visiting scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and more recently, the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Germany working with economists and natural scientists on models of the coupled energy, climate and economic systems. During the 2010-2011 academic year his work at PIK was partly supported by a Fulbright Fellowship. Dr Brecha has lectured widely on peak oil, energy systems, and climate change, and has been a co-presenter in several previous Chautauqua courses on these topics.   He also coordinates and helped develop the new Sustainability, Energy and Environment Minor at the University of Dayton.



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University of Dayton Chautauqua Course