Energy Economics and the Environment

Environmental issues require trade-offs, primarily in how we use energy. A former White House economist offers answers.
  • Lectures 27
  • Video 7 Hours
  • Skill level all level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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Course Description

A Faculty Project Course - Best Professors Teaching the World

Energy use and its impact on the environment will be two of the most important issues of the 21st century. The large role of energy in geo-political relationships combined with the fact that most of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with global climate change come from energy production means the energy sector is poised for dramatic change, and thus great opportunity. This course is designed to be a primer for potential entrepreneurs, investors, managers and policy makers on energy and environmental issues.

Topics will include environmental economics, energy economics, environmental ethics, oil sector, the electricity sector, alternative energy, sustainability, climate change and climate policy.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Over 27 lectures and 6.5 hours of content!



Brief introduction to the problem, the lecturer, the course, and our objectives: Understanding Energy and Environmental Issues through the lens of Economic Science.

Section 1: Introduction

An Introduction to the Economics of Energy and the Environment, introducing myself, the themes of the course, and outlining the plan for the remainder of the course.

13 slides

PDF version of Lecture Slides

Section 2: Thinking Like an Economist: Cost Benefit Analysis

Cost Benefit Analysis is the heart of Economics. It is not without its controversies especially as applied to the environment. This lecture will try to address them, and try to convince you that Cost Benefit Analysis is a reasonable backbone for both Supply and Demand, all of economics, and the rest of the course.

The video mentioned for next weeks lecture is below:

Lecture Slides
11 slides
Section 3: Measuring Costs and Benefits

In this lecture, we discuss some difficulties in measuring environmental costs and benefits (for example the value of tropical rain forests or the lives of polar bears), and the tools and techniques economists use to overcome them. Amongst them, we consider the tricky isues of valuing human life, of valuing risk, and of valuing time. 

17 slides

PDF version of Lecture Slides

Section 4: Supply and Demand

In this lecture, I cover the basics of supply and demand and use them to puzzle through a number of applications including: is buying from Ikea an ethical choice, is the world running out of oil, and should we drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). This lecture and the next are slightly more on the graph-y side, we will return to more practical discussions on climate chnage starting in two lectures, so feel free to skip ahead if you would like.

10 slides

PDF version of Lecture Slides

Section 5: Externalities

The economics of the proto-typical market failure--externalities--such as pollution or innovation, and how government should best respond.

16 slides

PDFs for the Externalities Lecture

Section 6: Climate Science

The first of a multi-part lecture that applies the ideas developed to addressing one of the most important issues of the 21st century: climate change.

13 slides

Slides for Lecture on Climate - Science

Section 7: Climate Change - Economic Consequences

Discusses the economic consequences of climate change and examines the framework for how climate policies should best be examined.

17 slides

PDF Lecture Notes for Climate Change - Economic Consequences 

Section 8: Climate Change - Economic Policy Analysis

A brief overview of how economists analyze climate policy.

18 slides

Slides on the Economic Analysis of Climate Policy

Section 9: Climate Change - Solutions - And Course Wrap Up

Exploring the technoloigies that will make up the energy and climate future.

28 slides

Slides for the Climate Change - Solutions Lecture

Thanks very much for bearing with me, with my first attempt at online teaching. It's been a great learning experience for me as well. If you found the course useful, please leave Reviews and Feedback and Comments. The course is a living thing and I will be updating as I can to make it better so any…
Section 10: Upcoming Bonus Lectures

Instructor Biography

Ben Ho , Assistant Professor of Economics - Vassar College

Ben Ho is a behavioral economist at Vassar College and fellow at the Institute for Social Sciences at Cornell. His research uses economic tools like game theory and experiments to understand social systems such as apologies, identity, and climate concerns. Previously, Ho was an assistant professor of economics at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management, as well as lead energy economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and has worked and consulted for Morgan Stanley and several tech startups. Ho holds degrees in economics, mathematics, computer science, electrical engineering, political science and education from Stanford and MIT.


Average Rating
  1. 5 Stars
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  5. 1 Stars
    • Miguel Jimenez Olmos

    Innovación y compromiso

    el actual curso me ha parecido de lo mejor ya que nos da una nueva visión para afrontar los problemas que hoy por hoy afrontamos los seres humanos y nos ayuda a tener en cuenta diferentes factores como económico, político y ambiental para mitigar el impacto producidos por actividades humanas,

    • Mark Colhoun

    Not one for the critical thinkers!

    I struggled through this drivel as far as I could. I resisted the urge to jump ship when Ben suggested the benefits of producing a drug that could cure cancer might outweigh the cost of wiping out the rainforest in order to develop it! The final straw was when he suggested that poor people choose to live in more dangerous areas because they get the benefit of cheaper housing. Does he really think that there is a choice involved here??? It doesn't surprise me that someone with such a skewed world view as Ben's found work with Morgan Stanley or the White House, I just find it utterly depressing. Even as a 'free' course, the cost of subjecting myself to this nonsense by far outweighed any benefits.

    • Adam Hook


    Redundant at times. Very informational.

    • Jake Millan

    Ben Ho really knows his stuff

    His approach from a purely economical perspective helped me create another lens in which to view the world.

    • Dr. Audrey Heinesen

    Clear Instruction, Good Examples

    Prof. Ben Ho does a great job in presenting an economic view on energy and the environment. Thanks for offering this course!

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