Energy Economics and the Environment

Environmental issues require trade-offs, primarily in how we use energy. A former White House economist offers answers.
34 reviews
  • 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.

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  • 6+ hours of high quality content
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Energy Economics and the Environment

Environmental issues require trade-offs, primarily in how we use energy. A former White House economist offers answers.
34 reviews


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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.

    • Over 27 lectures and 6.5 hours of content!


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  • 1
    Welcome to the Economics of Energy and the Environment

    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:
  • 2
    Economics of Energy and the Environment: Introductions

    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.

  • 3
    Lecture Slides
    13 slides

    PDF version of Lecture Slides

  • SECTION 2:
    Thinking Like an Economist: Cost Benefit Analysis
  • 4
    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:

  • 5
    Lecture Slides
    11 slides
  • SECTION 3:
    Measuring Costs and Benefits
  • 6
    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. 

  • 7
    Lecture Slides
    17 slides

    PDF version of Lecture Slides

  • SECTION 4:
    Supply and Demand
  • 8
    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.

  • 9
    Lecture Slides
    10 slides

    PDF version of Lecture Slides

  • SECTION 5:
  • 10
    Externalities - A story of market failure

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

  • 11
    Lecture Slides
    16 slides

    PDFs for the Externalities Lecture

  • SECTION 6:
    Climate Science
  • 12
    Climate Change - 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
    Lecture Slides
    13 slides

    Slides for Lecture on Climate - Science

  • SECTION 7:
    Climate Change - Economic Consequences
  • 14
    Climate Change - Economic Consequences

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

  • 15
    Lecture Slides
    17 slides

    PDF Lecture Notes for Climate Change - Economic Consequences 

  • SECTION 8:
    Climate Change - Economic Policy Analysis
  • 16
    Climate Change - Economic Policy Analysis

    A brief overview of how economists analyze climate policy.

  • 17
    Lecture Slides
    18 slides

    Slides on the Economic Analysis of Climate Policy

  • SECTION 9:
    Climate Change - Solutions - And Course Wrap Up
  • 18
    Climate Change - Solutions - And Course Wrap Up

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

  • 19
    Lecture Slides
    28 slides

    Slides for the Climate Change - Solutions Lecture

  • 20
    Final Course Thoughts
    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
  • 21
    Climate Change - Technical Solutions
  • 22
    Climate Change - Environmental Policy Economic Solutions
  • 23
    Agriculture and Energy and Environment
  • 24
  • 25
    Electricity Industry
  • 26
    Behavioral Economics
  • 27
    The Politics of Energy and the Environment - Insider Perspective on How Policy is Made


Hours of video content
Course Enrollments


  • 21
  • 4
  • 5
  • 3
  • 1


  • 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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