Energy is a fundamental quantity in our universe, and it cannot be created nor destroyed-only transformed. Physical laws permit us to take different types of materials in which energy is stored (like gasoline), change the state of that material (burn it to form other materials), and then harness a portion of that released energy (to power an automobile).

Yet, this elusive substance is all around us in our daily lives; it lights our cities, propels our vehicles, trains, planes and rockets. It warms our homes, cooks our food, dries and curls our hair, powers our computers, plays our music and enables television. It allows us to walk, talk and play soccer. More fundamentally, it is the engine behind all activities and motion in the entire universe. Clearly, the ability to obtain and manipulate energy to do our bidding is key to the high standard of living we enjoy today and for our future survival. This talk will present the latest information on the earth's total energy budget to see what forms of energy your generation will be harnessing.

Tapping these energy transformations through sources, however, is not without problems. The distribution of energy sources is not aligned with energy use. For example, in the U.S. an ever-increasing energy appetite maintains our standard of living yet we are only 5% of the world population using 20% of the world's energy. Can we keep that up? Can everyone on earth use that much energy? But to make matters worse the U.S.'s energy use is mainly fueled by oil and natural gas from overseas sources as U.S. production declines while most of the world's remaining hydrocarbons (reserves) are concentrated in the Middle East and Russia.

Another problem we all face is that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, released from burning fossil fuels (mostly coal, but also oil, and gas) have increased by about a third in the last 50 years, could possibly double in the next 50 and will last for hundreds of years. Currently, scientists debate how these changes will effect the polar icecaps, ocean level, temperatures, rainfall, and weather patterns, especially the intensity and frequency of storms, but clearly we should be carefully examine the sources and the environmental effects of energy use.

To find solutions to these and other energy-related problems we first need to look at how the U.S. uses its energy. We will talk about U.S. energy flows between three general categories: sources, conversions, and we use. Each energy source has plusses and minuses so we will evaluate electricity, biomass (from plants), geothermal (from the earth), fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), hydroelectric (dams), nuclear, solar, and wind energy.

Finally, we will try an answer these questions: will we run out of certain forms of energy, such as oil, and when we do, what are the replacement options? How does hydrogen, not a fuel itself, fit into the future U.S. energy picture? What is carbon sequestration and why does it matter? Energy can be stored, transformed and used to do work and there are many possibilities to consider for the future. So we will end by describing a possible future (2050) U.S. energy system utilizing both hydrogen and carbon sequestration with major shifts toward sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal.

Today you will learn

  • Is there an energy crisis?
  • How much do we have?
  • How fast are we using it?
  • When are we going to run out?


Students will learn about Earth's energy sources and how they are being used. They will also explore how energy is converted and what alternative energy sources are available when fossil fuels are exhausted.

Student Lecture Notes

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Speaker Bios

Dr.John Ziagos

Geophysics PhD, Deputy Department Head for Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Department
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Dr. Ziagos is the Deputy Department Head for the Atmospheric, Earth, and Energy Department at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). He is responsible for achieving a vigorous energy and environment research portfolio through the technical and business leadership of 200 scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative staff. John has been at LLNL since 1990. Prior to becoming the Deputy Department Head, he was the Superfund manager for 10 years at the Laboratory's main Livermore Site and the Site 300 high explosives test facility, successfully negotiating Record of Decisions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In his 30-year energy, environment and earth sciences career he has managed both large and small teams of scientists and engineers and worked for the University of California, the U.S. Geological Society (USGS), the U.S. Department of Energy, successful start-up companies (FINDER now owned by Schlumberger), and major energy corporations (BP/SOHIO). In addition, John managed the construction and operation of a $110M, 50MW geothermal power plant in southern California working for Geothermal Resources International. He has many years experience in a variety of geotechnical field projects, including terrestrial heat flow studies in central Mexico, earthquake research at the USGS on the San Andreas Fault, geothermal and petroleum exploration and production in Alaska and the Gulf Coast. John's technical expertise includes groundwater restoration and remediation, subsurface structural and stratigraphy analysis, petrophysics and interpolation/characterization methodologies specifically for reservoir modeling, with automated history matching. Dr. Ziagos holds a BS degree in mathematics and physics (1970) from Western Illinois University, and a PhD in geophysics (1983) from Southern Methodist University.

John has been both a high school and middle school science teacher and, throughout his career, has continued to teach environmental science, including Environmental Management at UC Berkeley Extension, Federal Facilities Superfund Restoration at UCLA Extension, Environmental Restoration for a private company, and a teacher symposium offered through the UC Davis Edward Teller Education Center on Energy Technology and the Environment. He has extensive experience in public speaking and was the keynote speaker at the 2006 Kern County Science Fair speaking on Energy Technology and Climate Change. John also lectures on the Future of Energy Technology at the Livermore Laboratory's annual Science on Saturday series.

During his career John has continued to be involved with the local community through the Pleasanton Leadership Program, Executive Board of Directors and Environmental Day Coordinator, EPA Technical Assistance Grants, the LLNL Environmental Restoration Community Work Group, Alameda County Watershed, Natural Resources/Wildlife Subcommittee, and Zone 7 Water District Flood Control Citizens Group.

Dean Reese

Physics and Biology Teacher
Tracy High School

Dean Reese received his undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Currently, he is the Science Department Chairperson at Tracy High School and has been teaching there since 2002. He teaches IB Physics, Conceptual Physics, and ELL Conceptual Physics. He has been a Master Teacher for LLNL’s Education Program since 2007 and currently instructs in the Computer Simulation Teacher Research Academy. Dean has co-presented with various scientist in many Science on Saturday Presentations. In 2006, Dean had a DOE Academies Creating Teacher Scientists internship where he interned for 3 consecutive summers at the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry at LLNL. In 2011, Dean was awarded the Cortopassi Family Foundation Excellence in Science Teaching Award. He is a dedicated advisor for the Tracy High Earth Club, Scientifically Speaking Club, and Computer Programming Club. Dean is a master instructor for the SIMMS (Secondary Integration of Modeling in Math and Science) Project with the intent of developing computer modeling skills for high school science and math teachers within the San Joaquin County. Prior to becoming a teacher Dean was a soldier in the United States Army National Guard.