Nov 15, 2017

Energy 101

By Owen Jones T'19

On Friday, October 13, 2017, Tuck’s first-year students enjoyed their first class-less Friday of business school. Many made the most of it by hiking, apple-picking, traveling, brunching, or simply by sleeping in late. Yet, sixteen of us were huddled in a classroom that day to take Energy 101, a one-day course on the basics of the natural gas and power markets in the United States. We were joined by two Thayer School of Engineering graduate students, one professor, one librarian, and two Revers Center for Energy staff members.

Sponsored by the Revers Center for Energy, the course was taught by John Ferrare, CEO of Enerdynamics, a company specializing in energy education. Mr. Ferrare, an erstwhile actor turned gas and power guru, has over twenty years of experience in energy industry marketing and communications. His teaching method was energetic and engaging. He moved the course from the basics of energy in the U.S.—how our energy is produced (oil vs. natural gas vs. coal vs. renewables, etc.) and how we consume it (transportation, residential, commercial, or industrial)—to a deep dive into the American natural gas and power (electricity) markets.

We learned the basics of natural gas production and why fracking has played such a vital role in cheap gas prices throughout the U.S. We learned about the American natural gas distribution system, and why we should not expect to have a natural gas pipeline to Hanover anytime soon. We learned about different power plants common in the U.S. and the electrical power transmission infrastructure, and why Texas really could be a completely different country (it has its own power infrastructure). Finally, we learned what is actually meant by the term “deregulation” and why it allowed Enron to bankrupt the state of California.

Our learning experience was additionally enriched by the wealth of knowledge shared by all of us, the participants ourselves. Many (yours truly included) brought previous industry experience into the classroom and did not hesitate to share, resulting in revelations that surprised even our erudite instructor.

On the whole, we were well compensated for sacrificing eight hours of our first Friday off. Despite the constant social-media reminders, delivered via SnapChat by our fellow first-years, of the beautiful autumn weather we were missing, we were happy to have the opportunity to attend Energy 101 and left the classroom that afternoon (perhaps to join our classmates in their fall adventures) with an improved understanding of an industry that impacts nearly every facet of our modern lives.