This research seminar will explore the role played by port cities in the movement of energy resources around the world, the physical and economic impact of that role on these cities and regions, and the opportunities and challenges facing these cities in the complex and uncertain energy transition currently underway. The discovery and invention of more concentrated forms of energy during the modern era has generated infrastructures for transporting fuels and transmitting electricity over increasingly large distances. These infrastructures have created port cities characterized by land use patterns and inter-industries configurations that are massive, expensive, durable, and highly specific. They continue to generate great wealth and wages, while also generating externalized climate, environmental, and health costs that are better regulated in some place than in others.
All of these conditions yield policy and design challenges for cities and nations, especially as the world slowly but steadily builds a policy regime for mitigating climate change. The global energy system is a key source of the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. As policies are developed and enforced to reduce and eliminate those emissions, the role of energy port cities will change dramatically over the long transition of the next 50 years. How can cities guide that transition with policy and design choices that optimize future outcomes for port cities? How can nations use port cities to meet their global climate commitments? The seminar will discuss weekly assigned readings and students can expect to read approximately a book a week throughout the semester. Students will write three 5-page papers on weekly readings and lead part of the seminar discussion three times during the semester. They will submit a 10-page final project in the form of a research agenda that identifies a set of important questions that could help guide policy and design choices facing energy port cities and the industries and nations that influence them.