The public lecture "The Global Energy Challenge"

Energy is the life-blood of the modern world. According to the Energy Information Administration,  global energy consumption is expected to grow by about 70% in the coming 25 years. Much of this growth is driven by developing countries, whose inhabitants seek a standard of living that more closely resembles that of the western world. Petroleum provides about 40% of the world-wide energy demand, and, although estimates vary, oil production is expected to peak in the relatively near-future. The combination of increased energy demand and declining petroleum supply can be a threat to political stability and is likely to lead to a shift towards coal and non-conventional oil. This will further increase CO2 emissions and thus accelerate global warming and life-altering regional climate changes.

Many actions can be taken now to begin to reduce energy demand, diversify our energy portfolio, and reduce costs of energy supplies, with lower greenhouse gas emissions. This will not happen, however, without a plan and the willingness to implement such a plan. Public engagement and education in dealing with the pressing challenges and opportunities are the key to getting started now. In order to foster such engagement I have prepared the presentation "The Global Energy Challenge."
I developed this presentation while working for the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University.

This Powerpoint presentation is freely available and aims to be appealing and understandable for a broad audience. The comment-boxes in the Powerpoint presentation give ideas for a narrative.  The presentation sketches the tension between increased energy demand, peak oil, the associated challenge in curbing climate change, and actions that we can take towards a sustainable energy system. The presentation gives ideas for positive action that teachers, students, businessmen, consumers, and citizens can take, and it conveys that the challenges related to our energy supply come with career opportunities, a point that is especially appealing to a young audience.

Image of ppt-presentation on the Global Energy Challenge

I am available to give this presentation. Please let me know if you would like me to present this material in your department/company/institute/club; I am happy to tell my story and motivate others to join this effort. Other than travel expenses I do not charge anything. My biographical sketch and an abstract are at the bottom of this page.

Alternatively, you are free to download the presentation and present it yourself, this could actually be a great way to become involved. Click here or on the image above to download the latest version. The URL is

You are free to use this presentation for education and outreach, and should feel free to modify it. If you do modify it, in any other ways than shortening it, then please replace my name on the title page by your own.

Here are some tips for presenting this material:

1) In its present form, there is too much material for a single presentation of about 45 minutes. You will need to delete material. For most general audiences the story of the seven wedges is too complicated.

2) It is important to be positive. I started out as the doomsday-prophet when giving earlier versions of this lecture. This is not effective; people go in instant denial and turn themselves away. Also, it is important to empower people to make a difference. Let the emphasis be on challenges and opportunities, and give people ideas what they can do. Once they get involved doing some small things, they will discover other ways to make a difference.

3) I added notes in the comment box for each slide of the Powerpoint presentation that may help speakers see the narrative of this presentation. Take a look at these notes, because the slides alone may not contain enough clues what the narrative is.

The presentation is aimed at a general audience. Here are my experiences and ideas seeking a venue for this presentation.

1) I have given the presentation to service clubs.
There are, of course, many other groups where you could give your presentation (local libraries, church, home-owners association, girl(boy)-scouts, etc.). Here are websites with club locators for the Rotary Club and Kiwani's:

To be honest, just approaching clubs has not been the most efficient way to establish contact. Using personal contacts is the most effective way to set up lectures.

2) High school teachers are easy to interest in this material, but they face the problem that they often have to teach in lockstep, and are overwhelmed with everything they need to do. Identifying teachers that are truly motivated is the most important ingredient to success for delivering this material at high-schools. Again, using personal contacts works best.

3) I have had good experiences teaching at community colleges. This is a great way to reach large groups of  students. Teachers of general science classes are often grateful when a class is taken off their hands, and since the topic of energy interests them, they are interested to have this material presented in their class.

4) When you teach at a university, don't forget your own students. This is a great topic for a general science class, a earth-system class, or a departmental seminar.

As you are giving this seminar, you will discover weak points, and are likely to have interesting ideas for improving it. I value any type of feedback that you may have. I am also interested in ways you may see to engage colleagues and professional societies to help deliver this lecture.

There is a wealth of information on energy available on the internet. I have created a website with links to sources that I found particularly interesting or useful. You can access this information from:

(Click here for a Rumanian translation of this page.)

Please join me in this important activity. I am sure you will find it rewarding!

Roel Snieder
W.M. Keck Distinguished Professor of Basic Exploration Science
Colorado School of Mines
1500 Illinois Street
Golden, CO 80401-1887
tel. +1.303.273.3456
fax +1.303.273.3478

Biographical sketch of Roel Snieder

Roel Snieder holds the Keck Foundation Endowed Chair of Basic  Exploration Science at the Colorado School of Mines. He received in 1984 a Masters degree in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics from Princeton University, and in 1987 a Ph.D. in seismology from Utrecht University. In 1993 he was  appointed as professor of seismology at Utrecht University, where from 1997-2000 he was appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Earth Sciences. In 1997 he was a visiting professor at the Center for Wave Phenomena.  Roel served  on the editorial boards of Geophysical Journal International, Inverse Problems,  and Reviews of Geophysics. In 2000 he was elected as Fellow of the American Geophysical Union  for important contributions to geophysical inverse theory, seismic tomography, and the theory of surface waves. He is author of the textbooks  "A Guided Tour of Mathematical Methods for the Physical Sciences" and "The Art of Being a Scientist" that are published by Cambridge University Press. Since 2000 he is a firefighter in Genesee Fire Rescue.

A stable and sustainable energy supply is one of  the major issues of this Century. World-energy  demand is expected to increase by about 70% in  the coming 20 years, while the production of petroleum   — our main source of energy — is likely to  peak in this period. The combination of rising demand  and declining production of conventional oil raises the  question: “What is the plan?”  In the absence of a plan for a sustainable energy  supply, coal and non-conventional oil are likely to become the main source of energy. These energy sources lead to much higher CO2 emissions per unit energy  than than the sources currently used. Combined with  the expected increase in energy use, this aggravates  global warming. We face the challenge to develop a  strategy to develop a sustainable energy system with  acceptable environmental impact. In my presentation I  give examples what one can do as a teacher, student,  consumer, businessman and as a citizen to make progress towards a more sustainable energy system.