Stanford University – Past, Present and Future of Fossil Fuels Course Review

The Past, Present, and Future of Fossil Fuels is a course offered by Stanford University as part of their Energy Innovation and Emerging Technologies Certificate. The goal of the course is to give the student an overview on the history of fossil fuels, technologies related to fossil fuel extraction, and how fossil fuels fit in with our renewable energy future.

Stanford University Past Present and Future of Fossil Fuels Course Review




We have divided our review into three sections: 1) Instructor, 2) Quality of Course Delivery, and 3) Quality of Course Content.

Instructor. As one would expect from Stanford, the quality of the faculty is top notch. The instructor we reviewed was Mark Zoback, Professor of Geophysics. He is a recognized leader in his field, and was part of a seven member subcommittee appointed by President Obama to determine if shale gas can be developed in a responsible manner. Professor Zoback also has a M.S. and PhD from Stanford University, and is a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy. His teaching style, ability to distill large concepts into key points, and significant experience makes him a terrific instructor.

Quality of Course Delivery. This course was delivered online through Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development. The course itself is a series of lecture videos along with the accompanying slides. The overall video quality was good. However, there were times when the audio and video was not synchronized, and there were also a few instances where the videos lagged.




Quality of Course Content. The content in the course is very good. Professor Zoback provides plenty of information and insights that are not widely available. The range of topics the course covers include:

  • Conventional and unconventional gas resources
  • Environmental impacts of fossil fuels
  • Growth projections in energy demand
  • Major sources of oil and gas
  • Production techniques

Furthermore, a lot of extra information was given in the videos when compared with the slides. One thing that could be improved is the addition of more animations to help illustrate certain concepts such as drilling and fracking.

In order to receive credit for the course, the student must pass the final exam online.

Final Recommendation. Overall, we would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in the energy industry (fossil or renewable).