Technology Breakthroughs: Solutions to the Food and Energy Crises

Course Summary, Syllabus, Session Highlights, Bibliographic Recommendation Links

Rod Handeland Thursday 1-2:40 pm

Ever since textile, iron and steam innovations launched an industrial revolution over two centuries ago, our world has relied on technological innovation for new products and improved lives. In energy, we moved from wood to coal to petroleum, electricity and nuclear. In agriculture, technology refuted Malthus. As we face renewed challenges in both energy and food, can we again rely on technology to provide new answers to what appear to be overwhelming challenges? This course evaluates progress and potential for innovation in life sciences, informatics and other technologies to bring us new and more productive food sources as well as improved and renewable energy options that are cost effective, available and acceptable. The outcome will determine whether we can continue to rely on technology breakthroughs for solutions that lead to better lives and a world in which to live them.

Below are outline for Session 1 introduction and course overview, followed by summary topics for Sessions 2-8:


Session 1: Food and energy ties technology and innovation potentials

Food and Energy Ties

Ethanol from corn spurred by subsidies and incentives of 2003 Energy Act.

Energy and food tied together by sun, photosynthesis, formation, growth, use

Energy use supports food production that facilitates population growth and global warming

Petroleum and food prices more related to supply and demand than global warming

Petroleum supplies over 90% of transportation fuel, nearly 100% for motor vehicles

Carbon dioxide is small but significant greenhouse gas

Nuclear, solar, wind, wave, geothermal energy avoid carbon emission but are costlier than fossil fuel

Agriculture mechanization and productivity growth offset Malthus food predictions until 20 th century

Enormous financial flows from food and energy trade are growing rapidly with price rises


Innovation and Technology Potential Solutions

Near term solutions for energy based on increased electricity in motor vehicles

Near term solutions for food are related to biofuels, micro lending, and nutrition education

Intermediate energy solutions from technology, cost reduction, fuel expansion, tax policy

Intermediate food solutions from life science acceptance, water-soil technologies, population level



Session 2: Adding cost effective electricity to transportation energy options


Session 3: Reducing food and energy conflicts of biofuels and increasing food costs


Session 4: Dramatic food growth through new green revolution, learning and resources


Session 5: Technologies for energy supply, storage, distribution, emissions


Session 6: Limits and potentials of individual actions and political commitment


Session 7: US energy and food technology potential to help world


Session 8: Learning from past to ensure life quality and opportunity in future


Food and Energy Highlights Through History


Food and Energy Tradeoffs and Commitments Needed for Future Improvements


Reference Reading and Bibliographic Resources


Overall Curriculum Recommended Books


The Plot to Save the Planet: How Visionary Entrepreneurs and Corporate Titans Are Creating Real Solutions to Global Warming, Brian Dumaine, 2008,


Biotech 2008 Life Sciences: 2020 Vision to 2020, Burrill & Company, 2008,


Eco- Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth, Lester R. Brown, 2001,


Other Course Resources


Other Book and Article Resources by Category and Links at

Questions and Comments: Contact

Course Highlights, Images and Previous Business History Courses