Cockrell School’s Michael Webber Launches New PBS Series On Energy

April 15, 2020

With quarantine mandates and social distancing restrictions changing how we live and work, we face a new, unforeseen challenge: How do we educate our children (and entertain ourselves) when they can’t physically attend school?

For years, mechanical engineering professor Michael Webber has been producing widely accessible educational content focused on his area of expertise — energy. He has developed TV shows and online courses that anyone can view with the sole purpose of teaching people about energy.

In his latest project, a six-part TV series called “Power Trip: The Story of Energy” that launches on PBS on April 20, he explores the past, present and future of energy. The documentary series unpacks the connection of energy to six influential factors of a society — water, food, transportation, wealth, cities and war.

Although the content is geared toward high school-aged students, the show will inform viewers of all ages about what our past can teach us about our future.

“There is a push now, more than ever, for accessible educational content for students. The University of Texas is a well-respected leader in energy research and in propelling educational opportunities for students of all ages and they’re spearheading the movement toward on-demand education,” Webber said. “I’m delighted for this series to soon be aired and streamed in households across the nation and the world. My hope is it will reveal how energy is hidden in plain sight and spur many discussions on the importance of energy to everything we care about.”

A film crew films Michael Webber pumping a water well for his PBS series.

A behind-the-scenes look of Michael Webber during an interview for his PBS special.

The show is a companion to his highly acclaimed book with the same title that was published in 2019. “Power Trip” the series will launch to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which will be celebrated globally on April 22.

Webber has been an influential voice in the energy industry for over 25 years. Fueled by his passion for increasing society’s “energy fluency,” he develops content that makes energy discussions accessible for all. In 2013, he launched “Energy 101: Energy Technology and Policy,” a massive open online course that teaches about issues we face in energy. He also created “Energy at the Movies,” an hour-long educational special that airs on PBS and illustrates the history of energy using Hollywood movies as a road map.

Webber has authored over 400 journal articles, books, columns and op-eds, including features in The New York Times, Forbes and many others, and is a highly sought-after public speaker and member of the fourth class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars, a leadership training program organized by presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

In addition to his position at UT Austin, he also currently serves as the chief science and technology officer at ENGIE, a global energy and infrastructure services company headquartered in Paris.

“At its heart, our relationship with energy is about harnessing benefits while containing environmental impacts,” Webber shared. “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – a day created to raise awareness for environmental protection – while also navigating a rapidly shifting global climate, it is critical we reinvent our relationship with energy and our environment. Now is the time. We have the power.”

The “Power Trip” series was made possible by generous donations from UT alumni, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, the Mitchell Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the University of Texas International Board of Advisors.

The series was directed by Mat Hames and produced by Alpheus Media. It will air on PBS stations in most major cities. Check your local listings for air times. It will also be streaming on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play and XFINITY on demand.