Monday, July 14, 2014

Improving Climate Policy Decision-Making Through Analysis



The Obama administration increased fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles (requiring vehicles sold have higher miles per gallon) and encouraged production of alternative fueled vehicles like hybrid vehicles in 2012, but is it possible that the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards may actually increase air pollution emissions from the U.S. vehicle fleet?  

China built the world’s largest wind industry in a few short years by leveraging foreign investment, but has its innovation in this technology kept pace with its manufacturing productivity? 

The European Union (EU) recently backed off a plan to include foreign aviation in its greenhouse gas emissions trading law.  Is $2 per trans-Atlantic airplane ticket really too steep an offset for the flight’s carbon emissions?

These are just a few of the interesting issues discussed at this year’s Climate and Energy Decision Making Center (CEDM) annual meeting, held last month at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).  Approximately 60 students, faculty, researchers, and advisors for the center from universities and organizations throughout North America gathered to share research and discuss a wide range of energy- and climate-related issues.

CEDM is an NSF-funded research consortium of a dozen institutions, led by the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at CMU, with the goal of developing methods and conducting research to help leaders make better-informed decisions in the climate and energy space.  CEDM researchers work on a broad variety of topics within this domain, and the annual meeting provides an opportunity to summarize the year’s work and to assess the center’s overall direction.

The bulk of the meeting consisted of short research presentations organized by topic.  Most focused on greenhouse gas mitigation, with sessions on energy efficiency and energy behavior, transportation, renewables, and natural gas.  Another session covered methods, such as robust decision making, to aid policy-makers facing tough decisions in these areas.  A final session explored the effects of energy development and climate change on ecosystems, including concerns about habitat fragmentation in the Marcellus shale gas fields and how ocean warming can harm coral. 

Participants also heard about research methods, like coupled ethical-epistemic analysis, which seeks to make scientists aware of the value-laden choices inherent in their research decisions, and expert elicitation, which is used to gain insight into questions with high uncertainty, for instance, the economic viability of small modular nuclear reactors.

If there is a common thread to the diverse research presented at the meeting, it is that policy design, based on quantitative and qualitative analysis, is a crucial element in meeting climate and energy goals, and each CEDM project informs the policymaking process. Granger Morgan, the center’s co-director, likes to say that the business of CEDM is “tending the garden,” meaning that its researchers work to “pull weeds”—addressing specific, hard problems in climate and energy by creating practical results and actionable policy advice rather than limiting questions to the realm of the abstract, big picture.  You can watch videos and read more about some of this “weed-pulling” at cedmcenter.org.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Department of Energy To Host Public Meeting at CMU July 21

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, led by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, will host a public meeting at Carnegie Mellon beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 21, to receive stakeholder input to the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), an administration-wide effort to make recommendations regarding key infrastructure needed for transmission, storage and distribution of energy.

The meeting in the Hillman Center’s Rashid Auditorium will examine natural gas transmission, storage and distribution in the U.S. The meeting will include panel discussions on natural gas infrastructure, infrastructure development needed to maximize resource development and public-private partnerships for economic development. Following panel discussions, the public will have an opportunity to make statements.

The QER, officially launched by President Obama in January, is co-chaired by the White House Domestic Policy Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy, and includes representation from all relevant executive departments and agencies. The DOE is playing a key role in development of the QER by providing policy analysis and modeling, and coordinating stakeholder engagement.

Additional information, including the agenda and a full list of the speakers for each panel, 
will be posted online when it becomes available.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

CMU's Self-Driving Car drives members of Congress around DC

Carnegie Mellon University took its autonomous vehicle to Washington, D.C. to enable Congress to experience the technology up close and personal.  Following an exciting and successful demonstration of the Carnegie Mellon vehicle in September, which transported Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, 33 miles to the Pittsburgh International Airport, CMU provided members of Congress the opportunity to ride the vehicle around Washington, D.C.

Scott Institute researchers Chris Hendrickson, Jeremy Michalek, Costa Samaras, and others are examining the energy implications of such cars.


Scott Institute paper quantify economic goal for energy storage

In a paper in Energy Policy, Scott Institute researchers quantify how cheap energy storage must be in order for it to be economical to use devices such as batteries and compressed-air-energy-storage (CAES) at remote wind farms.  "By adding energy storage such as batteries or CAES, the farm could store electricity when transmission is constrained, and sell it later when transmission frees up," said Julian Lamy, a Ph.D. candidate in the Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) Department who co-authored the paper with EPP faculty members Inês Azevedo and Paulina Jaramillo.


Allen Robinson becomes member of Health Effects Institute Special Committee on Unconventional Oil and Gas Development


Scott Institute researcher and Head of CMU's Mechanical Engineering Department Allen Robinson is a member of the recently-formed Special Committee on Unconventional Oil and Gas Development—a committee formed by the Health Effects Institute research institute funded jointly by government and industry.  

The mission of this committee is to develop a strategic plan to guide future research on potential health and environmental impacts of unconventional oil and gas development in the Appalachian Basin.

Jay Whitacre's Aquion Energy Named to the 2014 Sustainia100

Aquion Energy, a company founded by Scott Institute researcher and CMU Faculty member Jay Whitacre, was named to the 2014 Sustainia100 for its saltwater battery technology.  

The Sustainia100 is an annual publication highlighting 100 innovative environmentally sustainable solutions and strategies from around the world to educate investors, policy makers and other leaders on the promising innovations that exist in the field.  The battery is made from inexpensive, repurposed manufacturing equipment and uses simple, non-toxic materials such as saltwater, carbon and manganese to make renewable, off-grid power generation economically and environmentally affordable.


Scott Institute researcher Inês Azevedo selected as World Economic Forum New Champion

Scott Institute researcher and CMU faculty member Inês Azevedo has been selected to attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions.  Each year, the World Economic Forum selects 40 extraordinary scientists under the age of 40 to participate alongside business and political leaders in the Annual Meeting of the New Champions in China. 
These scientists are selected from all regions of the world and from a wide range of disciplines to bring value to the Meeting by contributing their scientific perspective and delivering the most up-to-date trends from various fields of science.  
The Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2014 will take place on 10-12 September in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China. The eighth Annual Meeting of the New Champions, the foremost global gathering on innovation, entrepreneurship, science and technology, will address this challenge under the theme “Creating Value through Innovation”. It will gather 1,500 industry leaders, chief executives of top-ranked multinationals, heads of state/government and ministers, as well as leaders from media, academia and civil society to explore the influence of new business models, industries and technologies in the context of sustainable and inclusive growth.