Emissions from Energy-Related Sources

Industrial activity and emissions from ports and shipping operations can have regional and global impacts

As the human population surpasses 7 billion and continues to grow, understanding and making informed decisions about our energy sources and use is essential. Our technological development and energy choices over the next few decades are critical as our climate is changing, and public health and environmental quality are suffering largely due to emissions associated with energy production and use.

The development and implementation of energy technology over the next few decades will have a substantial impact on these challenges. Emissions from current and alternative energies will impact their effective implementation to address global energy needs while also protecting human health and the environment. The focus of this emphasis of our group is to assess the environmental implications of current and evolving energy technologies to facilitate the sustainable development of future energy portfolio plans.

Research on air pollution and energy is essential to understand the implications of current and future energy technologies on environmental quality, public health, and climate, so our group seeks to answer timely questions at the nexus of air quality, energy, and climate change. Primary areas of interest include:

Transportation choices are changing around the world and have major implications for urban and regional air quality

  • Examining the emissions and air quality impacts associated with the extraction/cultivation, production, and combustion of alternative fuels (e.g. algal biofuel, unconventional fossil fuel)
  • Understanding how atmospheric composition and emissions from anthropogenic and biogenic sources change with an evolving energy portfolio for power/transportation and climate change. In particular, assessing variations between developed vs. developing regions and fast growing megacities with substantial energy consumption and worsening air quality?
  • Discerning the role of energy sources in the emission and formation of primary and secondary pollutants, and determining the most effective mitigation methods for primary and secondary organic aerosol on urban, regional, and global scales?

Measurement tower looking at emissions from motor vehicles and petroleum extraction operations in and around the urban area of Bakersfield, CA, which has some of the worst air quality in the country

Oil sands operations in Northern Alberta, Canada: a powerful source of SOA

With potential extraction of U.S. oil sands in Utah on the horizon, and Venezuela pondering their own resources, this is food for thought:



Coverage in the New York Times

Studies to assess the emissions and impacts of energy production and use are critical to responsibly meeting our energy needs, while protecting human health and the environment. These studies involve a mix of field/lab measurements and modeling/analysis to understand emissions from existing and emerging technologies. Our past work has examined emissions from gasoline and diesel vehicles, and oil/gas production using measurements at several field sites: towers in urban centers, mobile platform measurements via aircraft, and direct emissions measurements in roadway tunnels.
Papers on emissions from energy production/use:

Critical research needs to be done to understand the current and potential future impacts of energy production and use on emissions and air quality. This includes both traditional fossil energy, unconventional fossil sources and renewable energies, such as biofuels from a variety of production methods. Our group will continue to push limits of understanding to better predict the atmospheric impacts of energy choices.

Drew in a roadway tunnel setting up measurement equipment above passing traffic

NOAA WP-3D measurement aircraft (Image: NOAA)

Emissions from motor vehicles are a very important source of emissions of several detrimental pollutants in populated regions. These emissions include primary pollutants (e.g. black carbon, nitrogen oxides) and reactive gas-phase organic precursors to secondary pollutants ozone and secondary organic aerosols. Recent work in our group has better characterized these emissions of organic compounds in the and their ability to impact air quality.
Gentner_Pic_1One recent paper looked at the composition of gasoline and diesel, and their impacts on organic aerosol formation in the atmosphere; it was published and highlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Highlight in PNAS  Full Article with Supplement

Other work aims to address ozone formation potential of gasoline and diesel emissions, and look at the long-term trends in emissions of E.P.A. criteria pollutants in the U.S.

Chemical Composition of Gas-Phase Organic Carbon Emissions from Motor Vehicles and Implications for Ozone Production

Long-Term Trends in Motor Vehicle Emissions in U.S. Urban Areas

Stayed tuned for further analyses that explore the impacts of motor vehicles, including on a global scale.