Human Impacts and Management of Carbon Sources

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The energy system dominates human-induced carbon flows on our planet. Globally, six billion tons of carbon are contained in the fossil fuels removed from below the ground every year. More than 90% of the carbon in fossil fuels is used for energy purposes, with carbon dioxide as the carbon product and the atmosphere as the initial destination for the carbon dioxide. Significantly affecting the carbon flows associated with fossil fuels is an immense undertaking. Four principal technological approaches are available to affect these carbon flows: (1) Fossil fuels and other energy resources can be utilized more efficiently; (2) Energy sources ... continued below

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6 pages

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Benson, S.; Edmonds, J.; Socolow, R. & Surles, T. August 20, 1999.

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The energy system dominates human-induced carbon flows on our planet. Globally, six billion tons of carbon are contained in the fossil fuels removed from below the ground every year. More than 90% of the carbon in fossil fuels is used for energy purposes, with carbon dioxide as the carbon product and the atmosphere as the initial destination for the carbon dioxide. Significantly affecting the carbon flows associated with fossil fuels is an immense undertaking. Four principal technological approaches are available to affect these carbon flows: (1) Fossil fuels and other energy resources can be utilized more efficiently; (2) Energy sources other than fossil fuels can be used; (3) Carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels can be trapped and redirected, preventing it from reaching the atmosphere (fossil carbon sequestration); and (4) One can work outside the energy system to remove carbon dioxide biologically from the atmosphere (biological carbon sequestration). An optimum carbon management strategy will surely implement all four approaches and a wise R&D program will have vigorous sub-programs in all four areas. These programs can be effective by integrating scenario analyses into the planning process. A number of future scenarios must be evaluated to determine the need for the new technologies in a future energy mix. This planning activity must be an iterative process. At present, R&D in the first two areas--energy efficiency and non-fossil fuel energy resources--is relatively well developed. By contrast, R&D in the third and the fourth areas--the two carbon sequestration options--is less well developed. The task before the workshop was to recommend ways to initiate a vigorous carbon sequestration research program without compromising the strength of the current programs in the first two areas. We recommend that this task be fulfilled by initiating several new programs in parallel. First, we recommend that a vigorous carbon sequestration program be launched. We have confidence that the time is ripe for this new undertaking. Several studies conducted over the past two years have scoped out the research issues that need to be explored and have revealed a wide variety of technological approaches that call out for detailed analysis and field testing. Second, we recommend that R&D efforts in the areas of efficient energy use and clean energy (technologies not using fossil resources or significantly reducing carbon emissions per unit of energy generated) be maintained and strengthened. The lead times necessary for market penetration of successful technologies when they are needed require a robust federally funded R&D program. Third, we recommend that a broad carbon management research program be properly integrated into all four of the approaches listed above. Specifically, we recommend four elements of such a program: (1) A program in support of decision-oriented research, emphasizing life-cycle analysis systems and risk analysis, with the concomitant development of tools for technology assessment, cross-technology comparison, and analysis of externalities. (2) A program designed to support a small number of research centers, each focusing on a specific area of carbon management, creatively combining several disciplinary approaches and featuring strong industry participation. (3) A program in support of investigator-initiated research; and (4) A program focused on effective means of engaging the public. All of these initiatives must give considerable weight to the consideration of the social implications of the technologies under investigation. We believe that public acceptance will be and should be a critical determinant of the evolution of the technologies, whose promise the proposed program is designed to explore.

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6 pages

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OSTI as DE00841053

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  • Other Information: PBD: 20 Aug 1999

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  • Report No.: LBNL--44165
  • Grant Number: AC03-76SF00098
  • DOI: 10.2172/841053 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 841053
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc787875

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

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  • August 20, 1999

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Dec. 3, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

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  • Sept. 25, 2017, 4:08 p.m.

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Benson, S.; Edmonds, J.; Socolow, R. & Surles, T. Human Impacts and Management of Carbon Sources, report, August 20, 1999; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc787875/: accessed September 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.