Grandpa, What Did You Do to Make a Difference?

Nov 29 (Houston). COP21 kicks off this week in Paris. I will not be there, but my issue is how I answer the opening question. What did I choose to do? Join in the dialogue about what to do about CO2 emissions? Or find alternative routes to invest my time and ideas to, in some small measure, make the world a better place. The world is not short of problems including education, economic development, and natural resource utilization. And many of these problems are complicated by Climate Change.

Climate Change is an example of what EES Professors at Stanford referred to as a “corner eight problem” with (a) a high degree of complexity with multiple variables, (b) uncertainty around many of those probabilistic variables, and (c) dynamic over time.

If that were not enough, addressing Climate Change will require public policy (read political) action spanning independent nation states. Central is the classic natural resource economic “problem of the commons” where potentially large costs will be externalized or pushed off to future generations who do not have a vote in today’s decisions. Whatever path the world takes during COP21 and follow on meetings, there will be a need for sound and practical engineering solutions which are “economic” given whatever new policy environment emerges.

I intend to use this forum to discuss economic solutions for consideration by business and government to reduce the impact of Climate Change, create jobs, and advance development opportunities for both first world and third world economies. Expect a discussion of renewables, electric power generation and storage, distributed CHP, carbon capture, and liquid fuels. I will also cover fuelwood use in developing countries, including the potential for commercial forestry coupled with making wood pellets for a two-tier market: local consumption for cooking and heating as well as for export to replace coal.