For the past year, leaders of five societies representing more than one million engineers and other technical professionals have been meeting to identify steps the country might take toward managing carbon emissions, a key issue in climate change discussions, should that become public policy. According to a press release from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the group has developed a Web site for collaboration (http://www.aiche.org/FSCarbonMgmt/) and scorecards for benchmarking carbon management alternatives. The scorecards are part of an effort to assess the merits of different carbon management technologies, to identify barriers to technology deployment, and to address gaps and barriers to measuring and verifying carbon emissions.

The societies participating are: AIChE, the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers; the American Society of Civil Engineers; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The scorecards developed so far focus on electric power and transportation systems, with expansion to other sectors planned. Dale L. Keairns, past president of AIChE, who serves as chair of the group, said that these two areas were selected for the first scorecards because “together they emit more than four billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year—about 70 percent of total emissions in the U.S.”

The scorecards employ an A, B, C, D and F grading system similar to one used in many schools. The electric power scorecard charts a variety of power sources, including coal (with and without carbon capture and sequestration), natural gas, petroleum, nuclear, renewables (solar, wind, biomass, and tidal energy) by emission per kilowatt hour, emission per generated kilowatt, and total greenhouse gas emissions per unit, among other attributes. The transportation scorecard rates vehicular, air, and rail transportation systems, using traditional and new fuel sources and technologies, by carbon emissions, miles traveled, availability, safety, impact on land and water use, and air quality issues.

Keairns said the overall goal of the engineers’ effort, underwritten by the United Engineering Foundation, is to assure that “engineers, educators, the general public, and policy makers have the best-available information, and sound engineering advice and recommendations” for managing greenhouse gasses.

“Stabilizing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires involvement from a broad range of industries, technologies and disciplines,” Keairns commented. “The participating societies bring together the expertise of engineers along the entire supply chain of energy, from extraction to use, including the development and use of next generation technologies,” he said. He also pointed out, given the importance of incorporating global developments into carbon management, that the societies have international reach and membership.

The engineers see that controlling carbon emissions from energy generation requires a long-term perspective. Unfortunately, the energy challenge has tended to receive only short-term attention when fossil fuel prices are high or when there are disruptions or shortages in supplies. They believe that this lack of long-term commitment and focus is no longer acceptable. “The need for energy security and for economically and environmentally sustainable energy systems is extremely serious and must be ongoing,” Keairns said.

He added that the professional engineering societies have an important role to play because of their balanced, technically-based approach and their experience disseminating new technical information, be it through traditional conferences and publications, online discussions and training, or Congressional briefings.

Further information on carbon dioxide emissions is available from the US Department of Energy at: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/flash/flash.html