2008 Outstanding Dissertation – Nicholas Lutsey

Prioritizing Climate Change Mitigation Alternatives: Comparing Transportation Technologies to Options in Other Sectors

Dr. Lutsey’s dissertation formulates an analytical method to better prioritize future climate change policy actions. He developed a framework to integrate current climate change mitigation technology alternatives from all sectors of the U.S. economy on an equal footing. He applies consistent economic assumptions to develop a multi-benefit cost-effectiveness accounting tool that simultaneously evaluates the technology costs, lifetime energy saving benefits, and GHG reductions in a single cost-per-tonne-reduced metric. The framework synthesizes data from disparate studies to compare and prioritize options across sectors as well as determine the aggregate impacts from multiple sectors. Dr. Lutsey covered all GHG-producing sectors, but placed special emphasis on transportation.

The research provides a framework and knowledge base to assess the potential greenhouse gas mitigation role of different technologies and practices. It assesses which technologies and practices are likely to gain the most impact and at what cost—and, most importantly, to compare the cost and magnitudes with other sectors. This research will be used in California and elsewhere in assessing how and to what extent transportation (and other sectors) should be targeted in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a more detailed sense, the research also indicates the types of technologies that could be developed – and roughly when (in terms of the development and commercialization path of the technologies). By putting forth findings that prioritize industry actions, the findings suggest how to strategically develop different technologies so as to minimize the net economic cost to society.

Some important contributions include:

  • Synthesizing emission-mitigation research from disparate fields (transportation, power sector, agriculture, residential, industrial) using a transparent method with consistent assumptions.
  • Quantifying cost-effectiveness of GHG strategies simultaneously for initial and lifetime costs.
  • Providing an integrated, standardized framework to evaluate prominent GHG-emitting technologies and actions from across the entire economy

The dissertation is a careful, detailed study that draws from engineering, economics and environmental sciences. The research was crafted specifically to bridge research gaps between these disciplines, so as to inform emerging major public policy questions, especially climate change mitigation goals and policies.

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