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Clean technologies and baby steps

April 22, 2009

I listened to a presentation last night by a master’s student from another university who discussed alternative fuel sources and environmental technologies. There was a great deal of information presented and the student stated over and over there was very little in the way of research available from the U.S. I found this hard to accept and began to quickly do a search on the Web of Science and ultimately concluded the student simply wasn’t looking in the right place. My Web of Science search yielded results that suggested there was more evidence of U.S. academic research in the area of alternative energy than from any other country. No matter – this is a learning process right?

As we continued through the rest of the presentation I was plagued by the question of what is really going on with regard to emerging technologies in other countries and in the U.S. I considered other countries whose populations have exploded over the past decade, specifically places like the United Arab Emirates and China and thought surely they would be ripe for such advances. In my search I found an article which pointed out the difficulty and obstacles toward obtaining clean technologies in less developed countries and the nature of the article brought to light the challenges the world faces in quickly and sustainably solving the problem of alternative energy sources.

Najjar (2008) gives a very technical account of the potential harmful effects of fossil fuel combustion that is common in parts of the Middle East. Najjar (2008) is a member of the Mechanical Engineering Department in the Jordan University of Science and Technology and focuses upon reducing gaseous pollutants, the potential damage to the environment if they are not mitigated, appropriate technologies for accomplishing CO2 abatement and fuel conservation in transportation settings. Najjar (2008) cites previous research findings that state unmitigated releases of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) contribute to the degrading of the earth’s ozone layer and might contribute to global warming. Najjar (2008) also states that although CO2 is the least damaging of the greenhouse gasses emitted, it is by far the most common gas released into the atmosphere and as such, creates an immediate opportunity for a reduction in its current 60% contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Najjar (2008) evaluates two means of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and they are either solution in the ocean or the utilization of CO2 in photosynthesis by green plants. Methodologies and configurations Najjar (2008) explores include exhaust gas treatment, fuel decarbonization and the use of carbon dioxide as the working fluid. The proposed technologies Najjar (2008) cites as viable are based upon the principles of chemical absorption, physical absorption and cryogenic condensation. Energy efficiency is also cited by Najjar (2008) as a complementary strategy in reducing the amount of air pollution emitted by vehicles in developing countries. Several technologies are being employed to increase the energy efficiency of highways and motorized vehicles but Najjar (2008) advocates additional measures not unlike those already being seen in developed countries such as the U.S. and in the European Union.

Because of the nature of Najjar’s (2008) scope, little discussion is given to alternative technologies beyond utilizing current technologies to increase efficiency. Najjar (2008) does spend a little time discussing the market drivers for alternative technologies but within the scope of a developing country with little chance of forsaking its current route of utilizing oil as a main source of fuel for transportation, the discussion is brief.

It is interesting to consider the concept of fuel efficiency from the technology lens of a developing country such as is the case in Najjar’s (2008) analysis. Fuel cell transportation and market drivers are limited concerns given where the country is in its development and while those technologies are certainly more front and center in developed countries, it is interesting to see that places such as Jordan, despite its wealth, still has a long way to go before it catches up to developed countries such as the EU and the U.S. This is not to imply that the U.S. always does everything it could/should with regard to fuel efficiency as we have had and known about a number of promising alternative fuel technologies for years but have failed to build them to a scalable solution that could be adopted by the sum of our society.

Resources:
Najjar, Y. (2008). Modern and appropriate technologies for the reduction of gaseous pollutants and their effects on the environment. Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, 10(3), 269-278. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1512275491).
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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 23, 2009 4:22 pm

    thanks for sharing

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