Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Spring 2014 Seminar Series: John DeCicco

Date and Time
Friday, January 31, 2014 - 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.


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University of Michigan Professor John DeCicco will present a speech titled "The Liquid Carbon Challenge: Clarifying the Problem Statement for Transportation Fuels and Climate," at 10 a.m. Jan. 31.

The talk will explore how transportation climate policy might look if it were decoupled from policies premised on replacing petroleum. DeCicco will provide analysis of the factors that underpin transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions and a corollary analysis that examines biofuels based on carbon cycle fundamentals, based on his research.

Using recent data and growth projections for the United States and China, it is shown that promoting alternative fuels downstream in the transportation sector is less important than addressing net GHG impacts upstream in the energy and natural resources sectors that supply fuels of any form. An upstream perspective is crucial in the case of biofuels, for which a net additional removal of CO2 from the atmosphere is a precondition for any climate benefit. Therefore, although biofuels may help mitigate CO2 emissions when certain conditions are met, deemphasizing biofuel production in favor of terrestrial carbon management is likely to offer more effective ways to counterbalance the CO2 emitted when using carbon-based liquid fuels of any origin. Although not based on economic methods, this analysis suggests a need to rethink transportation climate policies in a manner better aligned with economic principles. The results also imply new areas of research need.

This talk is part of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the University Program in Environmental Policy seminar series featuring leading experts discussing a variety of pressing environmentally focused topics.