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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Assessment of Emerging Regional Air Quality (AQ) and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Impacts and Potential Mitigation Strategies in U.S. Energy Sectors

  • Author(s): Mac Kinnon, Michael Allen
  • Advisor(s): Brouwer, Jack
  • et al.

The current domestic reliance on high-emitting fossil fuels for energy needs is the key driver of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) and pollutant emissions driving both climate change and regional air quality (AQ) concerns. Moving forward, emission sources in U.S. energy sectors will be subjected to changes driven by numerous phenomena, including technology evolution, environmental impacts, sustainability goals, and socioeconomic factors. This evolution will directly affect emissions source-related impacts on regional AQ that effective emissions control strategies must account for, including relative source contributions. Though previous studies have evaluated the emissions and AQ impacts of different sectors, technologies and fuels, most previous studies have assessed emissions impacts only without using advanced atmospheric models to accurately account for both spatial and temporal emissions perturbations and atmospheric chemistry and transport. In addition, few previous studies have considered the integration of multiple technologies and fuels in different U.S. regions.. Finally, most studies do not project emissions several decades into the future to assess what sources should be targeted with priority over time. These aspects are critical for understanding how both emissions sources and potential mitigation strategies impact the formation and fate of primary and secondary pollutants, including ground-level ozone and particulate matter concentrations. Therefore, this work utilizes a set of modeling tools to project and then to spatially and temporally resolve emissions as input into a 3-D Eulerian AQ model to assess how sources of emissions contribute to future atmospheric pollutant burdens. Further, analyses of the potential impacts of alternative energy strategies contained in potential mitigation strategies are conducted for priority targets to develop an understanding of how to maximize AQ benefits and avoid unforeseen deleterious tradeoffs between GHG reduction and AQ. Findings include changes in the relative contribution to AQ that elevate the importance of addressing emissions from all sectors and sources including some that may be more difficult to control, including industry, petroleum refineries, and non-light duty vehicle transportation sources. Additionally, mitigation strategies must consider the full range of life cycle and system effects in order to avoid AQ tradeoffs spatially and temporally.

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