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Partnering to protect the environment.

The impact of global climate changes on technology - and the effect that manufacturing processes and other technologies may have on the world's environment - are hotly debated issues on Capitol Hill and in the boardrooms of major manufacturers. The debate ranges from the fundamental argument over whether there is definitive evidence that the world's climate is changing in response to human intervention, to the specific question of what companies can do to reduce pollutants in their operations.

As expected, the debate, with its immense environmental and financial implications, isn't just about science. There certainly are political overtones as well. But while an ultimate resolution is not yet on the horizon, it's clear that at least in the United States there is considerable commitment by four key sectors of the economy - construction, transportation, manufacturing, and electric utilities - to expanding and adopting energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies.

U.S. goals are to restrain the growth of domestic energy consumption and carbon emissions so that levels in 2010 are close to those in 1997 (for energy) and 1990 (for carbon).

As Howard J. Herzog of the Energy Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge said recently at an Industry Advisory Board meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, there are two keys to achieving these goals: first, to identify and develop sequestration options that are technically feasible, economically viable, and environmentally sound; and, second, to significantly reduce costs associated with today's technology for C[O.sub.2] separation and capture.

Any discussion affecting industry, of course, has to include its members. But until recently, some of the biggest manufacturers felt left out of the dialogue. At the Ford Motor Co., for example, Bill Powers, the vice president of research, said that a prudent global response must include the pursuit of advanced technologies leading to high-fuel-economy vehicles for global markets. A successful strategy must also include building and deploying fleets of high-fuel-economy vehicles, and formulating joint auto- and oil-industry programs that integrate fuel and powertrain options.

Meanwhile, in the power industry, it's generally agreed that reducing C[O.sub.2] emissions will include fuel diversity, flexibility, and sustainability. Manoj K. Guha, manager of business planning for the power-generation business unit of the American Electric Power Service Co., believes the hurdles associated with reducing C[O.sub.2] emissions include requiring developing countries to participate in finding a solution (and then to adhere to it), and formulating a comprehensive energy-technology research-and-development strategy.

A special ASME task force on climate change is formulating a report that will detail some of the major R&D issues impacting emission reduction in the power-generation and automotive industries.

Right now, there is no general consensus in industry that the issue of global warming is a problem. But leaders of major corporations, long considered the culprits in global environmental problems, say they want to play a significant role in finding a prudent way to reduce emissions and in developing new and permanent processes that will protect the environment for generations to come. A comprehensive approach that includes the public and private sectors is sure to be the most effective way to begin the arduous road toward a solution.

John Falcioni can be reached by e-mail at
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Title Annotation:collaboration between the construction, transportation, manufacturing and electric utilities sector
Author:Falcioni, John G.
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 1998
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