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Climate Change

Science Supporting Policy in California and Beyond

Photo: Ruihong Zhang of UC Davis

UC Davis Professor Ruihong Zhang shovels fresh table scraps from San Francisco restaurants into the biogas energy plant. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)  » READ MORE

Clean Technology/Energy

How do UC Davis faculty collaborate with policymakers?

Daniel Sperling is founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, a research unit that examines the future potentials of biofuels, an alternative vehicle technologies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Sperling is an international expert on transportation technology assessment, energy and environmental aspects of transportation and transportation policy. He has testified numerous times to Congress, State Legislature, and government agencies to offer critical examinations of future automotive technologies and fuels. Sperling coauthored the low-carbon fuel standard for California, drafted to cut the carbon in state fuels by 10 percent by 2020.

What research groups are investigating biomass for renewable fuels?

Bryan Jenkins, biological and agricultural engineering, is executive director of the California Biomass Collaborative, a state funded forum for industry, government, academic, and the environmental community. He is also co-chair of the UC Davis Bioenergy Research Group. Jenkins serves as faculty director of the Chevron-UC Davis joint research agreement for liquid transportation biofuels, and co-authored a UC low-carbon fuel standard report being prepared for the Governor. His research is principally concerned with understanding the influence of feedstock properties on the thermochemical conversion of biomass for renewable power and fuels. He evaluates system designs for enhanced environmental performance and economic feasibility.

Are cleaner energy sources the right first response? How is UC Davis ensuring its leading research makes a difference at this critical time?

Andy Hargadon, director, Center for Entrepreneurship and the Energy Efficiency Center, offers insight into how to bring new technologies to marketing quickly and effectively. He believes that the most important tool we have in addressing climate change today is energy efficiency. A large amount of effort is focused on alternative energy sources, but the fastest, cheapest and safest alternative remains increasing the amount of light, heat or productive activity from the energy we currently use. Productivity gains of 30 to 50 percent are not uncommon with focused efforts to increase efficiency. Large corporations and startups alike are finding opportunities to convert leading-edge energy efficiency technologies into profitable new ventures. Both the Energy Efficiency Center and the Center for Entrepreneurship connect emerging technologies with entrepreneurs, investors, corporate customers and state and federal partners to speed the launch of green technologies into the market. For green technology research to make a difference locally and globally, ideas need to be coupled with entrepreneurial teams, investors and partners. Otherwise they just won’t make it. The Center for Entrepreneurship works with campus researchers, entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers to identify, develop and help launch new businesses in green technology.

What campus group focuses on wind power and why is there a rapid growth in this energy source?

C.P. "Case" van Dam, a mechanical and aeronautical engineer, heads the California Wind Energy Collaborative, funded by the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research program. His research includes wind power engineering and for which he teaches industry short courses and consults for NASA and wind energy turbine manufacturers. He has served on review committees government agencies and research organizations. The growth in wind energy generation is fueled by the fact that it is abundantly available in many regions around the world. Wind energy conversion systems do not generate air pollution and the cost of wind energy is competitive with fossil fuel power plants but is not subject to fluctuating fuel prices. Wind plants consisting of tens of wind turbines can be installed, connected to the grid, and generating electricity in less than a year, making it one of the more rapidly deployable power generation technologies.

If vehicle usage triples worldwide by 2050 as expected, what are the options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles over the long term?

Joan Ogden, associate professor, environmental science and policy belives that hydrogen is one of the most feasible ways to power vehicles with zero emissions. As co-director of the Hydrogen Pathway Program at the Institute of Transportation Studies, she has conducted technical and economic assessments of hydrogen and fuel cell systems including the development of a hydrogen infrastructure for transportation applications. She developed an extensive set of data on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and tools for modeling infrastructure performance and costs. Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, she participated in their Hydrogen Vision and Roadmap (2001-2002), and headed the systems integration team for the National Hydrogen Roadmap. She served on the Blueprint Advisory Panel for the California Hydrogen Highway Network (2004) and is now active in the H2A, a group of hydrogen analysts convened by the Department of Energy to develop a consistent framework for analyzing hydrogen systems. She also served on the California Air Resources Board Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee for AB32.