CAUSE 2000

Energy Choices for the Next Millennium: Costs and Consequences


Derek Elsworth and Semih Eser

Department of Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering, PSU


Welcome to the CAUSE 2000 Homepage. This page is available to you as a primer on energy choices, their political and economic ramifications, and the potential costs and consequences of their adverse environmental effects.


Media Reports

Research|PennState [February 2001]


Course Overview and Resources

Overview [PowerPoint link; open in MS Explorer]

Course Talk Forum

Group Presentations



Meeting Logs



CAUSE Travel

Digital Image Archive

Field Study Reports

Travel Video [need Quicktime]

ICEEIT Website


Group Reports

Mid-Atlantic States Overview

North-Western States Energy Overview and Energy Policy [use MS Explorer]

Seattle Region

Ancilliary Reports on Dam Removal on the Snake River and RP Standards for Idaho, Washington and Wyoming.



What is CAUSE?


The acronym stands for the "Center for Advanced Undergraduate Study and Experience." CAUSE 2000 follows the format of its predecessors as a problem-based collaborative learning course. This CAUSE examines the economic, political, environmental and technological factors that govern our energy choices in the coming years. Details of CAUSE 2000 are included on the syllabus.



What is the problem with energy supply?


There is growing concern that rising levels of atmospheric CO2, resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, are changing the Earth's climate. Although this is a controversial issue, it is widely accepted that increased CO2 levels are a direct result of industrialization. However, the linkage between rising CO2 levels and current and projected changes in climate is more tenuous, more intensely debated, and the object of much focused research.


To make informed selections on potential energy sources for the future we must understand the role of current fuel and energy usage on global environmental quality. However, the primary focus of this study is on technological solutions.


What are the project goals?


We seek to examine the following:


What is the form and severity of climatic effects that are likely to result from current and increased levels of atmospheric CO2? What data are available?


What are acceptable climatic consequences, and to what levels of atmospheric CO2 do they conform? What level of uncertainty is associated with these estimates?



What are acceptable levels of emissions for industrialized and developing countries that do not exceed these acceptable atmospheric CO2 concentrations?


What mix of energy supply components is appropriate for a region to reduce emissions to this quota, and how should this compliance be encouraged or prescribed?



We shall assume that there is an undesirable effect on global environmental quality that results from the sustained emissions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels.




What are the complex "energy supply" interactions we need to understand?


We need to understand the complex interactions between the quality of life and of economic productivity and prosperity. Between the costs and perils of both protecting the environment, and of not protecting the environment. We need to be apprised of real and apparent costs of different energy sources, and to be able to qualify these comparisons with hard data.


         Political and Societal Constraints

         Industrialized West

         Developing nations


         Economic and Moral Imperatives

         Industrialized West

         Developing nations



What are the relative merits and demerits of current energy supply methods?


If levels of anthropogenic CO2 must be reduced, there are three basic courses of action: reduction, fuel switching, and the substitution of alternate or renewable fuels.


         Fossil fuels Overview, Genesis, Utilization, Environment, Future trends



         Natural Gas

         CO2 Capture Technology and sequestration

         Alternative fuels and energy sources

         Nuclear power



         Fuel Cells



         Solar Energy





What metrics do we use to evaluate an optimal "energy" supply solution?


Insight into this is the solution we are seeking in this course.


Last updated: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 20:11:51 -0500 - Derek Elsworth