MTU Researchers Introduce New Theory to Calculate Emissions Liability


A new study by Michigan Tech researchers questions conventional methods of calculating carbon emissions liability based on point source pollution by introducing new “bottleneck” theory.

A comparison of the results for conventional point source pollution and bottleneck carbon emissions sources shows that oil and natural gas pipelines are far more important than simple point source emissions calculations would indicate. It also shifts the emissions liability toward the East Coast from the Midwest. Most surprisingly, the study found that seven out of eight oil pipelines in the US responsible for facilitating the largest amount of carbon emissions are not American.

Fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) emit carbon dioxide when burned, which scientists say is the greenhouse gas primarily responsible for global warming and climate change. Climate change causes numerous problems that economists call “externalities” because they are external to the market. In a new study published in Energies, Alexis Pascaris, graduate student in environmental and energy policy, and Joshua Pearce, the Witte Professor of Engineering, both of Michigan Technological University, explain how current US law does not account for these costs and explore how litigation could be used to address this flaw in the market. The study also investigates which companies would be at most risk.

Pearce explained their past work found that “as climate science moves closer to being able to identify which emitters are responsible for climate costs and disasters, emissions liability is becoming a profound business risk for some companies.”

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