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Melting Down and Scaling Up: Stabilizing Climate Change by Promoting Private Sector Technology Development

October 14th, 2009

By Brian Perusse*, Matthew Riggins*, Jeff Rodgers*, and Maury Zimring*
*Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

This paper will examine the role the private sector plays in researching, developing, and deploying technology that has the potential to deter or decrease the impacts of global warming. It will explore the degree to which the private sector can have an impact on global warming by focusing on four specific technologies: aircraft engines, wind turbines, solar energy, and clean coal technologies. We will compare the environmental impact of these technologies with the business case for pursuing each, specifically related to profitability and market maturity. We conclude that the business case alone is not sufficiently compelling to stimulate meaningful industry investment in these areas. Consequently, specific government involvement is needed for CO2 reduction. This analysis will shed light on the role that government must play in order to more effectively engage potential private sector players in the global warming challenge.

Download PDF Full Text from EBSCOhost


Reference List
Perusse, Brian, Matthew Riggins, Jeff Rodgers, and Maury Zimring. 2009. “Melting Down and Scaling Up: Stabilizing Climate Change by Promoting Private Sector Technology Development.” Review of Policy Research 26, no. 4: 511-531. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 14, 2009).

Environment, Environment Articles

America’s Climate Choices

October 13th, 2009

The National Academies have launched a multi-year study by the request of Congress. The studies are meant to guide actionable chioces. To learn more about the project visit the America’s Climate Choices webpage.

Environment, Environment Videos

Building Green on University Campuses

October 13th, 2009

Originally published by The Triple Helix.

Allison Shapiro, Samantha Bowen, Margaret Farland, Amelia Wesselink, Erin Doherty, Georgetown University

Opinions expressed in the Op-Ed articles are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Triple Helix. However, submission of varying and divergent opinions on controversial and current issues is encouraged.

For the United States, accelerated climate change is not only an environmental concern, but also a matter of national security. As a net importer of energy [1], the U.S. is heavily dependent upon the stability of energy supply from other countries for maintaining the high standard of living that Americans enjoy. Recent events on the global arena have demonstrated, however, that this supply is not only vulnerable to periods of instability, but also unsustainable. Furthermore, scientists around the world have stated with increasing consensus that human activities are largely to blame for the global warming that has given rise to climate change, most notably the production and consumption of fossil fuels, which releases large quantities of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere [2]. For these reasons, measures to promote energy independence, conservation, and efficiency must be implemented immediately to reduce the threats to our national security, the environment, and human life that are posed by climate change and energy dependence.

In this country, buildings contribute more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than either the transportation or industry sectors [3], and universities – as conglomerations of buildings – are large contributors to the problem. Yet, while the 110th Congress has made both climate change and energy independence top priorities, federal legislation has not focused on buildings as major energy consumers and indirect emitters of carbon dioxide. Greening university buildings will not only reduce the United States’ contribution to global warming, but showcase new energy-efficient technologies and designs to students and local communities, promoting their widespread adoption throughout society.

Global warming refers to an increase in average global temperatures believed to be due to increasing concentrations of atmospheric gases, known as greenhouse gases, which are particularly effective at trapping in heat. When the Sun’s rays reach the Earth, a portion of the solar radiation is absorbed by the biosphere, while the rest is reflected back into space. Some of this reflected radiation successfully exits the atmosphere, but a portion of it is absorbed by the greenhouse gases, heating the lower layers of the atmosphere. While some of this heat retention is beneficial for life on the planet (most species would be unable to survive without a good amount of warming), an excessive amount of warming is not. This is the crux of the problem that the world faces today with regard to greenhouse gases; elevated levels of the gases are projected to give rise to accelerated atmospheric warming, whose downstream effects include everything from melting glaciers and rising sea levels to an increased incidence of extreme weather events.

In 2003, buildings in the United States accounted for 37% of the nation’s energy use, 68% of its electricity consumption, 40% of its raw materials, and 36% of its carbon dioxide emissions [4]. The implementation of energy-efficient technologies and design in buildings, i.e. “building green,” can significantly reduce these numbers, while reducing maintenance and operating costs at the same time. These technologies range from easily installed innovations such as Energy Star™ appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs to more complicated design features such as solar paneled-roofs, on-site water treatment facilities, and the strict utilization of recycled products in building construction. These features may either be installed during the original construction of a building or implemented during renovations by “retrofitting” new technologies into older systems. In addition to their energy-saving and efficiency benefits, green buildings also reduce the production of material waste and contribute to increased worker productivity through the use of natural light and improved air quality, such as through air cycling with outdoor air [5]. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the extra financial investment of building green can be recouped within three to five years, if there is even an additional initial building cost [4]. If widely implemented, green building technologies will significantly alter our nation’s energy needs and decrease the strain we impose on the environment.

As concerned environmentalists, we recognize the need for green buildings and believe that their benefits are too great to ignore. As students, we recognize the profound effect that placing green buildings in an educational context can have for their widespread adoption throughout society. Institutions of higher education are uniquely poised to showcase the benefits of green building design and technologies to student communities and visitors alike. As hubs of progressive thought, universities are regarded by the rest of the nation as models for responsible and forward-thinking behavior. Additionally, student involvement in green building programs will raise awareness of the need to adopt more energy-conscious lifestyles and inspire the next generation of American engineers, scientists, and other environmentally-minded professionals. For these reasons, we felt that university campuses would be excellent venues for a federal green building program.

With the goal of establishing a federal program to promote green buildings and a set of reasons why universities should be the foci of such a program, we went to Congress in late February 2007. The offices we visited initially were chosen based on the policy records of the Congressmen, both of whom had introduced legislation aimed at environmental protection in the recent past and represent very environmentally-oriented constituencies. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA, 1st District) has been a public proponent of environmental protection for years, with a particular interest in energy independence and climate change abatement. Freshman Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had put forth numerous pieces of environmental legislation during his career as a House Representative, and as a new member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he seemed potentially receptive to our proposal.

Staff in both Senator Sanders’ office and Representative Inslee’s office expressed interest in working with us to develop such a federal program, but Senator Sanders’ office was the first to draft language for it. Within three weeks of our first visit to Senator Sanders’ office, his Senior Policy Advisor for Education had sent us the text of an amendment calling for the creation of a federal grant program to promote energy sustainability in institutions of higher education. The amendment was intended to go into the Higher Education Act (HEA), which the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee was due to submit to the floor for reauthorization later in the spring, but would be funded by the Department of Energy. We then met with relevant staffers in the offices of both Senator Kennedy (D-MA), chairman of the HELP Committee, and Senator Domenici (R-NM), ranking member of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, to ask their support for the amendment.

As we worked with legislative staffers on Capitol Hill and over email, we also initiated conversations with local and national grassroots and non-profit organizations whose membership support or advice we identified as being helpful for either our lobbying efforts or the creation of an effective federal green building program. We identified the Georgetown University chapter of the Campus Climate Challenge as a primary group of constituents to mobilize. We also contacted the United States Green Building Council, which guided us to the most relevant informational materials to present to Congressional offices. Additionally, we contacted the Association for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), an organization of hundreds of university presidents and campus sustainability coordinators, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) – a local global warming advocacy group with a large grassroots membership – both of which agreed to mobilize their members to contact their Senators in support of the amendment if the need arose.

On April 16th, the proposed amendment was inserted the Energy Efficiency Promotion Act of 2007 (S.1115). This Act received strong support within the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, bipartisan support within the Senate, and broad committee support in terms of the committees on which its cosponsors sit. In inserting the amendment into S.1115, slight modifications were made to the proposed grant program, including the removal of an appropriations cap and the stipulation that at least half of the grant money be awarded to schools with small endowments. The amendment was later included in the Clean Energy Act of 2007, which passed the Senate on June 21st.

The Senate has taken a critical step to assist universities in building green. Now, the provision must be reconciled with a House version of the Clean Energy Act of 2007 later this year. University students can continue to play a critical role in moving this legislation forward by meeting with their Representatives and participating in their campus advocacy organizations to urge passage of the provision.


1. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis Briefs: United States, Background (EIA Online Publication, November 2005; http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Usa/Background.html).

2. UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2007: Mitigation (Contribution of Working Groups III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC [B.Metz, O.R. Davidson, P. R. Bosch, R. Dave, L.A. Meyer (eds.)], 2007; http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM040507.pdf).

3. U.S. Energy Information Administration, as referenced by C. Hawthorne, “Turning Down the Global Thermostat,” Metropolis Magazine, October 2003, http://www.metropolismag.com/html/content_1003/glo/index.html).

4. U.S. Green Building Council, “Building Momentum: National Trends and Prospects for High-Performance Green Buildings” (USGBC, Washington, DC: 2003).

5. J. Romm, Rocky Mountain Institute, “Greening the Building and the Bottom Line: Increasing Productivity through Energy Efficient Design” (Snowmass, CO: 1994; http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/BuildingsLand/D94-27_GBBL.pdf).

Environment, Environment Articles

The Truth About Nicotine: Smoking Out Testing Deficiencies

October 13th, 2009

Originally published by The Triple Helix.

Jessica O’Hara, Sarah Bronko, Gengen He, Akilah Jefferson, Rebecca Greene, and Nina Zheng, Georgetown University

Opinions expressed in the Op-Ed articles are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Triple Helix. However, submission of varying and divergent opinions on controversial and current issues is encouraged.

It is no secret that the tobacco industry has been a major target of criticism and controversy by both health and government organizations for decades. Highly publicized lawsuits and rebuttals have been commonplace on the national news. Most of us have seen the smoking “TRUTH” campaign ads on television, have repeatedly heard “smoking kills” and have come to assume that people are listening and taking this information seriously. Yet, tobacco continues to remain a pertinent issue in America.

Despite the reductions in smoking trends over the past 20 years, there is still a major age group that is experiencing high rates of smoking. According to the Center for Disease Control, between the years of 1983-2003, a consistent decline in smoking occurred in all age groups EXCEPT persons aged 18-24, the age range of your typical university student. Studies have also shown that almost 90% of college students who are daily smokers and 50% of college students who are occasional smokers will still be smoking four years later after graduation [1].

This is no surprise considering new information released in January 2007 by a study conducted by the Harvard University School of Public Health. Initiated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), Harvard scientists’ research concluded that over the past 10 years, tobacco companies have been steadily increasing the amount of nicotine delivered per cigarette. The study confirmed “increased machine-measured levels of smoke nicotine, the addictive agent in cigarettes, as a result of increased nicotine in the tobacco rod and by other design modifications.” [2] This increase in nicotine level makes it more likely that occasional smokers, including 28.7% of the college-age population, will become everyday smokers. Because of outdated testing methods and inadequate reporting requirements, this information slipped below federal radar and the nicotine increase was not discovered until 2006.

In light of the recent Harvard study, it becomes obvious that the increase in cigarette nicotine yield corresponds to the increased rates of addiction among smokers. We, as college students who fall within the 18-24 year old age range – a primary target age group of the tobacco industry – should enter this tobacco debate and take direct action.

Congress has recently taken measures to strengthen governmental oversight over the tobacco industry by introducing the Family Smoking and Prevention Act into both the House of Representatives and the Senate. H.R.1108 and S.625, each with identical language, call for the Food and Drug Administration to be recognized as “the primary Federal regulatory authority with respect to the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products.”[3] Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), sponsor of S.625, took particular notice of the Harvard study when introducing the bill, stating that “Congress has been an accomplice in the travesty because of the success of the tobacco lobby in blocking real reform. Hopefully, the study will be a wake-up call to persuade Republicans and Democrats alike to enact long overdue legislation.” [4] In reference to nicotine yield disclosure, however, this legislation makes no mention of modifying the existing cigarette testing methods and reporting requirements currently used by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This omission is cause for concern.

The FTC has been regulating the nicotine yield of cigarettes since 1965 and has required the same testing method and report parameters ever since. After a report published by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the mid-1990s strongly suggesting that changes be made to the FTC protocol, the FTC attempted to take matters into its own hands. In 1997, the FTC officially announced plans to devise a new testing method after admitting that “limitations present in the system since its initiation in 1967 have become of substantial concern due to changes in modern cigarette design and a better understanding of the effects of compensatory smoking behavior.”[5]

The FTC requested in 1998 that the Department of Health and Human Services compile a review of the testing methods, admitting that “due to their scientific nature, these issues fall more within the expertise of HHS.”[6] The HHS and NCI were to convene a working group to address the issue; however, a decade later a consensus on the matter has still not been met. The Chief of NCI’s Tobacco Research Branch, Dr. Scott Lieschow, accounts for this delay by admitting that “we don’t know what a real alternative to the FTC method would be.”[7] The health of American smokers cannot afford another decade of stagnation and uncertainty.

A new cigarette testing
methodology is needed for the FDA.

Courtesy of www.ntis.gov
The debate over the most accurate cigarette testing method continues: Has enough information been synthesized for the Government to garner support for one cigarette testing methodology over another? Will a smoking machine ever be designed that will be able to adequately reflect the habits of a human smoker? Will the FDA be capable of regulating and applying the standards of a new method?

Issues concerning the tobacco industry are often pegged as partisan and controversial. In order to attain broad-spectrum support, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act has been meticulously crafted as a bipartisan bill to appeal to all political and interested parties. Philip Morris USA, for example, has even endorsed the FDA legislation in its entirety. [8] For this reason, an amendment to the bill which suggests parameters for a new testing method based on that used by Harvard and the MDPH, is not enthusiastically welcomed as we learned from conversations with the congressional staffer who drafted the bill. Any change to the bill as it stands would put FDA legislation in serious jeopardy of not being passed.

There is an alternative to legislative action. For example, the FDA could be instructed to adopt a new testing methodology. A recent report released on May 24th by an NIH panel urged the FDA to mandate a reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes. The report, entitled Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation, notes the inaccuracy of current testing methods and their inability to gauge the full toxicity of tobacco products. It expresses the need for “a regulatory body that can systematically assess toxic exposures, make judgments about potential risks from tobacco products, regulate industry claims about the products to ensure that they are accurate and not misleading… and provide relevant surveillance to determine actual human exposures and risks. [9]

Congress should disregard partisan differences and vote to pass S. 625 and H.R. 1108. Without change, we again risk the unmonitored manipulation of cigarette nicotine content for another ten years at the expense of the health of present and future Americans.


[1] “Study: Majority of College Smokers Don’t Quit,” Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, 14 April 2004 (28 January 2007).

[2] Connolly, G.; Alpert, H.; Wayne, G. & Koh, H. (2007). Trends in Smoke Nicotine Yield and Relationship to Design Characteristics Among Popular U.S. Cigarette Brands, 1997 – 2005. Harvard School of Public Health, Online: http://www.hsph. harvard.edu/nicotine/trends.pdf.

[3] H.R.1108 and S.625. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Introduced: February 15, 2007.

[4] “ Statement by Senator Edward M. Kennedy on Harvard Study Revealing Big Tobacco Efforts to Keep Smokers Hooked,” Senator Edward M. Kennedy Press Releases, 17 January 2007, http://kennedy.senate.gov/newsroom/ pressrelease.cfm?id=0d0ec94c-312c-40d3-9761-0822f6864ef2 (1 February 2007).

[5] FTC Cigarette Report. (1997). Online: http://www.ftc.gov/os/1999/07/ seciiiof1997cigarettereport.pdf.

[6] Letter from Donald S. Clark, Secretary of the FTC, to Donna E. Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (Letter dated: November 19, 1998): Online: http://www.philipmorris.cn/global/downloads/SH/1998_FTC_ test_letter.pdf.

[7] Zielinski, J. (2005). Smoking machine tests inadequate and confusing, but no replacement a decade later. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 97(1):10-11. Online: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/97/1/10.

[8] Michael E. Szymanczyk’s (Philip Morris USA Chairman & CEO) letter to the sponsors of FDA legislation. (Letter dated: February 15, 2007). Online: http://www.philipmorrisusa.com/en/our_initiatives/downloads/pdf/Michael_E_Szymanczyk_Letter_FDA.pdf.

[9] Bonnie, Richard J.; Stratton, Kathleen and Robert B. Wallace. “Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation.” Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. 24 May 2007: 236.

Global Health, Global Health Articles

EPA’s Stewardship Program: A First Step in Responsible Nanotechnology Growth

October 13th, 2009

Originally published by The Triple Helix.

Alysia Bone, Claire Comfort, Julie Devine, and Michelle Lorica
Georgetown University

Opinions expressed in the Op-Ed articles are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Triple Helix. However, submission of varying and divergent opinions on controversial and current issues is encouraged.

Nanotechnology, or the use of particles at the 1-100 nanometer scale, is a fast-growing and exciting area of science. Nanoproducts have the potential for many new applications in daily life. Some nanoproducts already on the market are stain-resistant pants, more effective sunscreens and sunglasses, and alternative fuel additives. Despite nanotech’s undeniable potential benefits, some health risks have been associated with their use. For instance, nanoparticles have been shown to be small enough to become embed in the lungs, causing respiratory problems. [1] Because of their scale, nanoparticles could incorporate into DNA, potentially causing carcinogenic mutations. [2] Some of these potential hazards could also provide great health or technological benefits. For example, nanoparticles are able to cross the blood-brain barrier. This could be lifesaving in terms of drug delivery to the brain, since larger particles are not able to cross this barrier. On the other hand, if nanoparticles become prevalent in the environment, they could indiscriminately cross this blood-brain barrier, potentially leading to brain damage. In fact, studies on a specific nanoparticle called the buckyball have already shown that exposure to even a small concentration of nanoparticles can lead to brain damage in fish. [3]

Nanoparticles can be designed
to perform various functions.
Courtesy of proteomics.cancer.gov

To date, the federal government has done little to regulate or establish guidelines for the nanotech industry. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars published a report on nanotechnology, which made clear that there is currently no tailored regulation on the nanotech market. “Nanotechnology is difficult to address using existing regulations. There are a number of existing laws … that provide some legal basis for reviewing and regulating NT materials. However, all of these laws either suffer from major shortcomings of legal authority, or from a gross lack of resources, or both.” [4]

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a White Paper on nanotechnology which recognized both the benefits and the risks, but has not yet placed any special regulations on nanomaterials [5], even though they display unique and potentially toxic properties. [6]

To determine whether the potential risks of nanotechnology should be more aggressively assessed, we began directly contacting government officials.

We met first with a nanotech expert from the Environmental Protection Agency to determine the EPA’s stance on the safety of the technology. He informed us of the many obstacles to regulation that the industry faces, among them: the difficulty of establishing a regulatory definition of “nanoparticle,” what little is known about their properties, the current lack of funding, and the fine line between new and existing materials. For instance, the ability of the EPA to swiftly approve a product to be put on the market is determined by whether or not the components of the product are in their database of “existing” elements. The characteristics of these elements are observed at the elements’ bulk, or macro, scale. If the components are all in this database, the EPA can then enforce the predetermined regulations and certify the product. If the components, however, are “new,” or not in the database, the EPA must further research the novel materials and then determine how to proceed. Nanotechnology complicates this procedure as a product may contain an element that is “existing” according to the EPA, but demonstrate very different characteristics at this nanoscale, posing the question of whether the nanoparticle is new or existing.

nano2A nanopore array used
to make nanowires.
Courtesy of http://www.anl.gov

The EPA official mentioned that a Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program, which was proposed in November 2005, would begin the process of gathering information about nanoparticles. The program would tackle such issues as risk assessment and proper regulation procedures. This proposal may seem like an appealing start, but we were disappointed to learn that the Stewardship Program will probably not be enacted for at least a year.

Our chief concern is that a lack of understanding about the potential health risks of nanoparticles could result in a tragedy akin to the asbestos disaster in which the risks were discovered only after the material became widespread. With more than 200 nanotech products already on the market, it will become increasingly difficult to get ahead of any potential public health risk. [7]

Following our meeting with the EPA, we decided to appeal to Congress to advance the Stewardship Program. We met with a professional staffer for the House Science Committee, who was enthusiastic about our goal, but informed us that there is not currently enough concern on the Hill to get Congress to actively support the Stewardship Program. This needs to change.

We have met with staff in the offices of Members of Congress responsible for overseeing nanotech regulation including Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ, Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Congressmen Jim Saxton (R-NJ, Member of the Resources Committee) and Norm Dicks (D-WA, Ranking Member of the Environment Appropriations Subcommittee). Increased Congressional attention can ensure the timely implementation of the Stewardship Program.

Nanotechnology is a promising and exciting new field, but the responsible growth of the industry requires a careful examination of potential risks. It is in the government’s – and public’s – best interest to act now.


[1] Weiss, Rick. “Nanotech Raises Worker-Safety Questions”. The Washington Post, 8 Apr 2006, A01.

[2] Hoet, P.H.M., Bruske-Hohlfeld, I., and Salata, O.V. 2004. “Nanoparticles – known and unknown health risks”. Journal of Nanobiotechnology. 2: 12.

[3] Oberdorster, E. 2004. Toxicity of nC60 fullerenes to two aquatic species: Daphnia and largemouth bass. Abstract IEC21. 227th ACS National Meeting. March 28-Aril 1. Anaheim, CA.

[4] Davies, J. Clarence. “Managing the Effects of Nanotechnology.” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

[5] Nanotechnology White Paper (External Review Draft). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.: 2 Dec 2005.

[6] Nel, A., T. Xia, L. Madler, and N. Li. 2006. Toxic Potential of Materials at the Nanolevel. Science: 311: 622-627.

[7] Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Environment, Environment Articles