The Center's activities include three broad areas: (1) production and transformation of energy, including mining and extraction of fossil fuels, refining and other processing of fuels, (2) development of renewable and alternative energy resources, including improved energy efficiency and increased energy conservation, (3) understanding the science and possible applications of the carbon cycle and carbon sequestration, and investigating environmental and economic consequences of various forms of energy production, distribution, and use including both mobile and stationary applications. Within these broader areas, three specific foci were selected:
- Environmental and economic consequences of energy production, distribution, and use projects include scientific and policy evaluations of the scope and magnitude of various energy systems and their consequences for affecting environmental systems, such as global climate change, air and water pollution, and land-use change. This focus includes identification and quantification of impacts, and mitigation of impacts using various approaches, such as clean-coal technology, fuel substitution, market opportunities, and regulatory constraints.
- Carbon dynamics projects will strive to achieve a better understanding of the global carbon cycle, particularly at local to regional scales. These include: (1) carbon release from direct use of energy, as well as from land-use change such as deforestation, and from certain agricultural processes, (2) terrestrial carbon sequestration by ecological processes and afforestation, and (3) evaluation of subsurface geological carbon storage. This focus includes examination of the environmental, economic, legal and regulatory aspects of terrestrial and geological carbon sequestration.
- Renewable and alternative energy projects examine the scientific and policy opportunities and constraints associated with the development and use of renewable energy resources, including fuel substitution in both stationary and transportation applications, as well as aspects of improved energy efficiency and increased energy conservation. This focus includes systems modeling to examine various complex interactions among competing energy resources and uses, ranging from increased use of biofuels and electricity in the transportation sector, expansion of agricultural or forested lands for production of biofuel crops, and increased use of land for transmission systems and renewable energy production from wind or solar photovoltaic facilities.