Princeton\’s carbon mitigation initiative receives $11 million through extended partnership with BP



In a continuing research partnership to identify ways to tackle the world\’s climate problem, Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) has received a commitment of $11 million from BP as part of an extension of their partnership first announced in October 2008.

BP and Princeton originally entered into a 10-year research agreement from 2000 to 2010, and CMI received $19 million from BP during this time to support the initiative\’s research programs. CMI was created to investigate the climate and energy problem and has achieved recognition as both a successful interdisciplinary program at Princeton and an effective industry-university collaboration. It is part of the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI), the University’s interdisciplinary center for environmental research, education and outreach.

When the five-year extension of the joint partnership with BP was announced in 2008, the exact funding level had not been determined.

\”We are grateful for the confidence that BP has placed in us to continue the path-breaking research that clarifies the climate and carbon problem and unveils new options for its solution,\” said Robert Socolow, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton and one of CMI\’s leaders. The project also is being led by Stephen Pacala, the director of PEI and the University\’s Frederick D. Petrie Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Lamar McKay, president and chief executive of BP America, visited the Princeton campus on Wednesday, Nov. 17, to celebrate and reaffirm the renewal of the CMI partnership, which will run from 2011 to 2015.

\”The Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton continues to advance our understanding of the scientific and policy issues associated with supplying the world\’s increasing energy consumption while reducing carbon emissions,\” McKay said. \”We believe our partnership with CMI continues to yield answers to these complex questions, and for that reason we are delighted to extend our financial support for this effort.\”

During the extension of CMI, scholars and students will explore further the science, policy and technology dimensions of carbon mitigation.

Research focusing on the global carbon cycle will continue to narrow the uncertainty in the causes and magnitude of the drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide accounted for by the world’s forests and oceans. The research involves a combination of experimental and modeling investigations. The climate science group will further investigate the consequences of increasing ocean acidification for ocean plant and animal life, and the feedback loops on the carbon cycle that may result.

In addition, CMI\’s carbon capture program will expand its analyses of systems for the capture of carbon dioxide at coal-plus-biomass synthetic fuels plants, with a new element of this program featuring thermochemical analysis of power and synthetic fuels systems where the feedstock is a combination of natural gas and biomass.

\”The work conducted by the capture group has a strong track record of inserting its results into the policy process, with a primary emphasis on the U.S. and a secondary emphasis on China,\” Socolow said.

Members of the carbon storage group will seek to couple strongly with BP to develop information and analytical tools in the public domain bearing on the permanence of carbon dioxide storage, with the goal of positively affecting the licensing processes that are likely to be established during the extended funding period.

The policy and integration research group will continue to seek new framings of the climate and carbon problem. These will be successors of previous work done on the allocation of international responsibility for carbon emissions based on high-emitting individuals — rather than nations — and on work done on \”stabilization wedges,\” one of CMI\’s best-known contributions to the climate change debate. The wedges concept, first published by Pacala and Socolow in a 2004 issue of Science, introduced 15 existing technologies, each representing a so-called stabilization wedge, and proposed that any combination of seven wedges could prevent global emissions of greenhouse gases from rising for the next five decades.

During the renewal period, CMI will continue to devote a portion of its funds to support research in emerging areas.

The CMI program includes 16 faculty and more than 70 research staff and students at Princeton.

While on campus meeting with members of the initiative, McKay presented the inaugural CMI Best Paper Award for Postdoctoral Fellows, recognizing outstanding contributions made by postdoctoral research associates or associate research scholars to CMI\’s core areas of research.

McKay named Shoibal Chakravarty and Massimo Tavoni as recipients who will share the first award for their paper \”Sharing Global CO2 Emission Reductions Among One Billion High Emitters\” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009. The paper was chosen from a highly competitive pool of nominations for its high quality and to recognize its original contributions to the discussion of CO2 emissions distribution across the world\’s emitting individuals while considering issues of fairness and poverty, McKay said. Future awards now will be made annually through the year 2015 and announced at CMI annual meetings held each spring in Princeton.

CMI associates have published more than 750 peer-reviewed articles since the program\’s inception in 2000.

Also while on campus, McKay spoke at a luncheon seminar for Princeton faculty, research staff and students on the topic \”Mitigating Carbon: The Role of Natural Gas in Addressing Climate Change.\”