“(T)here are tipping points and things can change rapidly. I look at the problems remaining—they’re challenging but not unsolvable…“
This issue features Dr. Peter Psarras, Research Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Psarras oversees research on indirect carbonation of alkaline feedstocks, coupled LCA/TEA analyses of carbon management pathways, and strategic road mapping of CCUS and CDR deployment within the context of regional variations in resource availability, techno-economic viability, and impact at the community level.
He has authored or co-authored several dozen publications, including the 2019 report “Getting to Neutral: Options for Negative Emissions in California”, which received the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award. He served as a judge on the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.
How did you become interested in this field?
It was really through a few ISRU (in-situ resource utilization) projects connected with NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Of course they were looking at CO2 reuse for other reasons (and on other planets), but this started me down the path of computational modeling and planted the seed for resource utilization.
What do you like best about your job?
Right now I have the great privilege and responsibility of being the acting PI of the Wilcox Clean Energy Conversions Laboratory. Beyond a doubt the greatest part of my job is the daily interactions with my students and brilliant research associates: I continue to learn from them everyday and they make my job easy,
You were once quoted as saying “There are a lot of arguments about how appropriate or costly these (CO2 removal) approaches are, but none of those arguments, in my mind, is aligned with the state of climate emergency we find ourselves in. Think of it this way—your room is on fire; are you going to get out a whiteboard and argue about what window you’re going to escape from?”
Your analogy of people arguing about drawings on a whiteboard while a room on fire is very vivid and really captures a sense of panic, fear, and frustration that many people have when it comes to climate change.
Yes, I do remember this quote. Where I think the analogy fails is it actually isn’t us in the room, but those far less fortunate. Imagine instead watching your neighbor’s house burn down, then taking out the drawing board and holding a few roundtable sessions to decide points of entry. There is a sense of urgency here in that every second poses real danger to others.