Meanwhile, the procedures and tools used to assess emerging technologies tend to be applied on an ad hoc basis, with no clear guidelines as to what methods are available, applicable or appropriate.
A new special issue of Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology
addresses this gap with cutting edge research that advances methods, tests new approaches against emerging technologies, and assesses novel technologies for transportation, infrastructure, energy, and materials. The special issue, “Life Cycle Assessment for Emerging Technologies
,” includes findings with far-reaching implications for technology developers and policy makers.
For example, two papers reveal the potential environmental consequences
of the rapid increase in production of the lithium-ion battery packs that power everything from electric cars to portable computing devices. In contrast to earlier analyses, these studies show that, on a global scale, expansion of lithium production
is likely to continue without being slowed by resource constraints for up to three more decades. Meanwhile, localized environmental impacts associated with extraction and processing of high-grade lithium ion brines are likely to create geographic imbalances in the environmental impacts and benefits of that expansion.
The issue also includes papers on fresh approaches to comparative assessment of emerging energy technologies. These new analyses make clear that the age of single-technology solutions at massive, industrial scales is coming to a close. The papers here examine environmental impact of alternative energy futures for algae-derived fuels
, and off-shore wind energy technologies