Since man first discovered that he could control fire and combust fuels for heat and cooking, he has had to deal with the byproducts of the combustion of organic fuels.  But with more people the byproducts are much greater.

For the first two million years of our existence, man’s fuel usage was limited to the combustion of wood in simple campfires.  Recently, research has said that continual exposure of early man to campfires used as heat sources in enclosed areas contributed to increased incidences of nasal cancer.

Today, man’s need for energy has led to the formation of megacities – large urban and suburban centers whose populations exceed 10 million inhabitants. In 1950, New York City was the world’s only megacity. By 2007, there were 14.

So maybe we can now do better than cavemen.  

University of Arkansas at Little Rock  professors Jeff Gaffney and Nancy Marley outline the current state of affairs and some of the obstacles in Atmospheric Environment.  Gaffney currently leads a national scientific project on natural radioactivity in aerosols – airborne particulates in the atmosphere – to examine their sources, transport, and lifetime in the air. Marley is directing study of aerosol optical properties, including scattering and absorption, focusing special attention on carbonaceous aerosols that include black soots. 

Burning Man
Finally, an excuse to put an end to Burning Man.

“Successful application of new technologies such as fuel cells or electric vehicles will be the development of the infrastructure and the commercialization and replacement of the current fleets,” they said. “After all, the internal combustion engines have the benefit of 100 years of evolution and infrastructure development. Therefore, even with the current environmental pressures, the establishment of alternative vehicles in the market will not occur overnight and will likely require government support considering the magnitude of the investment required.”

The two scientists began their projects in 2004 at the Argonne National Laboratory operated jointly by the University of Chicago and DOE’s Atmospheric Science Program. The projects are examining the roles of aerosols in climate change. When Gaffney and Marley came to UALR in 2006, they submitted their work for review and requested continued funding.

In December, Gaffney and Marley chaired a session on air quality and climate change at the American Meteorological Society (AMS) national meeting in Phoenix. They also presented two papers on our DOE Aerosol work as part of the 11th Conference on Atmospheric Chemistry.

So what will replace combustion?   Hydrogen?  Solar cars?  Something we haven't imagined yet?   If we're not smarter than cavemen, we'll have much greater problems than global warming.