Journalism and engineering researchers at the University of Mississippi are teaming to identify gaps in media coverage, public understanding and policymaking about carbon capture, utilization and storage.
Journalism associate professor Kristen Swain and chemical engineering professor Wei-Yin Chen won one of the first Disaster Resilience Flagship Constellation research grants titled Communicating about Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Innovations to Policymakers and the Public.
The project will explore how CCUS innovations have been communicated from the scientific community to the public and policymakers over the last 20 years. With the help of journalism graduate students this summer, the team will conduct systematic content analyses of CCUS research, news stories and policy documents.
“I imagine that most CCUS innovations and tradeoffs have been invisible to the public and policymakers,” Swain said. “Ultimately, we hope to learn more about how scientific discoveries can be communicated to the public more effectively, to inform critical policy decisions.”
Chen developed innovative techniques for fixing the carbon in CO2 emissions onto biochar, a type of charcoal, to reuse carbon’s energy content. “We burn biochar with the carbon from CO2, to recover more energy than the raw biochar had,” he said. “Then we convert the treated biochar into synthetic gas.”
Chen leads UM’s Sustainable Energy and Environment Group (SEEG), which has worked with scientists around the world to pioneer several CCUS methods. These include carbon gasification and carbon activation for CO2 capture and wastewater treatment. His current National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant focuses on CCUS innovations in the sustainable food/energy/water nexus.
Swain said CCUS especially interests her because “it’s a rising-star strategy, a viable way to suck carbon out of the air whereever carbon emissions are released. Independent reports show that the world cannot avoid dangerous climate consequences without using it on a much wider scale.”