The following feature article was published on the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory News Center site:
History is rife with new inventions that initially seemed beneficial but later turned out to have unforeseen environmental consequences. Chlorofluorocarbons, for example, were viewed as miracle chemicals and used in huge amounts starting in the 1960s in a myriad of ways, from refrigeration to firefighting. Then they were found to be depleting the earth's ozone layer.
What if we could assess technologies for hidden environmental dangers before they hit the marketplace? And even better, what if the technology's positive impacts could be maximized and negative ones minimized before the technology is even deployed, as part of the development process? The Emerging Technology Assessment (ETA) Team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is working to do just that, using energy and environmental analysis techniques to estimate potential impacts of early-stage technologies.