Research

Projects

What is Important to You? Decisions are better when community needs are understood and included. This project uses survey, interview, and text mining research to investigate how people in energy-producing communities and elsewhere prioritize among 30 major socioenvironmental impact categories (like clean air, access to health care, clean water, and education), with the goal of making policy and other decisions more responsive to societal needs.

How Much Water Do We Use for Energy? Data on water use for the energy system are heavily outdated, especially given the rapid changes the energy industry is experiencing–the rise of renewable energy, the use of hydraulic fracturing, and the use of purpose-grown crops for energy (largely ethanol) all have water implications, as do policy processes regarding air emissions controls, once-through cooling, and others. This project focuses on 17 US fuel cycles across 5 life cycle stages, 4 water quality distinctions, and 3 water sources to present unit process-level (UPR) data on water use for US energy, with the twin intents of filling data gaps and making water–a resource that people across communities say is among the most important–more visible in socioenvironmental assessment.

How is the Electricity System Changing? The US has a lot of power plants, some of which are nearing their end-of-life. As policies, cost profiles, and public preferences change, so too does the electricity system. Check out a map of power plants by capacity, fuel, and oldest unit in-service year that I made here: did you know the oldest operating generator in the US was put into service in 1891? These changes affect utilities and resources in different ways. I’m currently working on projects to characterize future expectations about operating assets by utility and to characterize the hydroelectric system’s operational parameters, in part to help understand how that system interacts with the rest of the electricity system–particularly under high intermittent electricity penetration.

What Socioenvironmental Attitudes Do Written Texts Reveal? Surveys and interviews are expensive. This major ongoing project asks: how well can we derive information about societal attitudes from existing texts using computational methods? I look at fiction and nonfiction narrative works, Internet-based texts like Tweets and Facebook posts, and other ephemeral texts like newspapers, court cases, and meeting minutes to try to test how well computationally derived data performs against traditional attitudinal data. I am especially excited about the potential for computational approaches to enable retrospective analysis, in addition to potential cost and time savings and reduced research fatigue in highly studied communities.

How is Social Life Cycle Assessment Done? Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) is an emerging method that draws on environmental, social, and financial life cycle analyses to perform triple bottom line socioenvironmental assessment. Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) is much less developed than its sister methods, Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (E-LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC). I argue that social scientists should be more involved in S-LCA and LCSA development.

How Do We Manage Stormwater? My postdoctoral research investigates regionally resolved models for stormwater management, in collaboration with folks at the Colorado School of Mines and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, among others. We are especially looking at the interplay between “green” and “grey” infrastructure systems, with the goal of supporting decision making with a sustainability goal.

Some of my other ongoing projects–including work on modeling hydropower energy systems, detecting and avoiding data bottlenecks, and community response to infrastructural development, is at early stages–drop me a line at gruberte@gatech.edu if you’d like to hear more.