An Approach to Dynamic Environmental Life-Cycle Assessment by Evaluating Structural Economic Sequences

Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a holistic approach to analyzing environmental burdens of a product, process or activity. The conventional approach to LCA has traditionally been a static engineering or technical exercise with little concern towards social, economic and temporal aspects. The following research presents a method to expand the LCA methodology to address these shortcomings. This research presents and applies a dynamic distributed activities life-cycle emissions methodology based on the philosophy of Structural Economics and the constructs of temporal economic Input-Output interindustry modeling. Structural Economics provides a framework that allows for the integration of ecological economic concerns with environmental engineering concerns in a system-wide perspective that is suitable for comparing the implications of alternative future courses of actions. The Structural Economic philosophy is implemented using a Sequential Interindustry Model (SIM) approach. SIM considers the time consuming nature of the production process and the corresponding timing of industry input. In essence, SIM unravels the ‘whirlpools’ of interindustry relationships, providing an empirical approach to investigate transient behavior of finite economic activities. A case study examining the environmental implications of introducing Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles into the U.S. Economy is presented to demonstrate the methodology. To simplify the example presented, the case study is streamlined by examining scenarios of life-cycle green-house-gas emission trends over a time period of twenty years. Scenarios are developed that embrace the constructs of experimental design to achieve rigorous results.

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Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

Author Thomas Gloria
Institution Tufts University
Advisor Stephen H. Levine
Expected graduation 2000