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UNL research examines cost of protecting foreign oil

Remember my post from a while back about how you had to put yourself out there to get traction in today’s fast-moving media landscape? How pitching yourself based on your C.V. — simply saying “I’m an expert on X” or “I have years of experience researching Y” — isn’t good enough? It sounds simple, but you have to stretch your expertise and moreover, take a stand if need be, to get your voice out there into the national mix.

Well, here’s another good example of that.

UNL biological systems engineer Adam Liska and Richard Perrin, an agricultural economist who works on East Campus, recently published an article in the magazine Environment. In it, they point out that an often-ignored source of greenhouse gas emissions — the military protection essential to getting oil here from the Middle East — should be considered and evaluated by the EPA every year to get a clearer picture of its environmental impact.

In the paper, Liska and Perrin spell out their case for EPA action based on their best scientific estimates: that emissions of heat-trapping gases resulting from military protection of supertankers in the Persian Gulf amount to 34.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year. In addition, the war in Iraq releases another 43.3 million metric tons of CO2 annually, they estimate.

This is why, they contend, that in the national discussion on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental impact of oil-related military emissions must be included in comparisons of gasoline and biofuels such as ethanol.

Topics like foreign oil, the war in Iraq, global security and alternative biofuels tend to create enough controversy on their own. Liska and Perrin, however, sought to further the debate by drawing conclusions and suggestions from their work. This is in stark contract to the all-too-common academically detached practice of “Well, here’s my findings … I’ll leave it to others to decide.” For those of us working to get UNL stories, research and faculty into the national media, Liska and Perrin’s approach makes it much, much easier to get reporters’ attention.

As a footnote, here are a few of the dozens of places that Perrin and Liska’s work has appeared over the last 10 or so days. It first showed up on the New York TimesGreen Blog, after which we followed with a news release that got picked up far and wide. The UNL professors’ assertions continue to rattle around the blogosphere this week and will undoubtedly be cited in future discussions for or against military action in the Middle East.

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