Johns Hopkins Gazette: November 14, 1994

Ellis Takes Middle Gound in Emissions Squabble
By Ken Keatley

     To the philosophical left of Hugh Ellis are the staunch
environmentalists, who believe all acid rain should be
eliminated and all measures to combat ozone depletion must be
     To the right of Hugh Ellis are champions of industry,
who believe government mandated pollution control measures
ensure that they will lose money and workers will lose jobs.
     Dr. Ellis, a Hopkins professor of Geography and
Environmental Engineering, stands smack dab in the middle.
Through his use of a seemingly esoteric mathematical method
of examining complex environmental issues--called stochastic,
multiobjective modeling--Dr. Ellis has contributed to the
dialogue on ozone and acid rain by offering a common sense,
risk vs. reward tradeoff assessment in determining which
abatement strategies are optimal.
     "I'm going to go where the information leads me, so it's
guaranteed that I'm going to infuriate somebody," said Dr.
Ellis, who was recently promoted to full professor; he will
deliver his Inaugural Professorial Lecture Tuesday, Nov. 15,
at 3 p.m. in the Glass Pavilion. "These are emotional issues,
and some people don't like to look at them logically."
     Dr. Ellis found himself in the middle of a storm of
controversy last January, when he released "An Analysis of
Ozone Control Strategies of Maryland," which he conducted for
the state Department of the Environment.          
     In his study, Dr. Ellis suggested that the California
Low Emission Vehicle Program--which has been embraced by many
environmentalists--would be too costly and not necessary for
Maryland. He recommended that another control strategy
already included in the 1990 Clean Air Act--the Federal Tier
II Vehicle guidelines--would be more cost effective. 
     Car companies rejoiced, environmentalists lamented and
the DOE ignored his recommendation; the agency has petitioned
the 12-state Ozone Transport Commission to force the
Environmental Protection Agency to require that all states
implement the California program. An EPA ruling is expected
this week.
     "That doesn't bother me. I have a good relationship with
the DOE, and they're doing what they think is right," said
Dr. Ellis, who continues to serve the agency as a member of
its Air Quality Control Advisory Council. "I'm not
anti-environment; I'm anti-wasting money, and that's what I
think the California program would do.
     "I believe my report is most useful as a tutorial and
educational tool," he said. "Maybe I've helped explain this
issue, without the emotion, in a way that is understandable
to people."
     Dr. Ellis has also brought his analytical skills to the
acid rain issue, serving as a technological adviser for the
National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program. 
     "The way I look at the issue is that looking for bad
guys is fruitless," he said. "We all want cheap, reliable
electric power, and we want it now. So if we're looking for a
culprit, we can point the finger at ourselves."
     Acid rain is a complex issue, Dr. Ellis said, primarily
because pollutants generally do not cause problems in the
same place they are created.
     For example, Dr. Ellis said the spot in Maryland with
the worst acid rain deposition rate is seemingly pristine
Deep Creek Lake in rural Garrett County. "The wind blows west
to east, and all you have to do is look to the left on a map
and see why Deep Creek gets hammered," he said.
      In hopes of finding a solution to that problem, Dr.
Ellis builds into his equations the chemical, economic,
environmental and societal effects of various abatement
strategies. He also includes the uncertainty and variability
associated with those complicated issues. 
     "I'm a collector and assimilator of information, and am
trying to develop models that answer tough questions," he
said. "There are no easy answers; they all involve

Go back to Previous Page

Go to Gazette Homepage