Data quantifying the environmental quality of the ambient atmosphere is generally sparse, and optical sensors provide the temporal resolution and chemical specificity needed to fill this gap. When considering that energy production and use is responsible for most of the air pollutants of concern on a global scale (i.e. CO2 or CH4) or a local level (i.e. benzene, formaldehyde, or ozone precursors), linking the monitoring of sources of pollution and ambient pollutant burdens offers a unique opportunity to better understand the impact of energy on the environment. Of particular interest to advance the field is the development of optical sensors capable of rapid quantification of pollutants that today are measured through slow responding instruments (i.e. benzene or carbon isotopes) and the ability for these instruments to better understand the environment will be discussed.