My research is driven by an interest in the broad-based environmental and social impacts of energy technologies and policies. This work seeks to make explicit the trade-offs that are often present between energy security, climate, and other important social and environmental objectives. In particular, I have worked on issues at the water/energy nexus, evaluating the “water footprints” of a range of energy technologies. Water and energy are inextricably linked, with electricity generation second only to agriculture in total global water withdrawals. This connection is particularly acute for bioenergy, as it is by far the most water-intensive of all energy types. My research has employed life cycle assessment (LCA), agro-climatic modeling, and GIS tools to show that biofuels routinely require several orders of magnitude more water than petroleum fuels while often providing only modest climate benefit.
I approach my research with an eye toward implementation. This has led me to work with California regulatory agencies on fuel policy formulation and to serve as vice-chair of the Geneva-based Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. Prior to coming to HSU, I worked in Rome for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. While there, I provided support to the governments of Indonesia and Colombia in evaluating the environmental and social impacts of their biofuel industries, and in formulating policies to address those impacts.