Richard J. Plevin, Ph.D.

Research Scientist
Transportation Sustainability Research Center
Institute of Transportation Studies
UC Berkeley

Research Interests

My overarching interests relate to the use--and limitations--of computer models to inform or implement environmental policy. I am particularly interested in ways to incorporate uncertainty and scenario analysis into transportation fuels policy.

Much of my work has involved Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of biofuels, using both the standard "attributional" approach, and techniques to estimate market-mediated effects such as biofuel-induced indirect land use change and price effects in global petroleum markets. Another area of interest is LCA methodology and application in policy. My current work involves using the GCAM integrated assessment model as a platform for consequential LCA of biofuels.

Current Projects

  • I have recently developed analyses of ILUC emissions for corn grain, corn stover, and switchgrass ethanol using the GCAM model. A paper on these analysis is forthcoming. 
  • I have developed a software framework for running Monte Carlo simulations that supports the GTAP and GCAM models on high-speed computing systems. In December 2015, I published the framework as an open-source project at A journal article with an example analysis can be found here.
  • Another spin-off from this work is the pygcam package for simplifying the GCAM modeling and analysis workflow.
  • I am currently developing "robust decision making" tools based on my Monte Carlo simulation framework, which I will be using to analyze alternative policy formulations under "deep" uncertainty, regarding e.g., petroleum prices, the pace of technological change, future climate policies, and climate feedbacks.


PhD (2010), Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley
MS (2006), Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley
MS (1982), Computer Science, Yale University
BS (1981), Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, SUNY Albany


National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (2006-2009)

Related links


I was a software engineer in my first career, working on Wall Street in the eighties, in Silicon Valley in the early nineties, and in the non-profit sector in the late nineties through 2003. I returned to graduate school in 2004, focusing on sustainable uses of bioenergy. Since completing my Ph.D. in 2010, I have been employed as a Research Engineer at the Institutes of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley (2010–2014, and currently, as of July 1, 2016) and at UC Davis' from 2014–2016. In addition, I have consulted for various national labs, regulatory agencies, environmental organizations, and commercial entities on matters related to bioenergy, life cycle assessment, carbon accounting, and land-use change.