Carbon Modeling Expert Richard Plevin Joins ITS-Davis Team

By Jamie Knapp • J Knapp Communications

Richard Plevin, a scientist with expertise in life cycle modeling, analysis and carbon accounting associated with transportation fuels, has joined the UC Davis research faculty as an assistant professional researcher.

For the last decade, Plevin has been conducting research and consulting to governmental and non-governmental agencies on carbon accounting and environmental policy. He received master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley in 2006 and 2010, and has been an assistant researcher with the Berkeley campus’ Transportation Sustainability Research Center since finishing his Ph.D.

Plevin is a lead contributor to the University of California research team that is providing technical guidance to the California Air Resources Board on the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). That team is led by ITS-Davis research scientist Sonia Yeh.

“Rich has played a critical role in developing the tool, the methodology and the data for supporting the fuel pathways analyses for the LCFS,” said Yeh. “We are delighted he is joining us.”

Given his work with ITS-Davis researchers in recent years, Plevin’s move here is a natural transition. His work complements numerous ongoing projects at ITS-Davis, including the transition modeling underway in the NextSTEPs program, Mark Delucchi and Alissa Kendall’s lifecycle emissions analyses, and Nathan Parker’s biomass and biofuels production modeling.

“I like collaboration, working in a team environment,” Plevin says. “I’m excited about this opportunity to be formally affiliated with one of the nation’s top carbon and fuels modeling teams.”

Plevin also serves on the transport chapter team of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, which is set for publication in 2014. ITS-Davis NextSTEPS program co-director Lew Fulton is also on that review team. Fulton, whose own work entails global energy transition modeling, admires Plevin’s expertise in land use change modeling.

“To understand how growing crops for biofuels affects land use in other places – and to try to gauge the net effect – is a critical area of study at this time,” Fulton says. “I’m very glad Rich will be joining us so we can learn from him on this and other issues.”

For one so accomplished in transportation studies, Plevin is a relative newcomer. His early degrees in mathematics and computer science led him to a 20-year career in software design for the financial services industry. His priorities changed around the year 2000.

“I had this epiphany in a hotel room during a business trip to Tokyo,” he said. The second IPCC report had just come out, California was mired in an energy crisis and the media buzz over global warming was palpable.

Plus, he had a newborn daughter.

“I was concerned about her and where the planet was heading. I wanted to engage on climate change and still use my technical background.”

A decade later, Plevin has succeeded in combining his skills into a career that provides intellectual stimulation and a sense of purpose – and that still allows him to work complex software challenges on sophisticated computers.

Photo: Rich Plevin, February 14, 2013. Photo by Dorian Toy, UC Davis