James Bushnell named Iowa State's first Cargill Endowed Chair in Energy Economics

AMES, Iowa - James Bushnell wants Iowa State University's Biobased Industry Center to be a place where energy experts from around campus and the country meet to talk about science, policy and the issues of the day.

Bushnell is just beginning his work as Iowa State's first Cargill Endowed Chair in Energy Economics. The position also makes him the director of Iowa State's Biobased Industry Center (BIC).

Bushnell comes to Iowa State after 16 years with the University of California Energy Institute (UCEI) in Berkeley. For the past 11 years, he has been the institute's research director.

And Bushnell wants to make Iowa State's center a little more like the California institute. The center is a part of Iowa State's Bioeconomy Institute. It was officially established in 2008 to support interdisciplinary research of the biorenewables industry and its economic, policy, business and social issues. In addition to using the center's resources to support a competition for research grants, Bushnell would also like the center to be a place where experts from academia, industry and government can gather and share ideas.

"I'd like to see BIC continue to grow into a Center with a capital C," he said. "I'd like it to be a place that brings people together for both formal and informal exchanges. It is often the casual interactions that can be most rewarding. At UCEI, lunchtime discussions often produced more valuable research ideas than any other forum."

He sees the center attracting Iowa State researchers as well as visiting scholars and experts for big-picture discussions of biofuels, technology, climate, efficiency, markets, deregulation and other energy issues.

John Miranowski, a professor of economics who was instrumental in developing the Biobased Industry Center, led the search committee for the Cargill Chair. And he said the committee liked Bushnell's experience and knowledge of energy markets and how that could advance Iowa State's understanding of how biofuels and biobased products could be integrated into energy markets and industry.

Miranowski said the committee also liked Bushnell's ideas to use the Biobased Industry Center to bring researchers and ideas together to address key policy issues.

"He'll be an excellent colleague," Miranowski said. "I'm excited to have him in the economics department and leading the Biobased Industry Center."

Bushnell said his research focus is on new energy markets and how those markets are affected by government policies. He's currently studying the implementation of cap and trade policies to reduce carbon emissions.

And what about biofuels?

"My thinking about biofuels and all forms of alternative energy is that they are new and emerging markets," he said. "And so we have to be asking if we're setting up ground rules in a sensible way that allows the best technologies to emerge."

Energy markets will also be the subject of a course Bushnell will develop for Iowa State.

Bushnell earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989, a master's degree in operations research from the University of California, Berkeley in 1990 and a doctorate in industrial engineering and operations research from California, Berkeley in 1993.

He and his wife, Michelle, have two sons, Aaron, 10, and Alex, 5.

Cargill - an international provider of food, agricultural and risk management products and services - pledged $1.5 million in 2008 to establish the Cargill Endowed Chair in Energy Economics.

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