What I find most exciting about my teaching and research in energy and environmental issues, is the inherently interdisciplinary nature of the challenges we confront. My goal is to arm my students with the methods, tools, and perspectives to understand, and ultimately to influence society’s many technical, economic, and policy choices concerning energy and the natural environment. In my Energy, Technology, and Society course, we take a “tour” through a broad array of conventional and renewable energy technologies, investigating the economic and policy drivers for their use, as well as their varying implications for environmental sustainability, international development, and ethnic/gender/economic equity.
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.
Fingerman, KR. (2011) “Food vs. Fuel: Current Research and Policy Implications.” Bonn Conference on Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus.
Kammen, DM, S Borgeson, and K Fingerman. (2011). “Correcting faulty math on renewable energy.” Grist.org & National Geographic Great Energy Challenge.
Fingerman, KR, G Berndes, S Orr, BD Richter, and P Vugteveen. (2011). “Impact assessment at the bioenergy/water nexus.” Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biorefining, 5(4):375-386
Fingerman, KR, G Berndes, S Orr, BD Richter, and P Vugteveen. (2011). “Decision-making at the bioenergy/water nexus.” United Nations Environment Program, Paris. ISBN#978-92-807-3157-6.
McKone T, W Nazaroff W, P Berck, M Auffhammer, T Lipman, MS Torn, E Masanet, A Lobscheid, N Santero, U Mishra A Barrett, M Bomberg, K Fingerman, C Scown, B Strogen, and A Horvath. (2011). “Grand Challenges for Life-Cycle Assessment of Biofuels.” Environmental Science & Technology 45(5): 1751–1756.
Fingerman, KR, M Torn, D Kammen, M O’Hare. (2010). “Accounting for the water impacts of ethanol production.” Environmental Research Letters, 5:014020
Fingerman, KR, DM Kammen, and MH O’Hare. (2008). “Integrating Water Sustainability into California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.” California Air Resources Board. Sacramento, CA.