Sheehan joins University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted Jan. 16, 2009, at 3:31 p.m. CST

Biomass and renewable fuel veteran John Sheehan is joining the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, a program which includes two sectors designed to research global land use and biofuels.

Sheehan will serve as the scientific program coordinator for biofuels and the global environment, focusing in particular on direct and indirect consequences of biofuel production on land use across the world.

Sheehan's experience in renewable energy development is vast. Possessing a bachelor's degree and master's degree in biochemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University, he began his career as a biochemical engineer at W.R. Grace and Co. and Merck Pharmaceutical.

Sheehan spent nearly 20 years with the U.S. DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, conducting work on system dynamic models for strategic and policy decision-making related to biodiesel and ethanol. His work ranged from leading the DOE's assessment of its energy efficient and renewable energy technology portfolio to conducting studies of energy, air quality, greenhouse gas and soil impacts of corn stover-based ethanol production. He was also the project manager for the DOE's Biodiesel from Algae Program for five years, and from 2002 to 2007, he led strategic planning and analysis activities for the DOE's biomass program.

Most recently, Sheehan served as vice president of strategy and sustainable development at LiveFuels Inc., a national alliance of labs and scientists dedicated to transforming algae into fuel by 2010.

In addition, he has published numerous peer-reviewed articles on a variety of energy and environmental topics.

At the University of Minnesota, Sheehan will work with two Institute on the Environment programs the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, and the Global Landscapes Initiative.

Sheehan said the high points of his career were when he was able to tackle some of the thorniest questions about the sustainability of biofuels. "I love the interdisciplinary nature of these questions," he said. "Coming to Minnesota is the ultimate opportunity for me to work with a talented and interdisciplinary team on the most urgent questions facing biofuels."