Faculty & Staff


Jorge R. Piñon Interim Director, CIEEP

Energy Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean

Jorge R. Piñon, House Testimony, April 11, 2013

Jorge R. Piñón’s  focus of study and research is the energy sector of Latin America and the Caribbean. Mr. Piñon began his thirty-two year career in the energy sector when he joined Shell Oil Company’s supply and transportation organization in 1975.  He was president and CEO of Transworld Oil USA prior to joining Amoco Corporation in 1991 as president of Amoco Corporate Development Company Latin America.  In this position Mr. Piñon represented the business development and joint venture efforts in Latin America between Amoco Corporation and state oil companies.In 1994 he was transferred to the downstream oil sector to serve as president of Amoco Oil de México and president of Amoco Oil Latin America, based in Mexico City.  In 1997, while vice-president and member of the board of directors of  the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico -AMCHAM-, Mr. Piñon received the “Yiacatecutli” award for distinguished service in the promotion of U.S.-Mexico business relations. After the 1999 merger between Amoco and BP, Mr. Piñon was transferred to Madrid, Spain, to manage BP Europe’s western Mediterranean petroleum supply and logistics operations. He retired from BP in 2003.

With international experience in business development, joint ventures and relationship management in emerging and transitional markets, and a network of senior energy contacts in Latin America; he is recognized as an independent analyst of regional energy issues, as well as the politics of oil and natural gas in Latin America. He has conducted research and country energy risk assessments as an Energy Fellow at the University of Miami’s Center for Hemispheric Policy (2005-2010) and at Florida International University’s Latin American and Caribbean Center (2010-2012).

He is also recognized as an expert on Cuba’s energy sector. He is an advisor and a member of the Cuba task forces at The Brookings Institution and the Council of the Americas,  a member of the board of directors of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy -ASCE-; and a co-author of Cuba’s Energy Future: Strategic Approaches to Cooperation (Brookings, 2010), a monograph addressing the major challenges facing Cuba’s access to energy resources that are environmentally sustainable and sufficient to meet the nation’s revitalization and development goals.

Mr. Piñon is a frequent guest energy analyst on CNN En Español, Bloomberg Financial News Services, and other news organizations.  He holds a degree in Economics and a certificate in Latin American Studies from the University of Florida.

Faculty and Research Fellows

J. Eric Bickel
Cockrell School of Engineering

Dr. Bickel is an assistant professor in both the Operations Research / Industrial Engineering Group (Department of Mechanical Engineering) and the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition, Professor Bickel is a fellow in the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy and the Center for Petroleum Asset Risk Management. His research interests include the theory and practice of decision analysis and its application in the energy and climate-change arenas. His research has addressed the use of climate engineering to combat climate change, the modeling of probabilistic dependence, value of information, scoring rules, calibration, and risk preference.

His research has appeared in leading academic journals and has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Time Magazine, and National Public Radio, to name a few. His argument that we should purse research into two different climate engineering technologies was ranked first and third, out of 15 different approaches to climate change, by panel of economists, including three Nobel Laureates.

Prior to joining The University of Texas at Austin, Professor Bickel was an assistant professor at Texas A&M University and a Senior Engagement Manager for Strategic Decisions Group. He has consulted around the world in a range of industries, including oil and gas, electricity generation/transmission/delivery, energy trading and marketing, commodity and specialty chemicals, life sciences, financial services, and metals and mining.

Dr. Bickel holds an M.S. and Ph.D. from the Department of Engineering-Economic Systems at Stanford University and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Economics from New Mexico State University.

Homepage: http://engr.webhost.utexas.edu/faculty/bickel/

Thomas Grimshaw

Dr. Grimshaw’s professional interests are in energy policy, with emphasis on emerging energy technologies and resources. He is currently co-principal investigator for three projects at the Energy Institute of The University of Texas at Austin (UT). One of the projects is an assessment of the outlook for unconventional natural gas and oil resources. Another project entails developing the basis for science-based regulation of shale gas operations. The third project is a study of the hydrologic and environmental effects of shale gas development in the Barnett Shale in Texas.

Dr. Grimshaw received the Masters degree (mid-career option) – and subsequently served as adjunct faculty – at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. His professional report was on evidence-based public policy toward cold fusion as a major (but controversial) potential source of energy. As adjunct faculty he was co-instructor for two policy research projects, both of which focused on energy policy and emerging technologies. He was also instructor for a course in environmental policy. Dr. Grimshaw is currently leading an initiative at UT’s Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy for developing policies for dealing with secondary impacts of potential broad deployment of cold fusion as a major energy source.

Before shifting to energy policy, Dr. Grimshaw had a lengthy career in environmental protection and related services. He worked primarily as a technical consultant, providing professional services while employed by three of the foremost environmental companies in the U.S. He managed environmental compliance, site cleanup, and related projects for many clients and at a variety of sites such as municipal infrastructure projects, commercial facilities, and government installations. Much of his environmental work was for energy-related facilities, including oilfield waste sites, coal mines, petroleum refineries, coal-fired power plants, and synthetic fuels (coal gasification and liquefaction) plants. Dr. Grimshaw received a B.S. in Geological Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Geology at UT. His dissertation was on the environmental geology of growing urban areas, with San Marcos, Texas as a case study. Dr. Grimshaw has also has taught environmental geology courses at Austin Community College.

Carey King
Energy Institute

Dr. Carey King researches energy systems and how they work together and within the environment. Carey’s research interests focus upon:

(i) relating measures of net energy to economics;
(ii) understanding how technology and policy can interact within the nexus between energy and water;
(iii) integration and transition to increased renewable energy production;
(iv) the economics and life cycle of system-wide/integrated carbon capture and storage infrastructure; and
(v) promoting objective analyses of energy tradeoffs for energy education, decision-making, and policy development for natural resources.

Suzanne A. Pierce

Suzanne A. Pierce is a Research Assistant Professor with the Environmental Science Institute,   and Assistant Director of the Digital Media Collaboratory in the Center for Agile Technology at The University of Texas at Austin. A trained hydrogeologist with a focus on participatory deliberation, Dr. Pierce has prior professional background as a Scientist with Sandia National Laboratories and as the Environmental Manager for one of the worlds largest metals mines.

Dr. Pierce adopts a scholar-practitioner approach to integrate science-based information with human organizational systems for application to groundwater management and energy-water problems. Resultant decision support systems link participatory modeling with simulation, optimization, and multi-stakeholder concerns. Current projects include development of hydroinformatics for sustainable aquifer yield in Central Texas and South Australia, along with creation of the ENCOMPASS cyberinfrastructure for a geothermal basin in the Atacama Desert of Chile. ENCOMPASS is a scientific platform for sharing data, algorithms, and educational modules that is funded as part of the Fulbright Nexus program for energy, innovation, and engagement.

Varun Rai
LBJ School of Public Affairs

Varun Rai earned his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2008 with specialization in energy systems and technologies. Before joining the University of Texas at Austin in July 2010 he was a research fellow at the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development (PESD) at Stanford University from 2008-2010. He holds a M.S. from Stanford and a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur.

His principal research interests are in technological change, innovation and diffusion; economics of climate change/integrated assessment models; and energy and development. His research combines energy systems modeling with the political economy of energy markets to understand how changes in energy technologies, market conditions, policies and regulation, and environment could impact energy generation. The emphasis of his research is on interdisciplinary and integrative research in engineering and policy to ensure that the insights from his policy research are rooted in the underlying technical realties. His past research has concentrated on three problems in particular: incentive policies and rates of technological diffusion for carbon capture and storage (CCS); performance and behavior of national oil companies; and strategies for engaging developing countries in global climate change policy.

His research has been published in Harvard International Review, Newsweek, Energy Policy, Economic and Political Weekly, and IAEE Energy Forum. He has authored two chapters, one each on the national oil companies of India and Abu Dhabi (co-authored with David Victor), in a forthcoming book (Cambridge University Press, 2011). He has presented at US Senate Briefings, Global Economic Symposium, and Climate One at Commonwealth Club. Among others, his research has been featured in Science, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Bloomberg News. He was a Global Economic Fellow in 2009 and a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow in 2008.


Administrative Staff

Jessica Smith
Graduate Program Coordinator

Ms. Smith has served as the Energy and Earth Resources graduate coordinator since July 2005. She handles all aspects of recruiting, admissions, outreach, and program administration for the interdisciplinary program. She formerly worked at Texas A&M University’s Department of Biology. A native of Austin and the Hill Country, she has a  B.A. in International Studies and a M.A. in Political Science from Southwest Texas State University. Her research interests include Texas, Latin American, and European history, geopolitics, and art.