124 Hosler Bldg.
Research Areas:Clean Fuels & Catalysis
Petroleum & Natural Gas Engineering
Initiative for Sustainable Electric Power Systems
Biosketch:Seth Blumsack is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering; an Adjunct Research Professor at the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center; and Collaborator with the Centre for Research in Energy and Mineral Economics at the University of Curtin, Australia. His work focuses on policy-relevant engineering, environmental and economic research for the energy, electric power and transportation industries. He also performs research in the area of complex engineered infrastructure networks. Dr. Blumsack's research agenda is highly interdisciplinary and problem-driven. Before returning to academia, he served as a journalist and consultant for Economic Insight, Inc., where he was a contributing editor for the Energy Market Report and Pacific West Oil Data. He has authored or co-authored more than twenty scientific and policy articles and book chapters. His work on restructured electricity markets has been cited in The New York Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and his writing for the Energy Market Report on California’s energy crisis has been cited in the Los Angeles Times as well as in The Smartest Guys in the Room. He is currently the John R. Ryan Jr. Faculty Fellow in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
Education Background:B.A. Mathematics/Economics, Reed College (1998)
M.S. Economics, Carnegie-Mellon University (2003)
Ph.D. Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie-Mellon University (2006)
Postdoctoral Researcher, Carnegie-Mellon University (2006 - 2007)
Research Interests:1. The "Smart Grid" and the transition to more efficient and lower-impact energy, electric power and transportation systems:
Society is facing unprecedented challenges in meeting rising demands for affordable, reliable and high-quality energy consistent with social environmental goals. Engineering future energy conversion and delivery systems will require a new way of thinking about networks and infrastructures, in addition to new energy sources. Dr. Blumsack's work in this area focuses on the integration of emerging energy technologies into existing systems, and how the "smart grid" can help enable both engineering and economic transformations. He is working on the integration of utility-scale wind and solar systems into electric power grids; modeling the impacts of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles; small-scale distributed electricity and "micro-grids;" and cyber-security and risk analysis for the "smart grid."
2. Marcellus Shale and other unconventional natural gas sources
Natural gas is an appealing energy alternative to coal and petroleum for a variety of applications. Technological advances have made possible the extraction of massive amounts of natural gas from tight shale deposits (such as the Marcellus in the Appalachian Region) at a reasonable cost. Dr. Blumsack is working with industry as well as interdisciplinary teams of engineers and social scientists studying the economic impacts of shale gas development; environmental quality issues associated with hydrofrac'ing; and the public's perception of the risks associated with unconventional gas development.
3. Structure, vulnerability and performance of energy infrastructure networks
Reliable energy and electricity supplies are critical to economic and social welfare in modern societies. The energy infrastructure networks in many industrialized nations, however, are aging and increasingly stressed. Recent blackouts have demonstrated the vulnerability of the electric grid to failures in individual components. Working with physicists, computer scientists and engineers, Dr. Blumsack is researching new ways to identify portions of critical infrastructures vulnerable to failures or attacks; drawing links between the structure of a network and the efficiency of its performance; and designing operational and investment strategies to increase the robustness of energy and transportation infruastructures.
4. Integrated design for the built environment:
Dr. Blumsack is working with an interdisciplinary team of engineers and architects on multi-objective integrated design approaches to designing built spaces and environments for communities.
5. Electricity deregulation
Dr. Blumsack is a recognized expert on the design of deregulated electricity markets. His work on measuring market power and evaluating the competitiveness of electricity markets has been cited numerous times by other academic researchers as well as in regulatory decision-making. He has testified before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and State legislatures on electricity market design in New England, the Mid-Atlantic (PJM) and California. His 2007 article from the Energy Law Journal on market design was cited in the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in Morgan Stanley v. Snohomish PUD.
6. Life-cycle environmental impact assessment
Life-cycle assessment (LCA) takes a cradle-to-grave approach of evaluating the environmental impacts of products and processes. Public and private-sector interest in LCA is growing as industries and individuals recognize the risks associated with life-cycle environmental impacts. These impacts are often quantified in "carbon footprints" or sustainability indices. Dr. Blumsack has worked on evaluating the life-cycle impacts of electricity production, and is working on methods to inform life-cycle analyses of energy and electricity consumption.
Memberships & Committees:Dr. Blumsack works with undergraduate students in the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, particularly the B.S. program in Energy Business and Finance. He is the faculty advisor for the Penn State student branch of the U.S. Association for Energy Economics.
Dr. Blumsack is an active member of the following professional organizations:
• American Economic Association
• Power Engineering Society, IEEE
• U.S. Association for Energy Economics
• American Geophysical Union
• Society for Risk Analysis
Honors & Awards:William W. Cooper Doctoral Dissertation Award for “Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation in Management or the Management Sciences,” Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, May 2006.
Best Poster Award for “Some Implications of Braess’s Paradox for Electric Power Networks,” Technology, Policy and Management Consortium, Cambridge MA, May 2005.
Herbert L. Toor Award for “Outstanding Research Paper Submitted in the Qualifying Examinations of the Department of Engineering and Public Policy,” Carnegie Mellon University, February 2004.
Teaching:Dr. Blumsack teaches courses in the Energy Business and Finance undergraduate program, and in the Energy Management and Policy option within the Energy and Mineral Engineering graduate program. He has regularly taught the following courses:
EBF 483: Introduction to Electricity Markets. Discusses the economic structure; regulation and deregulation of the electric power sector.
ENNEC 100: Introduction to environmental, resource and energy economics.
EBF 304W: Environmental management. A problem-solving course focused on the decisions that businesses and firms make when confronted with problems involving uncertainty, environmental risk, and technological risks to human health and/or safety.
EME 525: Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis for Engineers. Discusses the major quantitative tools used in public decision-making, particularly in problems where technology, uncertainty and risk are important components.
Dr. Blumsack also teaches a week-long summer course on energy markets and regulation at the Vermont Law School.
Dr. Blumsack actively involves undergraduate and graduate students in his research. He is currently working with students in the Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, as well as the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural Sciences. Dr. Blumsack's research mentorship philosophy focuses on producing creative problem-solvers interested in taking interdisciplinary approaches to addressing important economic policy problems related to energy and the environment.