Economist Michael Greenstone appointed to lead Energy Policy Institute at Chicago

Michael Greenstone, an international leader in energy and environmental economics, has been appointed Professor of Economics and director of the interdisciplinary Energy Policy Institute at Chicago.

At EPIC, a joint project of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Department of Economics and the Harris School of Public Policy, Greenstone will lead a growing research and training effort with a focus on the economic and social consequences of energy policies. His appointment will start July 1, 2014.   

“In his prolific and cutting-edge research, Michael has revolutionized the way we think about energy economics,” said John List, chairman of Economics. “He will be a leader in his field for decades to come, and his work will further broaden the impact of UChicago’s innovative thinking and research across disciplines and geographic boundaries.”

List said Greenstone’s expertise and leadership in environmental and energy economics also will strengthen EPIC’s search for sustainable policies that address energy needs and aid economic growth while limiting environmental and social damages.

As director of EPIC, Greenstone will lead a research and training initiative that “develops, tests, and promulgates energy and environmental policies that help solve the energy problems in the United States and other countries such as India and China. “Finding solutions has never been more urgent, as the extraordinary levels of air pollution in many countries are significantly shortening lifespans, and greenhouse gas emissions threaten the earth’s complex climate system that sustains us,” said Greenstone.

“The University of Chicago, where no assumption goes unquestioned, is a perfect crucible to develop these ideas. Further, I intend for EPIC to become a model for how to convert the best ideas into policy.”

Greenstone praised the founding co-directors of EPIC, Profs. Robert Rosner and Robert Topel, for the remarkable progress since its inception in 2011. “They are giants in their field, and I’m thrilled to be working with them to achieve these goals in the coming years,” he added.   

Greenstone has served as the 3M Professor of Environmental Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2006. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a past editor of The Review of Economics and Statistics.

In addition to his academic achievements, Greenstone has extensive policy experience. He served as the chief economist for the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisors from 2009 to 2010, playing a leading role on energy and environmental policies. Following his return to MIT in 2010, he directed The Hamilton Project, an economic policy group at the Brookings Institution that studies a range of policies to promote broad-based economic growth, and has since joined its Advisory Council. Greenstone has been a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board’s Environmental Economics Advisory Committee and continues to consult with governments around the world to develop sound economic policies.

“Not only is Greenstone an outstanding scholar dedicated to using field data to validate significant environmental and economic impacts, he is a colleague who is an effective and valued participant in a wide range of research and educational activities at the Institute,” said John Deutch, an emeritus Institute Professor at MIT. “His success as director of The Hamilton Project demonstrates his ability to bring serious academic research to the attention of senior government officials.”

Greenstone’s research focuses largely on the costs and benefits of environmental quality and energy policy. Over the years, he has worked extensively on the Clean Air Act and examined its impacts on air quality, manufacturing activity, housing prices and infant mortality. He is currently engaged in a large-scale project to estimate the costs of climate change around the world. In recent years, his research has increasingly focused on energy and environmental questions in developing countries, including a widely acclaimed paper that showed high levels of particulates air pollution are causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion years of life expectancy.

“Greenstone is one of the very few best environmental economists, brimming with creativity and imagination,” said Cass Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School and a former faculty member of the University of Chicago Law School.

Robert N. Stavins, the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said, “The University of Chicago is exceptionally fortunate to have him join its already stellar faculty. I cannot think of anyone better to lead EPIC to new heights.”

A Chicago native, Greenstone has strong roots at UChicago, where he was assistant professor of economics from 2000 to 2003. His grandmother, Erika Fromm, was on the psychology faculty at UChicago and his father, J. David Greenstone, was a professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science before his death in 1990.

Michael Greenstone graduated from the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, and went on to receive a BA in economics with high honors from Swarthmore College and a PhD in economics from Princeton University.

EPIC was established in June 2011 and has assembled a core research team of world-class UChicago faculty members from economics, physical sciences, public policy, business and law. Computational science, engineering and policy experts from Argonne National Laboratory and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists join UChicago faculty to communicate experts’ research to decision-makers, the media and the public worldwide.

EPIC also contributes to the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, an Argonne National Laboratory-led partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop new breakthrough energy storage technology.