Manny Crisostomo / Bee file, 2009

Professor Daniel Sperling was honored by a Japanese foundation for his environmental work in helping develop new vehicle and fuel policy.

UC Davis professor earns prestigious prize for environmental work

Published: Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Friday, Jun. 21, 2013 - 7:49 am

UC Davis professor Daniel Sperling, one of the nation's most influential transportation thinkers and policymakers, is the recipient of the 2013 Blue Planet Prize, sometime called the Nobel Prize for environmental science.

The prize, presented by a Japanese foundation, comes with $500,000 award.

"I am deeply honored to receive the Blue Planet Prize, and I share it with my many brilliant and passionate collaborators," Sperling is quoted in a university news release.

Sperling was chosen to receive the prize from among 106 candidates from 27 countries. The award recognizes Sperling for his ability to bring together top thinkers from universities, government and industry to develop new vehicle and fuel policy.

Sperling is the director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. The institute, founded in 1991, is a leader in transportation technology. The institute has 60 affiliated faculty members and researchers, 120 graduate students and a $12 million budget.

Among the topics pursued by ITS: hybrid and electric cars, biofuels production, hydrogen fuels infrastructure, telecommuting and the potential for converting the world to 100 percent renewable energy.

Sperling is also a member of the California Air Resources Board.

Sperling is one of two recipients of the Blue Planet award from the Asahi Glass Foundation. Also honored for his work involving global warming was Japanese scientist Taroh Matsuno of the Research Institute for Global Change at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.

In a statement on the Asahi Glass website, Sperling said he will commit the rest of his career to leveraging knowledge of universities to enhance public policy that shifts the world away from the disaster of climate change.

He said this year the world passed an ominous threshold: the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in human civilization. "Humans are engaged in a risky experiment that need not end in disaster," he said. "Solutions are all around us."

Sperling grew up on a chicken farm in upstate New York. He bought his first vehicle, a 180 cc Yamaha motorcycle, with a scholarship check during his undergraduate years at Cornell. He went through two more motorbikes before buying his first car, a Volkswagen Beetle.

He is the author of 200 technical papers and 12 books, including "Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability."

With co-author Deborah Gordon, Sperling writes in the book about a road map to cleaner cars, greener fuels and a richer menu of transportation options, from "smart" microbuses to shared neighborhood vehicles.

Sperling will travel to Tokyo for the Oct. 30 awards ceremony.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079. Follow him on Twitter @Lindelofnews.

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