Basketball court with power plant in the background

My current book project shows what we can learn about how not to have a “just transition” from the case of “clean coal” in Appalachia. I argue that robust planning for energy transitions is necessary, but that plans must be attentive to the human, emotional, and cultural dimensions of technological and industrial change. Too often, planning has been treated primarily in terms of technological capabilities and economic efficiency.

Human, emotional, and cultural dimensions are important because planning for climate response is often shaped by conflict and the threat of conflict. Groups that can demand or resist planning – like communities, classes, publics, or a national polity – coalesce in relation to these conflicts, rather than pre-existing them.

The case of “clean coal” offers lessons about sentiment, culture, and climate change that are applicable to a whole range of disruptive responses to climate change, from energy transition to managed retreat.

This book builds on my dissertation, which investigated the relationships between “clean coal” discourses, the political economy of climate change, and the material practices of coal pollution mitigation. I showed how these relationships appear from the standpoint of a community that generates electricity from coal, transports coal via barge and rail, and – in the past – mined coal. My methods included systematic content analysis of historical newspapers, interviews with community residents and public figures, and an interpretive analysis of public and corporate records that document the relationship of “clean coal” to climate governance.

My publications and presentations have, in recent years, focused on cultural, political, and economic aspects of the coal industry in Central Appalachia.

Kyger Creek powerplant at sunset

Links to other related work forthcoming

My older public-facing writing is eclectic, covering topics including higher education, popular culture, music, intellectual property, climate justice, the environment, and technological change.

Moss with leaves