Joan Fitzgerald

Joan Fitzgerald is professor of urban and public policy at Northeastern University. She is the author of Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, and is working on a new book, Greenovation.

Recent Articles

The Green Wall Against Trump

He may repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan, but states and cities can, and will, still do a lot to advance clean power.

AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File
AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File Installers from California Green Design install solar electrical panels on the roof of a home in Glendale, California. O n March 28, President Trump signed an executive order to repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which mandated emission reductions from power companies (an estimated 650 million tons by 2025 alone). But since 29 states plus Washington, D.C., have set requirements to adopt more renewable energy (known as renewable portfolio standards), how much impact will Trump’s order have? Despite Trump’s embrace of coal, there is a fair amount of evidence that too many states are too far along on a renewable energy path for Trump to reverse their momentum. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that the states that have set goals for adopting renewable energy have collectively met 95 percent of their targets. Solar production was up 95 percent in 2016 alone, and that followed several years of rapid expansion, according to GTE Research...

Solar Eclipse?

Can the U.S. have a coherent solar policy in the face of China’s strategic trade moves?

Imaginechina via AP Images
Imaginechina via AP Images Sun rising in the East: Solar panels and wind turbines at a photovoltaic power station in Yiyang county, Luoyang city, central China's Henan province, January 2016. This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . T he United States does not like to engage in explicit economic planning. Direct government pursuit of industrial objectives violates both our professed belief in free markets and our global commitment to liberal trade devoid of national favoritism. Nonetheless, the U.S. has been willing to use something close to economic planning when it comes to transitioning to both photovoltaic (PV) power installation and production of solar cells—a transition that markets won’t make on their own because of the current pricing advantage enjoyed by carbon-based fuels. States and cities have subsidized solar startups. The federal government has used tax credits to subsidize solar production. The Department of...

Why Markets Can't Price the Priceless

It takes government planning to promote the rational conservation and use of water.

(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey)
(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey) A public works wastewater reuse project accounts for approximately half of the water used daily by Wichita Falls, Texas. This article appears as part of a special report, "What the Free Market Can't Do," in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . W ater sources for many Southwestern cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix are drying up. Meanwhile, most Eastern cities have ample supplies but decaying infrastructure that can’t handle the more frequent and severe flooding brought on by climate change. The Cato Institute and Reason Foundation are part of a libertarian movement arguing that market pricing of water could solve both problems. But water, as a public good, can’t just be left to private markets, or we will have billionaires watering lush lawns while other citizens have dry taps. Privatizers are also notorious for underinvesting in the infrastructure needed both to supply fresh water and to...

Losing Our Future

If we don't develop a national industrial policy for
clean-energy production, the strategies of other nations will displace American companies and jobs.

If you want to understand the consequences of America's failure to have a coherent, national industrial policy, look at one signature industry of the future -- renewable energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that by 2030, total global investment in wind and solar technologies could be worth as much as $3.6 trillion. Unfortunately, the U.S. is headed down a path that will render us consumers of renewable energy -- but not leading innovators or manufacturers. Though the U.S. pioneered these technologies, we already have an annual trade deficit of over $6 billion in renewable energy, while nations like China, Germany, and Japan are widening their lead. And India is about to enter the competition with massive investment. Other countries have deliberate policies to link innovation in renewable energy to manufacturing advantage -- -commercializing the products resulting from subsidized research and development, subsidizing education of skilled workers, and using...