Read Philip Warburg's writings on solar power, wind energy, U.S. energy policy, and global energy trends.
Articles, Op-Eds, Letters to the Editor
What Red State Kansas Can Teach Blue State Mass. About Renewable Energy - Cognoscenti, Aug. 14, 2018
Kansas is hardly a bastion of progressive politics, but it is a renewable energy frontrunner - way ahead of liberal Massachusetts. With my home state on the verge of launching its first serious foray into windpower off our shores, I suggest that we take inspiration from the unsentimental pragmatism that has made Kansas second-in-the-nation in wind's share of electricity generation.
In June, I traveled to Cloud County, a staunchly conservative farming and ranching community on the Kansas prairie where the research for my book, Harvest the Wind, began nine years ago. On this trip I was searching for a few strands of hope that might span the chasm between red and blue America. This article offers some insights on what I found.
At a time when President Trump and his followers in Congress are hell-bent on dismantling the clean energy architecture of the Obama era, many Americans are looking beyond Washington, and even abroad, for solutions to our energy crisis. Here's an account of my recent visit to one of these transformative gems: the Danish island of Samso.
Looking beyond the temporary victory won by the pipeline protesters at Standing Rock, this op-ed explores the gradual emergence of a clean-energy sector in Native American communities that have, for many decades, lived under the shadow of some of the nation's largest coal plants.
7.4 Billion and Counting: Could Curbing World Population Help Cool the Planet? - WBUR (Boston Public Radio) - Cognoscenti, Sept. 6, 2016
Will our growing world population, predicted to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100, outstrip even our most determined efforts to rein in global greenhouse gas emissions? This article calls for a renewed look at an environmental issue that has received too little attention in recent decades.
The Ethical and Environmental Implications of a Driverless Future - WBUR (Boston Public Radio) - Cognoscenti, July 15, 2016
As we hurtle toward a seemingly inexorable future of driverless mobility, I use this article to offer some cautionary reflections on the wisdom of this wholesale shift in US transportation.
Floating Solar: A Win-Win for Drought-Stricken Lakes in the US - Yale Environment 360, June 29, 2016
Multi-year droughts and chronic overuse have taken their toll on the Colorado River's great reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. In this article, I describe the role that floating solar arrays could play in curbing water losses to evaporation while generating large amounts of renewable electricity for the power-hungry Southwest.
In this op-ed, I look closely at Exxon Mobil's outreach to shareholders on the eve of its May 25 annual meeting. What I find is a high wall of resistance to reforms that might bring greater transparency or accountability to a company that has long obfuscated the risks and causes of climate change.
Power from the sun is surging in the United States. Realizing its vast potential invites us to make creative but careful use of our built environment and open lands. The Environmental Forum is published by the Environmental Law Institute, www.eli.org.
The obstacles that utilities and their political allies are throwing in the way of distributed solar generation in the Sunshine State are explored in this op-ed.
Here I make the case for responsibly sited utility-scale solar power plants on our open lands - a position largely shared by Erica Brand of the Nature Conservancy but hotly contested by Janine Blaeloch of the Western Lands Project.
This article first appeared in Yale Environment 360 as "In Clash of Greens, a Case for Large-Scale U.S. Solar Projects," on August 24, 2015 (see below).
This interview explores the steps being taken to make solar power more affordable, the "death spiral" that utilities fear as distributed solar generation begins to encroach on their revenue base, and other current issues raised in Harness the Sun.
In Clash of Greens, a Case for Large-Scale U.S. Solar Projects - Yale Environment 360, August 24, 2015
In making solar power a mainstream source of U.S. electricity, can we afford to rely only on rooftops and parking lots, or do we need to extend our reach beyond the built environment? This article explores what is involved in building large-scale solar plants on America's farmland and natural open spaces.
Huge clean energy prospects await us if we are willing to look anew at the wastelands we have long shunned as best forgotten. In this piece, I reflect on the solar power potential that lies hidden behind the forbidding fences and "No Entry" signs of America's brownfields.
Both Hillary Clinton and President Obama have unveiled clean energy plans that their critics call unrealistic. But the truly amazing thing is how reachable those goals are.
Climate Protection & Green Jobs: Mitt Romney's Energy Doublespeak - CSRwire Talkback, October 24, 2012
Mitt Romney's rallying cry for "clean coal" rings hollow when viewed in the context of his call for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be stripped of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Since carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants are the greatest single contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, how does Romney propose to rein in these dangerous pollutants? My critique of Romney's positioning on climate change and U.S. coal use also appeared as an op-ed in the Des Moines Register on October 23, 2012.
Author Explores Promise of Wind Energy - Windsight: The Magazine of Canada's Wind Energy Industry, Fall 2012
In this interview, I discuss some of the factors propelling wind power forward in North America, along with the ways in which a widely perceived super-abundance of conventional energy resources hampers our progress toward a more sustainable energy future.
Cloud County Revival: Wind Power's Ascent in Rural Kansas - Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, No. 30, Fall 2012
"Ruin and Revival" is the theme of this season's issue of Terrain.org. Tapping into the happier half of this theme, the journal includes an updated version of Harvest the Wind's opening chapter, which explores the benefits that wind power has brought to a remote rural community in north-central Kansas.
Romney Myopic about Energy Challenge - The Providence Journal, August 31, 2012 (electronic) / September 7, 2012 (print)
In his speech before the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney derided President Obama for his concern about climate change. Ignoring recent federal studies pointing to renewable energy's vast potential, Romney chooses to base his recipe for "North American energy independence" on the unbridled exploitation of oil, gas, and coal resources, stripping the federal government of its control over mineral development on U.S. public lands. He also calls for "aggressively" opening up America's ocean waters to mineral exploitation.
Mitt Romney's declared hostility to the wind energy tax credit is just one further sign of the clear choice facing voters in November: renew the mandate of a president who has set a new standard for diversifying our energy portfolio, or opt for a remake of the shopworn "Drill Baby, Drill" fixation on fossil fuels.
The present and future job gains from American wind power are enormous, but we may lose 37,000 wind industry jobs if the federal production tax credit for wind-generated electricity, set to expire at the end of this year, is allowed to lapse. Originally published on CSRwire Talkback on June 28, 2012.
Wind power's role in weaning America off fossil fuels holds vast untapped potential for domestic energy production and clean jobs.
Beyond the immediate financial gains, American wind farm hosts enjoy contributing to an exit strategy from fossil fuels. In the Flint Hills of Kansas, rancher Pete Ferrell angered neighbors when he allowed turbines on his land. They preferred looking at pristine prairie; he chose to invest in a sustainable, locally abundant energy resource. This article is an adapted excerpt from Harvest the Wind.
An environmental lawyer goes on a cross-country quest seeking the substance behind the symbols heralding America's clean energy future. Published by the Environmental Law Institute (www.eli.org).
Denmark's thriving economy and energy entrepreneurship should give our own Congress hope as it charts America's energy future. The twenty-first century's energy opportunities are just too good to miss.
China may be a growing producer and user of wind and other renewable energy technology, but there's still plenty of room for a robust renewable energy industry in the United States. By locating new factories close to where American wind farms are being built, U.S. and foreign corporations are producing thousands of American jobs, often in small towns and cities hardest-hit by the economic slowdown.
The last momentous federal investment in energy infrastructure - hydro dams - took place nearly eight decades ago. Today we need a new infusion of energy investment, this time to ease our environmentally crippling dependence on coal and oil.
Co-authored with Susan Reid.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy's opposition to Cape Wind defies his lengthy track record as a supporter of sound energy policies. The very coastline whose vistas he seeks to preserve is on the front line of the battle against climate change, a battle we will lose if we dare not advance projects like Cape Wind.
Letters to the Editor
Trump's energy policies defy science and humanity. Here I call for long-overdue bipartisanship in standing up to our president's folly.
At a time when our planet and those who inhabit it cry out for help, it's stunning that Jeff Bezos has decided to pump his extra billions into space tourism. In this letter, I urge him to choose among the many wiser, more compassionate causes here on Earth.
This second letter about driverless cars' grave safety flaws seeks to expand public debate beyond this particular technology to a broader look at how we set our national transportation priorities.
In this letter, I respond to the tragic death of Elaine Herzberg, who was killed by a driverless car that was being tested on the streets of Tempe, Arizona, on a quiet Sunday evening. I argue for a slower, more careful exploration of this technology and for a stepped-up commitment to mass transit.
Harvard has long lagged behind many other colleges and universities in tackling the transition to a carbon-neutral future. Finally it has committed to curbing its use of fossil fuels, but its investment portfolio - replete with fossil fuel stock holdings - remains intact. In this letter I call on the university to exercise overdue leadership by cleaning up its endowment. I am responding to a short AP article lauding the university for committing to meet its operational needs through carbon-neutral fuels by 2050.
In this letter, I argue that we should no longer be supplying life support to nuclear power given its exorbitant cost and grave environmental deficits. I am responding to Eduardo Porter's column touting nuclear as a zero-carbon fuel that shouldn't cede its turf to wind and solar. Porter ignores the huge price advantage that wind and solar have over nuclear, and his characterization of nuclear as zero-carbon overlooks many externalities, including the huge carbon footprint of cleaning up after nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima. Oh yes, the human suffering too.
It's appropriate to advocate for the use of more efficient, less carbon-emitting chemicals for air conditioning, but the growing number of people needing air conditioning in a warming world deserves equal or greater focus. I make this argument in response to an article that singles out the importance of finding a better refrigerant now that hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been proven to be a deeply flawed alternative to the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were poking a hole in our ozone layer before the Montreal Protocol reined it their use.
In this letter, I challenge investment strategist Ruchir Sharma's assertion that slow population growth is to blame for a lagging U.S. and global economy. Sharma's shortsighted perspective fails to look at the disastrous impacts of ongoing population growth on our already overstressed global environment.
Thanks to the Big Dig tunnel project, more car commuters than ever stream into downtown Boston, yet promised investments in public transit have been delayed, downsized, or canceled. This letter welcomes the State's approval of a stripped-down Green Line extension through underserved, overcrowded Somerville and surrounding communities.
In this letter, I question whether Graham Allison and William Tobey's call for greater vigilance in protecting nuclear plants will be sufficient to meet growing threats in a politically unstable world.
This letter points to a few of the gaping holes in venture capitalist Peter Thiel's op-ed, "The New Atomic Age We Need."
In this letter to the editor, I take issue with Joshua Goldstein and Steven Pinker's op-ed, which much too readily embraces nuclear power as "the world's most abundant and scalable carbon-free energy source."
This letter to the editor calls for converting dead and dying industrial sites across America into renewable energy powerhouses.
Letter to the editor taking issue with Daniel C. Esty's op-ed, "Bottom-Up Fix," in which he questions the value of global negotiations, and certain national policies, as means of combating climate change.
Letter to the editor pressing for a long-overdue increase in the federal gasoline tax.
Letter to the editor objecting to the absence of fuel efficiency as a criterion for the design of New York City's Taxi of Tomorrow.
Letter to the editor in response to “The Not-So-Green Mountains,” by Steve E. Wright (Op-Ed, Sept. 29, 2011).
Letter to the editor in response to “The Gas is Greener,” by Robert Bryce (Op-Ed, June 6, 2011).