My research and teaching interests encompass environmental history, political history, and the history of capitalism. My current research focuses on the political economy of the 1973 oil crisis. This event is usually described in terms of a short-term panic in oil markets and at gas stations, but policymakers' responses to the interruption in energy security also had wide-ranging, long-term consequences for the future prospects of other energy sources. Efforts to reconfigure the nation's energy infrastructure to prevent similar disasters in the future, in other words, held significant implications for coal, nuclear power, hydroelectric power, and renewable forms of energy like wind and solar. Policymakers soon found that the impulses toward domestic energy sustainability often encountered obstacles in the form of the environmental legislation of the early 1970s, especially the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. New drives for energy security often engendered lengthy court battles to adjudicate this tension between environmental protection and increased energy production. Because energy is both produced and consumed locally, federal policy changes also profoundly affected metropolitan power relations and the political standing of organized labor, especially the United Mine Workers of America. My dissertation examines the UMWA strike of winter 1977-78, plutonium nonproliferation concerns as related to the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, the Tellico Dam controversy as related to endangered species law, and the battles over the mission and scope of the Tennessee Valley Authority. These case studies illustrate the complex relationships among national energy policy, localities, environmentalist and pro-business groups, and the judiciary.
My analysis of the UMWA strike, "Carter's Energy Insecurity: The Political Economy of Coal in the 1970s," recently appeared in the Journal of Policy History.