Green Investment and Private Profiteers

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I joined the Prospect in July and have developed a beat on the political economy of climate change—in particular, looking at how the energy transition intersects with geopolitics and public investment. I’ve also looked at how private companies are seeking to capitalize off shifts in federal policy. Here are a few of my favorite stories.

Will Aberdeen’s Oil and Gas Overhaul Make Skilled Workers Redundant?

The oil and gas capital of Europe is a small town in Scotland that got rich off drilling in the North Sea. Energy magnates are looking to retool Aberdeen’s pipelines, platforms, and high-traffic port for clean-energy projects like hydrogen and carbon capture. The tax base—and well-heeled benefactors—make the city one of the most well financed to move beyond oil. Despite those optimal conditions, it may still not achieve a “just transition” for its workers.

At U.N. Climate Talks, What Mattered Most Went Unsaid

The 2021 climate talks in Glasgow were a lagging indicator of opinions already reached by elites. The corporate media emphasized China and India’s reluctance to phase out coal, conveniently distracting from the U.S.-led expansion in oil and gas drilling. And while diplomats played up the fact that rich countries had failed to commit $100 billion in climate finance for poorer ones, that entire spectacle distracted from the urgency of creating less punitive credit conditions for green investment in developing economies.

Can American Politics Allow for Long-Run Investment?

How do you fix the “valley of death” that haunts American manufacturing? We’re pretty good at R&D, but we’re no good at guiding ideas to commercial viability. A new Industrial Finance Corporation proposes to do just that.

Paid Leave Advocates Won’t Push Back on Payouts to Private Insurance

Private insurers successfully inserted themselves into a proposal for publicly funded paid leave for workers. While the political influence of the health care industry was unsurprising, this story also finds that progressive activists tasked with fighting for paid leave did little to push back on that intrusion, even arguing in favor of private-sector involvement. There are lessons for the limitations of “grasstops” advocacy.

Bureaucracy Jams Up Student Debt Relief for Disabled Borrowers

People who are “totally and permanently disabled” are supposed to be able to discharge their student loans, but applicants for the relief are snarled in a bureaucratic morass. The Biden administration said it wanted to strip away burdensome means testing—but the reform left in place a byzantine system of eligibility requirements. I spoke with a plumber suffering from the debilitating effects of West Nile virus, who hasn’t been able to get relief.

Eyeing Federal Infrastructure Windfall, Private Equity Courts Public Utilities

Anticipating a public-investment bonanza from new federal investments in hard infrastructure, private equity firms are looking to be cut in on that spending. I examined one, Bernhard Capital, which has pitched underfunded municipal water and power systems in a bid to take over management of the utilities, and reap the profits.