2017 Fellows Research

EP’s 2017 Student Fellows and staff have been investigating a variety of exciting research topics. Summaries of their research are provided below.


Arun Ramamurthy, “Deconstructing Decarbonization: Quantifying the fastest and cheapest path to radical emissions reductions”

Energy information agencies have now collected over forty years of detailed case studies on decarbonization — but how do they compare at a quantitative level? In this study, we isolate what distinguishes those countries that decarbonized the fastest from those that did so far more slowly.


Grace Pratt and Michael Light, “Death in the Desert: Energy density and tortoise mortality at the Ivanpah solar farm in the Mojave”

Solar farms are touted as good for the climate, but what about for endangered species? New studies suggest large impacts to deploying solar and wind farms. Now, for the first time, we quantify total mortality to date of California’s state reptile — the threatened desert tortoise — and explore the implications for future renewable energy projects in the Golden State and beyond.


John Lindberg, “The High Cost of Radiophobia: The health and environmental impacts of exaggerated radiation fears”

Radiation holds a near-mythical place in our culture. However, radiation is not the killer we are led to believe, despite our regulatory system exacerbating the risks and invited radiophobia. Not only is it making nuclear power unjustifiably more expensive, but it also makes any accident much worse.

Karen Yu, “Are Renewables Regressive?: Calculating the welfare and social justice impacts of clean energy subsidies and mandates”

Over the last decade a growing body of research has found that policies for promoting solar, wind and energy efficiency have disproportionately benefited wealthier rather than poorer individuals. How much of an impact have these policies had — and what are the implications for the future of clean energy?

Kylie Feger, “Is Paris Burning?: Quantifying the environmental impacts of proposed nuclear plant closures in South Korea, France and Germany”

The world applauded when nations agreed to restrict future greenhouse gas emissions in Paris in 2015. But given the rapidly accelerating decline of nuclear energy globally, was the enthusiasm misplaced? Or did nations closing nuclear plants purposefully exaggerate future emissions in order to show greater progress than was possible?

Mark Nelson, “Deconstructing the Paradox: If solar and wind are getting cheaper, why are they making electricity more expensive?”

Over the last decade, the cost of solar panels and wind turbines has declined dramatically, and yet everywhere they are deployed, electricity becomes more expensive. While there is speculation of a link to intermittency or perhaps energy density, little has been done to theorize the connection — until now.


Minshu Deng and Michael Light, “Atomic Uprising: Why Environmental Progress leaves no nuclear plant behind”

The rapidly accelerating decline of nuclear energy globally has led some pro-nuclear advocates to speculate about the need for “triage” — fighting to save some plants and  not others. Environmental Progress has pursued a different approach, and is seeking to save every nuclear plant everywhere at risk of closing. Here we explain why.


Daphne Wilson, “Killer Energies: Understanding why and how people die in energy-related accidents”

The vast majority of deaths from energy production result from the air pollution causing respiratory diseases, but it is accidents — from gas pipeline explosions to nuclear meltdowns — that grab the headlines. Despite decades of research, there is no widely accepted definition of what constitutes an energy-related death, nor a reliable database of energy accidents. This project is filling that research gap.

Madi Czerwinski, “The Grassroots War on Nuclear: A bottoms-up analysis of the strategy and efficacy of anti-nuclear advocacy in the 1970s”

The common narrative for the decline in nuclear power in the United States is that nuclear died under its own weight. However, archival research tells the story of a strategic anti-nuclear movement that was able to delay nuclear build-outs while conjuring significant public opposition. What lessons can be applied from this research to future efforts to save nuclear plants, and improve public understanding?

Grace Pratt, “War on Energy for the Poor”

First world nonprofits have been expanding their ideology into developing nations around the world for decades, including their campaigns against nuclear energy. What methods do these NGOs use to gather support? How successful are these campaigns in persuading people to turn against the clean energy?

Jemin Desai, “The Re-Materialization of Energy”

Over the last several decades, the total amount of materials required for energy production has steadily declined — a process known as “de-materialization.” As we move from wood to coal to oil and natural gas, we obtain more energy from less matter. Basic physics suggest that, as societies deploy larger quantities of energy-diffuse solar panels and wind turbines, energy production will re-materialize. Here we explore if the evidence supports the theory.

Akiksha Chatterji, “Did Coal Really Face Resistance?”

In the 1970s, many prominent anti-nuclear leaders advocated building coal plants over nuclear plants. Now, some anti-nuclear environmentalists argue that coal faced just as much, if not more, opposition as nuclear. But this seems dubitable. What do historical records show?