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

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...

The Green Challenge: An Introduction

The green economy will get an $80 billion boost from President Barack Obama's recovery package in the form of direct spending, loan guarantees, and tax incentives. A clean-energy economy offers not just savings in imported oil and reductions in carbon emissions necessary to save the planet but jobs and new industries -- and not just jobs, good jobs. The $80 billion is just a down payment on a conversion that will take far longer than two years. We will need trillions of dollars to maximize the potential of a clean-energy economy. And that outlay needs to be strategic. To succeed, we need to get beyond naive cheerleading and pursue tough questions. Will the promise be realized? In this special report, several articles explore the job potential of diverse green sectors such as renewable energy, public transportation, efficiency, and environmental cleanup. Another focus is on who will get the jobs and where they will be. My own article focuses on cities and states trying to develop...

Cities on the Front Lines

Conversion to solar and wind energy is an environmental necessity and an industrial opportunity. Success will require a concerted national policy.

(AP Photo/Sandy Huffaker)
In the Obama era, the federal government will play a much more active role promoting green economic development. In the meantime, cities and states have been the front lines of innovation. However, even the most creative of them are producing relatively few local jobs. A good case in point is solar energy. The problems boil down to three. First, while solar-energy installation can produce hundreds of thousands of jobs nationally, there are far fewer solar-energy jobs in design and installation than in production -- and most manufacturing jobs are already being outsourced globally. Second, despite a lot of creative local efforts, not every city can emerge as a center in the nation's solar-energy industry. Third, in the absence of federal standards subsidizing more rapid development of solar-energy technologies and mandates or incentives for their use, one state or city acting alone cannot bring solar conversion to scale. One can tell a similar story about wind power, conservation, the...