University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Robert Darrow

Professional Title: 

Graduate Student

Office: 

Thompson 626

Email: 

Degree: 

MA in Political Science and an MA in Philosophy from Virginia Tech.; BA in Professional Writing at Michigan State

Bio: 

The need for industrial societies to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels is urgent, but the growing recognition of and response to this imminent global challenge from many sectors—including across the academy—are raising the prospects of achieving a renewable energy revolution. The main goals of my research are to contribute to these efforts to build more sustainable societies, and, in the process, to advance understanding of the social and political dynamics of technological change. It is widely acknowledged that making the transition to renewable energy is technically and economically feasible; the obstacles are primarily political. My research asks how these obstacles can be overcome in practice, and with what consequences for broader dimensions of sustainability, and for the organization and exercise of political power. To address these questions, I conducted six months of fieldwork in Denmark, where a renewable energy transition is reaching a tipping point. My dissertation project, which I will defend in April 2018, charts the progress of wind turbine development in Denmark over four decades, as the Danes became world leaders in the production of renewable electricity. My mixed-methods study draws on dozens of in-depth interviews with key stakeholders and a new quantitative dataset of Danish wind turbines to analyze how the country's electricity system has evolved, and the consequences of these changes for democratic politics. I identify several important recent shifts in the character of Danish wind development—including the increasing centralization of the industry—and argue that engaging a greater diversity of actors may lead to a system that is more stable, resilient and sustainable.

I work mainly in the subfields of comparative politics and political theory, but my research is informed by and engages with a broadly interdisciplinary community of scholars. I am currently a fellow in the National Science Foundation IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Program at UMass. I hold Master's Degrees in political science, philosophy and science and technology studies from Virginia Tech. In the past, I have conducted research on mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia, and participated in an NSF-funded study comparing renewable energy policies at the state and local levels around the United States. I have also worked in the electric utility industry on nuclear power issues. I am prepared to teach courses at the undergraduate or graduate levels in my areas of specialty—energy, environment, science and technology policy—but I also have experience and interest in teaching across multiple subfields, including political theory, public policy, American politics, research methods, and the philosophy of social science.

Program: 

  • Political Science