Volts: a newsletter about clean energy and politics

What with climate change accelerating and US politics falling apart, it’s pretty grim out there. Yet alongside these doom loops, somewhat anomalously, something good is happening: the transition away from fossil fuels to clean, carbon-free energy is underway, and it is accelerating every day.

That transition has become an enormous, sprawling meta-story. It spans the entire economy, from heavy industry to tech to retail. It’s unfolding on every level of government, from local zoning boards to the federal government to international treaties. It involves technology, politics, policy, psychology, even philosophy. It’s a lot to track.

At Volts, I track it. I follow the news, read the trade publications and research reports, talk to the engineers and policy staffers, and think hard about the larger political and social context. Rather than the broad-and-shallow view offered by most publications, I sift through the flotsam for what matters and then go deep on it. The goal is not quantity of information but quality of understanding.

Oh, and fun! I hope to build a community here at Volts as fascinated by this stuff as I am, willing to share their expertise and indulge my dad jokes. I hope you will join us.

Volts will arrive in your inbox twice a week, give or take.

One edition will be energy analysis — a deep dive on some new research, political development, or technology. It is free to all subscribers.

Paid subscribers get much more. They get the second edition, in which I review some of the week’s other news and offer shorter takes on energy, politics, media, epistemology, parenting, or whatever else is on my mind. The second edition will also include pictures of one or more of my pets — my cats Anakin and Obi-Wan and my dogs Forest and Mabel — which alone is worth the price of admission: $6 a month or $60 a year.

And only paid subscribers are able to comment on articles and participate in discussion threads. I hope this high bar for participation will lead to unusually respectful and insightful conversations.

(If you are facing tough financial times, as many people are, email me <david@volts.wtf> and I’ll get you a subscription.)

Over time, depending on how things go, I hope to grow the newsletter and add more voices, always with the goal of helping you better understand what the hell is going on in our effort to leave fossil fuels behind. Come along for the ride!

Who am I?

I have been reading, writing, talking, and thinking pretty intensely about this subject matter for over 15 years now. Most recently, from 2015 to 2020, I was with Vox, a news and culture publication for which I still occasionally write. Before that, I was with Grist, a publication focused on environmental news, where I was hired in 2004.

Over those 15+ years I’ve written for other publications (like Outside) and appeared on a variety of TV shows, radio programs, and podcasts, like All In with Chris Hayes and On the Media and Pod Save America and Why Is This Happening? I’ve been quoted or cited by all kinds of fancy-pants people, from Al Gore to several US senators to pundits like Michelle Goldberg and Paul Krugman and Jon Favreau and Tom Friedman to media analysts like Margaret Sullivan and Jay Rosen to climate writers like Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben and David Wallace-Wells.

The peak of my career, however, came when Nick Offerman — who played the immortal character of Ron Swanson, a libertarian in the parks department on Parks & Rec — approvingly cited a Twitter thread of mine on libertarianism.

Join the fun

When you write for a journalistic organization in search of social media and search clicks, you are forced to adopt the Voice of Authority, which makes it difficult to speculate, ask questions, and take chances. And you are forced to write for an audience of strangers who know nothing about you, your past work, or your subject matter, which makes it difficult to address more advanced subjects or use running jokes. I miss running jokes!

My dream with Volts is to return to the freewheeling, intimate, exploratory spirit of early blogs. I want to create a community of people passionate about understanding clean energy and building a viable human future — and willing to share knowledge and insights from a place of mutual respect and support.

And I’d like to make a living! So if you value what I do, and what we do here together, please consider becoming a member of the Volts community.