Thor Hogan

Thor Hogan is an associate professor of politics and environmental sustainability at Earlham College in Indiana, where his research focuses on science and technology policy—currently looking primarily at climate and energy issues. His forthcoming book is The View From Space: NASA's Evolving Struggle to Understand Our Home Planet (co-authored with Richard Leshner). This is the first manuscript to focus on describing and analyzing the historical evolution of the Mission to Planet Earth/Earth Observing System (MPTE/EOS) initiative from its formative years in the 1980s to its political and technical struggles in the 1990s to its scientific successes in the 2000s. Though detailed in its coverage of science and technology, The View from Space is primarily concerned with questions of policy—specifically, how MTPE/EOS came to be, how it developed, and how its proponents navigated the fraught politics of the time. This in-depth history of the initiative provides a valuable object lesson in how political, technical, and scientific infighting can shape a project of such national and global consequence in the age of climate change.

Thor is also the author of Hydrocarbon Nation: How Energy Security Made Our Nation Great and Climate Security Will Save Us, which examines how four technological revolutions—industrial, agricultural, transportation, and electrification—drew upon the enormous hydrocarbon wealth of the United States to transform the young country into a nation with unparalleled economic and military potential. Each of these advances engendered new government policies aimed at strengthening national and economic security. The result was unprecedented energy security and the creation of a nation nearly impervious to outside threats. However, when this position weakened in the decades after the peaking of domestic conventional oil supplies in 1970, the American political and economic systems were severely debilitated. At the same time, climate change was becoming a major concern. Fossil fuels created the modern world, yet burning them created a climate crisis. This work argues that everyday Americans and policymakers alike must embrace the complexity of this contradiction in order to help society chart a path forward. Doing so will allow us to launch a critically important sustainability revolution capable of providing energy and climate security in the future. Hydrocarbon Nation provides reasons to believe that we can succeed in expanding on the benefits of the Hydrocarbon Age in order to build a sustainable future.

Thor's first book was Mars Wars: The Rise and Fall of the Space Exploration Initiative, which won the 2007 AIAA History Manuscript Prize. The book examines the political battle to gain approval for the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), which was one of the landmark episodes in the history of the American human spaceflight program. The story of this failed initiative is one shaped by key protagonists and critical battles. It is a tale of organizational, cultural, and personal confrontation. Skirmishes involved the Space Council versus NASA, the White House versus congressional appropriators, and the Johnson Space Center versus the rest of the space agency, all seeking control of the national space policy process. The demise of SEI was a classic example of a defective decision-making process that lacked adequate high-level policy guidance, failed to address critical fiscal constraints, developed inadequate programmatic alternatives, and garnered no congressional support. Some have argued that SEI was doomed to fail, due primarily to the immense budgetary pressures facing the nation during the early 1990's. This book argues, however, that the failure of the initiative was not predetermined but was instead the result of a deeply flawed policy process that failed to develop (or even consider) policy options that may have been politically acceptable given the existing political environment.

Thor is also a regular contributor to the Washington Post, where he writes about topics ranging from American politics to environmental policy. This has included columns arguing for the censure of President Donald Trump, contending that the Democratic Party needs a young presidential nominee, and investigating solutions to the climate crisis.

After completing his undergraduate degree at Clark University, Thor worked for two years as a speechwriter and deputy communications director for the Democratic Party in Massachusetts — while going to law school at night. In 1998, Thor moved to Washington, DC to start doctoral work at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University. At the same time, he began an eight-year career as a policy researcher at a series of think tanks—this included half a decade as Director of the Space Policy Project at the RAND Corporation's Science and Technology Policy Institute. In this capacity, he was the principal investigator on numerous studies conducted for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Thor lives in Oxford, Ohio with his partner Kate, son Sam, and dog Izzy. He is an avid trail runner, visiting the Miami University nature preserve most every weekday morning. On the weekends, he enjoys jumping onto the saddle to cycle for at least twenty miles. He is also a dedicated traveler and trekker. In the past fifteen years he has traveled on five continents, while trekking in the Himalayas, Andes, Alps, and on Mt. Kilimanjaro. He is also a passionate cook, although he mostly finds time to pursue this activity during summers spent on the Rhode Island coast. Finally, Thor is a massive Liverpool Reds fan, following the football club with an almost manic dedication.

Recent Appearances

Date Venue Address
Date: June 20, 2019
7:00pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Savoy Bookshop and Cafe Address: 10 Canal Street
Westerly, RI 02891