I am an Assistant Professor in the Institute for Energy Studies (IES) and the Department of Environmental Studies (ENVS) in the College of the Environment at Western Washington University (WWU).

I am interested in questions of energy and climate governance, especially in the context of energy system transitions and efforts at deep decarbonization. I approach these questions at the intersection of energy policy and critical social science. My M.S. research focuses on understanding the development of the Renewable Portfolio Standard as a policy instrument within the broader context of U.S. energy law and regulation. My Ph.D. work examines coal-led industrialization in post-Opening Up and Reform China to understand the pressing present-day issue of coal generation overcapacity. Not only do building too many coal power plants severely constrain our future emissions pathways, but has also had severe labor, social, and health consequences, especially for already-marginalized groups in China.

I have also been exploring audio as a form of art and a medium of knowledge production and public outreach. I recently co-produced an audio project, Homeward Bound, about how people’s relationship to home and access to shelter have changed during COVID-19 in Boulder, CO.

I graduated from Cornell University with a BA in English literature. I hold an M.S. in Environmental Studies and a Ph.D. in Geography, both from the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder.

As a critical political economist whose scholarship is partially rooted in understanding the evolution of labor organization and labor rights, I serve as a Union Steward for the faculty union, United Faculty of Western Washington, Washington Education Association (WEA)/American Federation of Teachers-Washington (AFT-WA) Local 2084. I have also served on the Executive Board of the Committee on Rights and Compensation at the CU Boulder, which pushed for the unionization of CU workers and is now a wall-to-wall union, United Campus Workers - Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 7799. In Boulder, I was on the Executive Board of Boulder Cooperative Food, a worker-owned and -operated bulk food cooperative.

I am currently part of a Equity Advisory Group to Puget Sound Energy (PSE), the electricity utility serving Whatcom and 7 other counties in Washington state, helping advise PSE on equity issues in its clean energy transition. I have also worked in community organizing for food, environmental, and social justice in Washington D.C., for the consulting firm Booz Allen, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Refereed Publications

  • Wang, X. (2022). Managing the problem of too much capital: Coal power overcapacity, migrant labor sacrifice, and structural problems in contemporary Chinese political economy. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 5(4), 1895-1918. https://doi.org/10.1177/25148486221123418

Commentaries and Technical Reports

Select Invited Talks

  • China’s Painful Transition to a Clean Energy Future. October 2021. China Environment Forum, The Wilson Center, Washington, D.C.
  • Conducting Social Science Research in China. June 2018. Fulbright East Asia and Pacific Orientation, Department of State, Washington, D.C.
  • Undergraduate Majors in the Humanities and Social Sciences. June 2017. EducationUSA Panel on Undergraduate Majors, U.S. Embassy, Beijing, China

Creative Projects

  • Homeward Bound Audio Project: An audio art and oral histories project featuring housing oral histories that document the experiences of shelter for community members of Boulder, Colorado during the first year of COVID-19

Research Interests

energy policy and planning, political economy of electricity systems, energy infrastructures, industrial labor and organization, climate governance, community solutions to climate change