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Robert Bryce is an author, podcaster, and film producer. He is the acclaimed author of six books on energy and innovation, including most recently, A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations. Bryce has given more than 400 invited or keynote lectures to groups ranging from the Marines Corps War College to the Sydney Institute as well as to a wide variety of associations, universities, and corporations. He is the host of the Power Hungry Podcast and the co-producer of the feature-length documentary: Juice: How Electricity Explains the World, which is available on iTunes, Amazon Prime, and other streaming services.
On this episode Chris & Robert discuss:
➡️ Russia and China's influence on global energy
➡️ Europe headed toward de-industrialization?
➡️ Climate becoming a religion based on hopes rather than facts
➡️ Nuclear is on the rise
➡️ Climate NGOs - do as I say, not as I do.
(00:02:54:) We need Energy to live
(00:04:00) What’s driving the chaos and uncertainty in the world?
(00:06:35) How would we compare Japan to America in regard to energy policy?
(00:09:55) Are we going to see more global coal plants being built in the near term?
(00:14:50) What is Russia’s role in global energy?
(00:19:15) Does America buy natural resources from Russia?
(00:20:09) How dependent is Europe on Russia’s resources?
(00:21:33) What is the relationship between Russia and China?
(00:22:19) Does the Russia/Ukraine conflict end anytime soon?
(00:26:25) Is Nuclear gaining popularity?
(00:31:36) Why wouldn’t the US subsidize Nuclear energy?
(00:33:37) What is a Climate NGO?
(00:34:43) Why would billionaires be anti-energy?
(00:36:45) Are Carbon Credits a sham?
(00:39:10) How is China emerging as a global energy leader?
(00:42:02) The USA’s affect on Climate
(00:47:18) Control over energy & population
(00:50:25) How hydrocarbon cuts cause starvation
(00:54:45) Politics: The Disgusted Party
(00:58:48) Is there any indication the pendulum is swinging toward pro-energy?
(01:01:38) What can America do better?
👉 Robert's Podcast: Power Hungry
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Robert Bryce:These ideas being pushed by individual states like California, we're going to lead the US in terms of climate action, we're going to ban internal combustion engines, and we're going to ban the use of natural gas for home water heaters or commercial businesses and so on. And it's been very effective. But China, according to the latest numbers that just came out from Global Energy Monitor, last year, China was permitting and/or beginning construction of one new coal plant per week, and their CO2 emissions continue rising. And so when you look at the major economies in the world today, the US, Germany, Japan, France, and you graph them, and then you add in the wedges for China and India, it's very clear that the expansion of these emissions coming from China and India is swamping any change that's being made in the US, Germany, etc. So I'm not going to say, although other people have said this, that what we do in the US and in the West really doesn't matter anymore because of what's happening in China and India. But I think there's some validity to that.
Chris Powers:Welcome to the Fort Podcast. I'm Chris Powers. And on this show, I talk to some of the most fascinating minds in business and discuss important topics in the world of real estate, entrepreneurship, investing, and more. To learn more, visit thefortpod.com. That's the fortpod.com.
Hey, guys, thanks for joining me today. I have a really great guest, Robert Bryce. We just had a fascinating conversation. Robert is an author. He's a podcaster. He also is a film producer. And he focuses on energy, innovation, and politics. Today we talk about the global energy picture, what's going on, we go deep into what's happening with Russia and Ukraine, China, Europe, and most importantly, the USA and what we're doing about it. We talk about climate NGOs. We talk about the deindustrialization of Europe. We talk about the electrical grid and nuclear power. We talk about the importance of fossilfuels, and a lot more. So thanks for continuing to join me and enjoy the show. And this episode is brought to you by Fort Capital. At their core, Fort Capital is a privately owned real estate investment firm. But beyond that, they are committed to technology and a world class culture which leads to a very forward thinking mentality. Do you want to stay in the know on all things Fort Capital? Be sure to follow Fort Capital on LinkedIn and sign up for the quarterly newsletter on www.fortcapitallp.com. Fort Capital's quarterly newsletter subscribers are the first to receive business and real estate insights, news, videos, podcasts, free resources, and more.
Robert, thank you for joining me today. I am excited to talk about your world.
Robert Bryce:Well, thanks, Chris. Always happy to talk about energy power. These businesses are enormous. And there are a lot of misconceptions and a lot of bad policy out there. So happy to talk about it.
Chris Powers:Yeah, it's an important topic. Apparently, us humans need energy, especially to live the way we like to live these days. Isn’t that correct?
Robert Bryce:Yes, we'll put that down as the understatement of the podcast thus far. But yeah, well, I mean, my most recent book is about electricity. And what we're seeing now in the Inflation Reduction Act is this just neutron bomb of cash that has been poured onto the wind and solar sectors, and that's having knock on effects on supply chains, transformers, pole mounted and pad mounted, the grain oriented steel market, copper, even wooden poles and massive inflation in that sector due to this incredible intervention by the federal government into this sector. So, add in the tumult in oil prices, natural gas prices were high. Now there are at two bucks. I mean, nuclear, Europe, there's so much going on. I'm an old man. I'm 62 this year and will be 63 in July. And I don't know in my lifetime, Chris, when things have been more I wouldn't say chaotic but I would say uncertain.
Chris Powers:What do you think's driving a lot of the chaos and uncertainty? Obviously, it's a lot of forces all around the globe. But if you had to kind of pinpoint, because when you listen to some of your stuff and you read a lot of things, some of these answers seem obvious, but the leadership of the world sometimes tends to make different decisions. So if you had to kind of pinpoint why the chaos is happening now in 2023 with all the innovation we've had in the world, what's driving it?
Robert Bryce:Well, sure, I think the- I was in Japan for two weeks last month, or I'm sorry, late February and early March. And the meetings we had, I was with a group and we met with government leaders, with industry leaders, and all of them were talking about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and energy security. So the laundry list of things that are top of mind in terms of what has happened and what is causing all this tumult in the energy and power sectors, that would be probably the first one. Because it's not just getting gas applies into Europe. It's not just crude supplies into the global market. Its uranium supplies and high SA low enriched uranium supplies into the US reactor business, so into the SMR industry in the United States, a nascent business that needs this where the Russians are really the only supplier. And then you add in China's increasing grip on and longtime control of key commodities and things like neodymium iron boron magnets, which are used in EVs and wind turbines as well as rare earth elements. And all these things together along with the increasing strains between the US and Russia, US and China, and then you add on under investment in the upstream oil and gas sector in the US and these wildly fluctuating prices and then now this Inflation Reduction Act, which is the misnomer of all time, and you got just a lot of chaotic pieces and a lot of competing interests both geopolitically and politically here in the US and fractures even within the- big fractures in the US between various states over energy policy. So natural gas bans in California, bans on natural gas bans in Texas. So fractures all across the world, all around the world, and even inside the US and at the state level and at the county and city level. And we can talk about that with regard to the land use conflicts over sighting of renewables.
Chris Powers:Let's start with just Japan. Your nephew Joey Sinan, his one question was you were just in Japan, and maybe let's start with how does the US align with Japan? How do we not align with them? What is Japan doing that we're not doing? How would we compare Japan to America right now as it goes to energy policy?
Robert Bryce:Sure. Well, Japan, of course, is a key ally for the US and our strongest one arguably in Asia. You could put South Korea maybe in that same boat, but the South Koreans and the Japanese don't like each other. The Japanese don't have many friends in that neighborhood. Let's be clear. And that was pointed out by my friend Tachi, who works for Nippon Oil. And he said, look, we're in a bad neighborhood. We got the Russians here. We got the Chinese here. We got the North Koreans just over there. This is a bad neighborhood. And so their first concern is energy security. And if we're going to contrast Japan with the US, we are blessed with incredible geography and incredible geology. So, we have oil and gas in surplus, frankly. I didn't check the price of nat gas today at Henry Hub, but it's $2 and change. Well, the JKM marker for LNG into the Asian market, again, I haven't checked that today, but it's probably six times that or so, $12 to $14, and has been for a long time. So the price of energy there in Japan is far higher than it is here in the US. So that is one of the issues. But of course, the thing that is the big issue in Japan now is the aftermath and dealing with the aftermath of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. And I was very fortunate, I went to Japan with a group called Washington Policy and Analysis, and we went to Fukushima Daiichi. I was there right about five weeks ago. And it was a sobering experience, Chris. I mean, it really was, to go and see that. I'm adamantly pro nuclear, have been for a long time, but the cleanup there will take decades and cost tens of billions of dollars. And further, now Japan is restarting some of its reactors, they've restarted 10, they want to restart more. And Japan is looking, and the thing that was really interesting, that contrast between Japan and the US, they are reopening their reactors, and they're betting long term on nuclear. They are integrating their entire fuel supply chain. They have high level disposal, low level disposal, they're doing enrichment, they want to do reprocessing, all of this because of this very strong unity in Japan about the Japanese people in their country and that they're going to cooperate and move forward. That cooperation is hard to find here in the US. We are very divided in terms of our politics both nationally and regionally. So those were my key takeaways. But Japan, the other one I think that's clear as well is that Japan, despite being the home of the Kyoto Protocol, they are not taking any significant action on climate change. They were saying a lot of words- they're saying, oh, yeah, we're really taking this seriously, and we're net zero blah, blah, blah. The reality is they're building coal and gas fired power plants. In fact, TEPCO, which owns Fukushima Daiichi, is building a 1.3 gigawatt ultra supercritical coal plant in the middle of Tokyo. So this is energy realism in Japan today. And something I wrote about in my Substack, robertbryce.substack.com, that is, I think, pointing out, and I wrote it when I was in Japan that the title was Japan No Kyoto. For all of the talk about climate change, Japan is choosing energy security first, and well, they should.
Chris Powers:Not just in Japan, but the term net zero, it seems like in this energy environment, a lot of countries around the world that were maybe focused on net zero have pivoted and are opening up plants that they weren't originally planning to ever open up again. It didn't have to take very long for that to happen. Is that kind of happening across the globe where you're going to see more people building coal plants and things that would be, quote unquote, dirty in order to maintain energy stability?
Robert Bryce:Sure, well, and the two countries that come to mind are Pakistan and Germany. We saw that massive run up in LNG prices, global LNG prices, and particularly the JKM marker. That's the Asian marker, the Asian equivalent of LNG for the US. We have Henry Hub as a basis marker or West Texas Intermediate priced at Cushing, Oklahoma, or in Hollander, it's the TTF for the European continent. We saw LNG prices soar, something like 3 or 4x what they are now. Well, they've dropped back down, but that fluctuation in price led the Pakistani government to say, okay, we're out. We are not going to be buying any more LNG, we're going to build coal fired power plants, and that's what they're doing. They announced something like four gigawatts of new coal fired power plants. And the Pakistani economy, by the way, is in total shambles today. They have food shortages, they don't have enough cash, the government is running out of money. Pakistan is on the verge of meltdown. Okay, well, so that's one example in Asia. But then let's pivot to Europe and look at Germany, which is the home of the energy venda, all this talk about, oh, we're going to lead the world in climate change. What are they doing? They're burning lignite. I mean, last year, there was these images, one of the- I forgot the name of the lignite mine, they're expanding the lignite mine to burn more lignite, which is the most carbon intensive way to produce power. There is no more carbon intensive method of producing electricity than burning lignite. And they're taking- they took down a wind project to make way for expansion of the coal plant. That's the energy realism in a nutshell in Germany, which tells you pretty much all you need to know.
Chris Powers:And is that publicly distributed information? Or is that something that someone that's as deep into it as you would know? Or do the folks of Germany or the folks of Europe actually know that's going on?
Robert Bryce:Oh, well, I think Germany's move back to coal is pretty well known. I wrote about the wind project being taken down in Forbes. Now I'm almost exclusively on Substack. I haven't been writing for Forbes lately. But I reported on it. Other people reported on it. But the other part that's critical here to understand is that these markets are interconnected globally. And so Germany loaded up on LNG over the past few months. And they refilled their gas storage. But as the Germans bid up the price of LNG, what did they do? They outbid countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. And so, Germany's able to afford higher energy prices, and they paid it. And they built an LNG receiving terminal in a record like three months or something, four months, because they knew they needed to have gas to make sure they had enough supply. And so they outbid everybody else. Now, the market has cooled down since then. But they essentially just pushed other players out of the market and outbid them. So what we're seeing, one of the big developments and changes in the global energy markets over the past I would even say months, it's really been the last two or three years, is the globalization of natural gas. And now, the trade and global natural gas in the US is now for the biggest exporter, but we will be the biggest exporter by the end of 2025, we'll be exporting 20 billion cubic feet a day of gas from the US. So it's a big number.
Chris Powers:So how do countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh, how do they get out of this? What's the pathway to success? Is there one?
Robert Bryce:Boy, that's a good question, Chris. How do you solve poverty? They need more energy, but they have to buy that energy in the global marketplace. That's one of the problems with Bangladesh, Pakistan; they're relatively resource poor. The same is definitely true of Japan. Japan imports essentially everything, all of their energy resources. They produce a very modest amount of coal and oil and gas. But those countries don't have the resources that the Japanese do. They don't have the borrowing capacity. So, how do those countries then buy enough energy in a global marketplace to satisfy demand in a country where poverty is endemic? This is a real problem. And it's one that, in fact, I was talking to a friend of mine, Steve Brick about this yesterday, about you can solve some of this at local levels with small grids or sub national electric grids is one way because then you can get a group of people that are responsible and will pay for their electricity and so on. But that kind of progress is slow, and it takes decades, not years.
Chris Powers:All right. Let's talk about Russia for just a- I'm going to ask you a big loaded question. And this one's from me. But as we sit today, they're in a war, but they're talking to China and they're talking to other countries. How does Russia, what is their true role in the globe on energy? Where is their energy going? Some people might think, oh, well, we're at war, nobody's buying their energy. Some people would say Americans still buy their energy; you just don't know it. But if you had to kind of lay out a framework for how do their resources impact the globe, even today during a war, who's taking their resources? What resources are coming? What deals are being made? What's really happening behind the scenes?
Robert Bryce:Sure. Well, that's a really good question and a really interesting one. And you mentioned oil and gas. But let's start with nuclear energy. So Ross Atom is the flagship, is the state champion for nuclear energy in Russia. This is the state owned or state controlled enterprise. Some people think that Putin, in fact, has a big hand in Ross Atom. And that may well be; I can't prove that. But that Ross Atom has contracts with countries all over the world to build and operate nuclear power plants and provide the fuel and the financing. So now despite the war, many of those contracts, I think Turkey is one of them. Remember, the Bushehr reactor in Iran was being built by Ross Atom, so the Iranians, they're desperately short of electricity, they need more power. Ross Atom was the one that was building the Bushehr reactor. I don't know what the status is on that now. But there's an incredible demand for electricity globally and for low carbon energy and for cheap, abundant, reliable baseload power. So Ross Atom, despite the war, these contracts that Ross Atom has made with various countries around the world, those projects are still going forward. Now with regard to oil and gas, it's a little bit different. And I'm sure it was the- I think was the G7. They tried to impose price caps on Russian oil. Well, price caps never work, never have, never will. And there was an effort to try and restrain Russia's income from oil. Well, okay, you can try that. Or you can prohibit the flow of Russian oil into Europe. But what has happened? Well, that Russian crude has been going to India where it's being turned into middle distillates, being refined, and then either being used in India or being re exported. So it is still very possible that Russian crude is being turned into diesel fuel that somehow is finding its way into the US market. Or if it's not finding its way into the US market, it's finding its way into other markets, and then the diesel from those markets is coming to the US. So in a global environment and global economy, such as we have now, particularly in oil, which is arguably the most fungible traded global commodity, this idea that we're going to shut off Russian oil from the rest of the global market is just a fantasy. One of the reports is that the Russians were selling crude to the Saudis, the Saudis were burning Russian crude in their power plants and then exporting their own Saudi oil onto the world market. So, some kind of hopscotch there, we'll replace it with this one, and then it's like somehow we've just done the cleansing trade here or something. But the reality is those molecules are going to find their way into the market. Now gas is a bit of a different story because Nordstream has been blown up and those gas flows have stopped and largely not completely. But the longer term questions are if that Russian crude in particular goes off of the market and stays off because Western companies, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Schlumberger, are not going to operate in Russia anymore, the Russians needed Western technology, Western expertise, Western equipment, then Russian crude output starts to fall over time. And who steps in? Well, OPEC. So, we can argue about the merits of Russia and the efforts to isolate Russia and the push to put NATO into- add Ukraine to NATO, which I think was a bad idea, but the result is that the efforts to isolate Russia are having consequences in multiple commodity markets around the world. And we've just talked about energy commodities. We can talk about nickel, we can talk about other things as well, particularly in metals, critical strategic metals and minerals. It is a different story there, different but only in the types of commodities that are being traded. So, Russia is a big country and has been a huge natural resource exporter. And so this conflict is underscoring both the global nature of these commodity markets and also Russia’s key role in them.
Chris Powers:Does America buy natural resources from Russia today?
Robert Bryce:Well, we have. And as I said, this is one of the- something like 20% of the fuel for nuclear reactors in the United States has been coming from Russia. And now, Senator Barrasso and some other senators voted recently- introduced a bill that would prohibit the import of any Russian fuel into the US. So again, another area where these resources that some of them being refined and processed as finished goods and others not, but they are finding their way if not into the US, into other countries in the global economy.
Chris Powers:So is it kind of fair to say there's a conundrum where we're buying some natural resources from Russia, so we're giving them money to you can say, quote unquote, fight the war, but we're also giving Ukraine money to fight the war, we're kind of funding both sides of it? Is that fair?
Robert Bryce:That's a fair assessment.
Chris Powers:Ifyou had to say on a scale of one to ten how dependent is Europe on Russia's resources and is there any place in the future where it could become less dependent, or they pretty much made their bed for a while?
Robert Bryce:Well, one to ten, I guess, I'll just say, with Germany, I would say, in terms of dependence on Russia, it was eight, seven or eight because Russia tied itself to- Germany tied itself to Russian gas, particularly under Angela Merkel, and now that has pivoted. And so it's gone from eight maybe, we'll just look at Germany alone, from eight to maybe, I don't know, two, three. I mean, these are kind of wild guess numbers. But I think one of the other things that's clear and one of the knock on effects, Chris, is that because of the efforts to shut off Russian gas, there has been a huge surge in interest in nuclear power in Europe. So you see countries like Romania, Poland, Britain in particular, Germany as well, either restarting their reactors, this is one of the things in Belgium, they extended the life of their reactors, France now saying they're going to double down on nuclear just the other day, the French Congress voted on a proposal put forward by Macron to fund, was it six new nuclear reactors, $50 billion, something like this. So, this this cut off of Russian gas has been a real catalyst for new interest and investment in nuclear across Europe.
Chris Powers:Okay, my last question on- what's Russia and China's relationship?
Robert Bryce:Well, the old adage the enemy of my enemy is my friend holds here. So the US has worked very hard to isolate the Russians. Well, they have then gotten closer to the Chinese, and they already have- Siberia pipeline, the great Siberia, what is the name of that pipeline? But they already- a lot of Russian gas is already flowing into China. But Wu Yi and Putin just met a few weeks ago. And so China clearly sees the conflict in Ukraine. And I think they're trying to straddle the fence here to some degree, but I think it's only Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the US and the G7 and Europe's efforts to isolate Russia have only pushed Russia closer to China.
Chris Powers:Does Russia Ukraine end anytime soon? Or is this going to be a long ongoing slog?
Robert Bryce:Gosh, that's the $64 question. How much pain can both sides endure? I can't hazard a guess there, Chris. I mean, I am no Russia expert. Peter Zion has some interesting ideas about this, about the next month or two is going to be critical because both sides are going to launch offensives and try and break the other side. But I think Putin doesn't have a way out here. Putin is- this is our land, we're going to de-Natzify Ukraine. He's staked his reputation and his future on this war. So he doesn't have any kind of graceful way out. He started it. So a friend of mine who used to work in the British Foreign Office, talked to him, he's actually my brother in law, he said Putin either gets deposed or he gets assassinated. There's no easy exit for him here. So, the war is going badly. If it continues to go badly, more and more casualties, more unrest at home, the economy gets worse. Then, this is the part that's scary, Chris, is desperate men do desperate things. So if all this goes badly, does Putin then take the next step and go with atomic weapons or biological weapons or do something that really makes things ugly in a hurry. That's my concern.
Chris Powers:What are they really fighting over? If you just kind of don't know much, you're thinking, well, Russia said this was our land to begin with, and we want it back. That seems to me to be a little childish. There has to be some deeper levels to this. Like, what is Russia really trying to win here? What do they gain if for some reason they do win? What are they really after?
Robert Bryce:Well, that's a really good question. Again, I'm no expert on Russia. But Konstantin Kisin, he's on Substack as well, he's done some really interesting writing about the motivations, and he cites the work of a guy named Alexander Dugan and Dugan is influential in the Kremlin and particularly with Putin about Russia's role as an imperial power, that this is their destiny, that they are supposed to be expansionist. This is who they are, that this is part of their identity. Now, does that resonate with ordinary Russians? I can't say. I've never been to Russia and not really interested in going. It's a complex history that involves a lot of ideas about Russian nationalism, Russians, their self image, and that Putin has helped sell that with the backing of the Russian Orthodox Church. So I won't pretend to be the expert on Russia here. But this is going to be a long and bitter war. And go back to the commodities, I've talked about transformer supplies and I wrote about it in my Substack the other day. The Russian military has had an ongoing effort to destroy Ukraine's electric grid. Well, all that stuff, the transformers, the poles, the wires, all this stuff is going to have to be replaced. Those products are going to have to be developed and manufactured globally and to re-electrify Ukraine if and when the war ends, another example of how the supply chains are interconnected and going to result in even greater demand for transformers that are manufactured in the US, which already in some cases have lead times of one to two years.
Chris Powers:Okay, just a clarifying question. You mentioned Ross Atom, is that like a big nuclear contractor? Is that a company? Can you explain who Ross Atom is?
Robert Bryce:Imagine General Electric was owned by the United States government. So that would be my- I've never thought of it that way, but that would be- GE has built, it builds nuclear reactors, they build- they are a big manufacturer, but Ross Atom is the state champion, the state owned nuclear energy company in Russia. And it's a very big company, arguably maybe the single biggest nuclear energy company in the world. I wouldn't stake my reputation on that, but they own and operate all the nuclear plants in Russia. I don't know if they own all the upstream in terms of uranium production. I think that's actually a different company. But Ross Atom is the state champion. They build and finance nuclear power plants in other countries around the world as well. So it's a very big and very influential company, particularly inside the Kremlin.
Chris Powers:Is it fair to say, we'll kind of move to nuclear now, is nuclear gainingpopularity? Is what happened at Fukushima, I think I said that right, the reason why more people are not advocating for nuclear? It seems so obvious. It creates cheap, abundant energy. What is holding it back? Or is it now going to start really growing into the world? Where do we stand with nuclear?
Robert Bryce:How long do we have today? Is it just an hour?
Chris Powers:We can go a little longer.
Robert Bryce:Well, look, I'm adamantly pro nuclear and have been for more than a decade. My thesis is natural gas to nuclear, in to in, if we're serious about decarbonization, or even if we're not, the way forward to cheap, abundant, reliable energy and power is natural gas and nuclear. Both, the resources are enormous, the technologies are well developed and widespread, and they're scalable. We have more natural gas globally than we can say grace over, as my father used to say. Nuclear technology is well developed. We're developing smaller, faster, cheaper reactors. But there are many hurdles in front of us. And we talked about Japan earlier. And it was a great opportunity for me to go to Japan. But also when I came back, I was much more sober about nuclear energy. And it's easy to say, well, I'm pro nuclear, and I am. But what are the key hurdles that are facing us right now if we just look at the US? I think there are three. Well, first is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the regulatory regime around nuclear power, that the NRC is an independent agency, and it has been, frankly, in many cases, the anti Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They've made some moves that are, I think, terrible. Now, are they getting religion? And are they mobilizing? And is there a lot of pressure on the agency to do better and approve new reactor designs and do it more quickly? Yes, there is. But let's look at New Scale Power, which is the one of the leading companies now that has had their reactor design approved by the NRC. It took New Scale six years and $500 million to get their reactor design approved by the NRC. I mean, there just aren't many companies that can sit around and wait that long. Because capital wants a return on capital. And so New Scale is one of the lead horses here, but that track record says damn, you’ve got to be patient, and you're going to have to wait a decade or so between the time you propose it and the time you might be able to start building it. Okay, so three things, NRC, fuel, and cheap gas. Those are the key hurdles in the US. Okay, so I've talked about the NRC, which we could talk about more. The other is the fuel availability, which I've touched on before, which that supply chain goes through Russia. And the US doesn't have- I mean, we have some companies, including Centris and Urenco, that can enrich uranium and then get further downstream and provide then those finished fuel packages that go into new nuclear reactors. But we don't have the capability, at least not yet, to produce HALU, high assay, low enriched uranium, which is about 20% enriched uranium, that a lot of these new small modular reactors needs. So where are we going to get that? Well, no one really knows. Oh, well, let's build some plants. Okay, so you build a plant. Well, how many years between now and then? And then are you going to have companies say, oh, we believe the fuel will be available, so we're going to start building our plant now, our new reactor. There's a lot of risk inherent in those assumptions, whether you get the project approved by the NRC, and then if you do, is there going to be fuel to run it? And then the other one here in the US, and this is really one that is key to nuclear development in the US is that I heard a guy, nuclear industry guy years ago, he said, what price do you need natural gas to be for new nuclear to be appropriate or for it to be investable in the US? He said 8 bucks. And he said, we need another 8 bucks on top of that in carbon tax, which is something else. So he's saying $16 per million BTUs, again, I haven't checked the price on Henry Hub today. It's, what, $2 and change. So if I'm in the utility business, and I'm looking at building something new, and I want to deploy capital, well, what would I do? Well, the first thing I’d do would probably be build wind and solar because the subsidies are so enormous. I mean, there's hundreds of billions of dollars that the government, federal government, including through the Inflation Reduction Act, have provided to wind and solar developers. Okay, well, that would be the first choice because the gravy train at the federal level is amazing. And then the other would be natural gas because there's very little technology or political risk, and the fuel is not free but $2 per million BTUs is pretty dang cheap. So those are the- again, we could talk about nuclear for a long time. And I'm passionate about nuclear, very interested in all aspects of it, but it still faces a lot of hurdles in the US. And even if we get a few reactors deployed, let's say 30, 50, 100 megawatts, okay, great. Our electric grid in the US, Chris, is 1.2 terawatts. That's 1200 million million watts. So it's just enormous. The scale of the electric grid in the United States is just incredible.
Chris Powers:So okay, you might have answered it, maybe I'm just asking a dumb question. But why would the US government not put hundreds of billions of dollars behind nuclear then and subsidize it if they're going to do it for solar and wind?
Robert Bryce:Let me correct my math. I said 1200 million, it's 1.2 million million watts. That's one terawatt, 1 trillion watts. Okay, so well you right, so if we need nuclear, and we do, regardless, I think whether you think- whatever you think about climate change, in my view, you don't have to believe in climate change to be pro nuclear. But we've had this idea in the US about free markets, and this doesn't necessarily apply to electricity because I know electricity is really not a commodity, it's a service. But Congress has been reluctant to just put the thumb on the scale for nuclear. And part of that is the partisan divide. Democrats are reflexively anti nuclear and have been for decades. And you have these big NGOs; I don't call them environmental groups because I don't think they're environmental groups. They're pressure groups, these climate activist groups. They have budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars, and they are reflexively anti nuclear. And I will name them – the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Institute, Climate Imperative. And these are some of them. That last one I mentioned I wrote about in Substack. These are some of the billionaires behind the gas bans. These are new outfits that are pushing bans on natural gas, they're anti nuclear, and they have budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. They're very influential in Washington. They're very influential in the Democratic Party. Republicans are pro nuclear, but they don't want to put a lot of money behind it. So one of the reasons why, to answer your question directly, hasn't Congress just said, okay, we're going to give a boatload of money, and we're going to create the American Ross Atom to compete with the Russians, is that Congress doesn't see that as their role. And also, add in the fact that the US electric sector is very diffused. We have over 3000 electricity providers in America. So, it's a very fractured business and looking for support in a very fractured political environment. It's a heavy lift.
Chris Powers:Okay, define what's a climate NGO.
Robert Bryce:Well, a climate NGO, Sierra Club is the obvious one, they have a budget of 180 some odd million dollars a year, Natural Resources Defense Council, budgets of over $200 million a year, millions of members across the United States, Rocky Mountain Institute founded by Amory Lovins, another big NGO, this one's one of the few that's not based on the coasts, it's based in Colorado, budget of over $100 million a year. These are very influential outfits. And the media, they have a lot of allies in the media. And in some cases, they create their own media outlets; Rocky Mountain Institute created their own publication called Canary Media. So, they have enormous amount of influence both in politics but also in the media. As I like to say, the renewable crowd right now, they have the money, the media, and the momentum. And I think that's clearly true. Now, is there a lot of momentum building behind nuclear? Yes, but it's going to take a long time for nuclear to make a dent in the overall size of the US electric grid.
Chris Powers:Why do you think all these billionaires are so anti energy? When if you just say, well, let's just look at your actions, I hear your words, but I'm looking at your actions, huge houses all over the world, yachts. I think I read something that you had posted that said that Bloomberg uses 670 times more jet fuel a year than the average US driver. Yet they're so pro kind of anti oil and gas or energy. What's driving that motive for them to want to take that stance when their actions aren't lining up?
Robert Bryce:Well, these are climate indulgences. I think Martin Luther would recognize what's going on here. Oh, well, yeah, I fly in my private jet and Bloomberg has something like a dozen houses. He's worth something like, Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, is worth something like $50 billion. He has a dozen houses. He has a fleet of jets. And I use data on that. And I published a piece on Substack called Above It All. Yeah, I mean, these are- Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow, she flies around the world in a Gulfstream G50 that burns 500 gallons of jet fuel an hour. In an hour, her jet burns almost as much fuel, liquid hydrocarbons as the average American uses in gasoline in a year. So they're funding these climate NGOs as, I think, a way, kind of their get out of jail free card, feel better about myself, kind of my donation, well, I'm flying in my jet, but I deserve it. I'm on my yacht, but I deserve it. So I'm going to give some money to these people because they're going to impose policies that force the little people to use less energy. I mean, I don't think they think about it that way. But I think there is some psychology here that was at work when Martin Luther tacked his grievances on the door of the church back in, what was it, the 1500s. There's a very similar kind of idea here, and Martin Luther would recognize carbon credits. These are carbon indulgences.
Chris Powers:Are carbon credits a sham?
Robert Bryce:Oh, yes, they are.
Chris Powers:Because when you listen to like, there was a recent Bill Gates interview, and he was put on the spot, and it was very awkward. But his answers were basically, well, I'm offsetting all my carbon footprint with all these carbon credits. If he was telling the truth, what does he actually think he's doing? But what are carbon credits, and why are they a sham?
Robert Bryce:Well, it's interesting you bring that up because this is an old story. And again, Martin Luther would recognize these because that was one of the reasons for the Reformation, the Catholic Church was selling indulgences. You could go and sin and cheat on your wife or do whatever debauchery you wanted. But as long as you gave the church some money, that sin was- you were you were absolved of that sin. And that was how a lot of churches got built was with that kind of money. The main route for this is by these companies are claiming that they're selling carbon credits to UPS or United Airlines or something, and they're planting trees. Well, there have been a number of studies, and just in the last few months, the Washington Post has reported on it, Bloomberg News has reported on it, that a lot of these firms that claim to be counting, planting trees, that they're way over counting what they might be sequestering in terms of carbon. And what's interesting about this, since I brought up the Catholic Church, it was in the early 2000s where some guy, he was a shyster, went to the Vatican and said, we're going to plant the Vatican forest. And he had this parcel of land in Hungary that he was going to claim that he was going to plant all these trees on and it was going to allow the Vatican to be carbon zero, net zero or carbon neutral. It turns out, he never planted a single tree; the whole thing was a scam. Like, the story has played out yet again with these other bigger outfits and bigger companies that are claiming that they're doing big business. But like I said, I think was in February, The Washington Post reported on some of the latest things, they overstated their carbon benefits by 30 or 40%. And to sequester all the carbon being emitted, you'd need to cover two or three Earth's with the amount of forest we're talking about. So it's an accounting gimmick that is being used by a lot of big corporations. And the same with renewable energy credits recs, that they're trying to shift their energy consumption and look greener than they are. It's a lot of hocus pocus.
Chris Powers:Okay, let's talk about China for just a little bit. On one end, they control a lot of the natural resources that are going to need to be used to build more electric vehicles and things of that nature. But they're also the largest developer of coal plants in the world. Is this another kind of do as I say not as I do? Or what's China's stance on all of this? And how are they emerging as a leader in the world of energy?
Robert Bryce:Well, let's start with that last part first because that's the one that to me is so interesting and I think is the counter indicator for a lot of this policy in the US, these ideas being pushed by individual states like California, we're going to lead the US in terms of climate action. We're going to ban internal combustion engines and we're going to ban the use of natural gas for home water heaters or commercial businesses and so on. And it's been very effective. But China, according to the latest numbers that just came out from Global Energy Monitor, last year China was permitting and/or beginning construction of one new coal plant per week, roughly. Now, I thought that was old news. I thought that was a few years ago, we heard that 5, 6, 7, 8 years ago, that China was building all this new coal fired capacity. They are. In fact, they are, and their CO2 emissions continue rising. And so when you look at, and I've graphed it, I do a lot of public speaking, but creating a PowerPoint slide in which you look at the major economies in the world today, the US, Germany, Japan, France, and you graph them, and then you add in the wedges for China and India, it's very clear that the expansion of these emissions coming from China and India is swamping any change that's being made in the US, Germany, etc. So I'm not going to say, although other people have said this, that what we do in the US and in the West really doesn't matter anymore because of what's happening in China and India. But I think there's some validity to that. There is one rule, Chris, and I borrowed this term from my friend Roger Pilkey, Jr., he calls it the iron law of climate, which says when forced to choose between economic growth and action on climate, policymakers will choose economic growth every time. I have a different take on that. I call it the iron law of electricity, which is people will do whatever they have to do to get the electricity they need. And that's what we're seeing. So the overwhelming majority of the growth in coal demand, which grew again by about 1%, last year, according to the IEA, a lot of that is happening- yes, China's growing in terms of coal consumption, but it's also Vietnam, India, other developing countries in southern Asia, where they're saying we're going to burn the fuel, and now Pakistan, we're going to burn the fuel that we can afford that's available that's geographically, there are no OPEC like entities that control it. They're going to continue burning coal. That is the reality.
Chris Powers:You kind of answered the question, but I'll just ask it again, maybe a different way. But let's just say America, everybody drove an electric vehicle, we had no more gas stoves, and all 400 million people here, we somehow got everybody to do it. But the rest of the world kept moving on the way they've been moving on right now. Would it even matter? Because we all live in one globe. It's not like America has the climate above itself. We all are benefiting, we're all part of one globe. If all these things that America keeps preaching actually happened, and we got 100% adoption, but China kept building their coal plants, the rest of the world kept doing it, is it virtually like we're not putting a dent in the universe?
Robert Bryce:I wouldn't say it has no value, but it's next to no value I would say. As I said before, ultimately I think what's happening now in the US, we've reduced our CO2 emissions on a nominal basis more than any other country in the world over the past 10 to 15 years, largely because of the move away from coal and toward natural gas. But still, those savings have been swamped by the growth in the developing countries, and they will continue to be swamped by the growth of economies in the developing world. And why is that? Because energy poverty, Chris, around the world is rampant. And I talk about it in my latest book, A Question of Power. There are more than 3 billion people in the world today who live in countries where per capita electricity use is less than what's used by an average American refrigerator. So I'll repeat that. So 3 billion people living in countries where per capita consumption on average is less than 1000 kilowatt hours per capita per year. So particularly in Africa, you have hundreds of millions of people living in dire energy poverty, and they will do whatever they have to do to get out of it. They don't want to burn cow dung and wheat straw and wood anymore. They want to use butane, they want lights, they want what we take for granted. So it's a global issue. It's going to take global cooperation. But I don't- what I see is a lot of rhetoric. And what I see in the numbers is the CO2 emissions continue to rise as they did again last year as per the IEA.
Chris Powers:And so I don't think it's a bad pursuit and a bad ambition for folks in the United States to want to lower their carbon footprint. But at the same time that they're doing that and then if they're trying to project that on the rest of the world, whether they know it or not, they're also saying we're also cool with 3 billion people staying in virtually energy poverty as we continue to push more expensive forms of electricity in the pursuit of decarbonization.
Robert Bryce:Yeah, I'll say it a little bit different in that I think, who gets hurt here? So we can talk about what are the merits and what is the motivation for the people that are funding these anti hydrocarbon efforts, like Michael Bloomberg or John Doerr, who's also at Climate Imperative or Laurene Powell Jobs or Tom Steyer. Well, okay, we can talk about their ambitions or their motivations. But what about the people who are working class or poor who are living in poverty in the United States? When I look at all these climate regulations, nearly all of them are regressive. All of them. You look at efforts to ban natural gas in the home. Well, natural gas is the last form of in home affordable energy. The DOE's own numbers say that it costs roughly three times more to heat your home with electricity than it does with natural gas. So who gets hurt here? And I think it's clear. I live in Austin, and I have some friends of mine, they’re hard working folks. This guy, we, Nico Lopez, a friend of mine, he does landscaping, he's never going to drive a Tesla. And yet, if he lived in California, in a few years, he won't be able to buy an internal combustion engine vehicle. Well, what does that do for him? Nothing. How is he going to haul a trailer? There's a very urban centric focus here in the US. I did some numbers the other day, something like 60% of the electric vehicles sold in America are sold in just five states, California, Texas, Florida, New York. But those states only account for about 35% of the population. So this push for EVs, it does nothing for the people who live in South Dakota or West Virginia or North Dakota or Wyoming. I go to those states frequently. I talk to a lot of electric co ops. I see a lot of F150s and Rams and Silverados. I don't see any Teslas. Are you kidding me? These are rural states in cold country, and they aren't going to buy an electric vehicle. Are you kidding? And yet, because of the tax policy, they're forced to effectively subsidize EVs in places like California, which accounts by itself for nearly 40% of all the EVs sold in America. So there are discrepancies here and I think real ones between the rich and the poor, but also regional variations in terms of, well, who's getting the money and why. And these issues are not getting the kind of attention they should.
Chris Powers:Somebody told me the other day people in power do not get together and think of ways to make themselves less powerful. They do quite the opposite. And so we can make the argument that you take some of these billionaires that are saying all the right things, but you look at their actions. Could you take it a layer deeper and say by supporting these things, you have to think okay, well, what is the benefit of all this, and if the real answer is, well, maybe one day we'll live in this utopian decarbonated world, that could be one thing? Or could it be that if you can control energy, you have more control over the population?
Robert Bryce:Well, I think about that, and what are the motivations at work here? And to your point about politicians, it’s that old line, no politician ever got elected by saying things are going to be just fine. They get elected by saying, you elect that other guy or that other gal, things are going to go straight to hell in a handbasket, I'm going to save you from them. So the crisis is always at hand. And that there is no doubt that politicians always run on this idea of fear of that other guy being worse than I am. And so I'm going to protect you and look out for your interests. But I think that the motivation, what is the motivation for these? I think many of these people who are pushing these policies, they are well meaning. But I think that more fundamentally, I mean, let's look at where they’re getting a paycheck. So, a lot of these jobs in these NGOs, these climate action groups, they pay pretty well, and there are a lot of them, and the money is secure, so you get a paycheck. But I think there's also a religious aspect here that is important to touch on, Chris, which is ordinary church going in America is way down. Belief in political religious affiliations among voters, way down. Well, people need to believe something, that we have, as Jonathan Hite I think put it, we have a God shaped hole in our hearts. We are believers, we need to believe something. And so what I think is part of what is behind all of this climate-ism is a religious belief in that we humans have sinned against Earth, and we need to repent. And so when you look at these ideas around carbon credits, you look at these ideas about the despoliation of the Earth, just as Adam had fouled up in the garden, and they had to- a lot of this rhymes with this idea we're going to go back, we're going to go back to the garden, we're going to use less, eat less, we're going to rely on natural energy, solar and wind, we're not going to use that unnatural nuclear, we're not going to do those things. Instead, we're going to redeem ourselves in the eyes of the earth. So these kinds of images and this kind of rhetoric is very- there's a lot of religious overlap at work here that I think is a fundamental driver of a lot of this policy and belief, both among the politicians and among large segments of the voting population, particularly younger people. A lot of them have been inculcated in schools in this kind of belief system.
Chris Powers:Okay, on that note.
Robert Bryce:I kind of stunned you there for a second, didn’t I?
Chris Powers: Itmakes a lot of sense. It's a religion. Again, as I continue to learn more about it, it seems like the numbers don't really add up behind it. But I guess it is something to believe in. You said something about Europe, and you said, today's fertilizer shutdowns are tomorrow's shortages and famine. Well, let's take the first part of that. What is creating the fertilizer shutdowns? Who's behind this? Why would that be a good idea? You don't want to lose food, I don't think.
Robert Bryce:Sure. Well, that was a piece that I wrote last summer when we had natural gas prices in Europe for a brief point hit about $100 per million BTUs at the TTF trading hub; they quickly receded. Now they're back down into the teens now, I think $13 or $14. So a lot of that fertilizer capacity in Europe has come back online. I don't know the latest numbers. A lot of it has. I had a guy on my podcast, Chris something on the Power Hungry podcast last year from CRU group talking about this. But people forget and conveniently easily forget that about 4 billion people in the world today are able to eat because of synthetic fertilizer that is made from natural gas. So the haber bosch process turns natural gas into synthetic ammonia that then becomes a base fertilizer for all kinds of things that farmers put on their fields that help them grow more food. So, what we saw in Sri Lanka with the meltdown of the Sri Lankan economy where they said, oh, we're going to go to organic farming, well, suddenly you had food shortages. We're seeing food shortages now in Pakistan. Is that due to the fertilizer, knock on effects of fertilizer shortages that happened in Europe last summer? I don't know for sure. I can't make that direct line of sight to say, well, this is that direct knock on effect. But it is clear that this romantic notion that we'll quit using hydrocarbons completely ignores the fact that our food systems depend on hydrocarbons. Our tractors use diesel fuel, our fertilizer is based on natural gas. We shut off our supplies of oil and gas, people will die of starvation. That I think is just clearly the case. And so it's a very dangerous- I mentioned the romanticism of this, about going back and we're going to use less, and I'm hoping to interview Bill McKibben. I'm supposed to talk to him on Monday for my podcast, and he's promised to do it; we'll see. But he said, oh, we need to cut our hydrocarbon use by 20 fold. Well, who's going to take the hit there? So I think we forget, Chris, and it's one of the things that is really becoming one of the themes that I think about a lot in my work is we live in a system that's a network of networks, diesel fuel that provides the fuel for the mining trucks that produce the nickel, the copper. We produce the diesel or natural gas that is worked- that is used in fertilizer, we produce the transformers that are critical for electricity distribution that are dependent on a very specific type of specialty steel called grain oriented steel, of which there's just one producer in the United States. So we have built over decades this very intricate economy that is very integrated and very interrelated. And we can't just pull out one part and say, oh, everything's going to be fine. We can't just say, oh, we're going to pour a ton of cash into this one part of the economy and not expect it to have knock on effects in other parts of the economy. And that's one of the joys of my job right now is just trying to talk through and explain to my readers and subscribers how I see it and how these things are unfolding.
Chris Powers:Yeah, you talked about, we just talked about kind of if we're going backwards, I did an episode, I believe it was 216 with Alex Epstein, he said something similar. He just said when you stop producing the hydrocarbons, the machines stop working, the machines being the tractors, the buildings, the facilities, the processing plants. And they don't just stop gradually over years and decades, they stop in a matter of weeks. And once the machines stop, then our way of living, especially in America, goes backwards. You're back to lighting campfires and doing your best to survive. Basically, his point was not only does famine and starvation kick in, but pretty much world chaos kicks in almost overnight if the hydrocarbon stopped flowing.
Robert Bryce:Yeah, that's definitely the case. And it's interesting to see how the Biden administration has changed. And I'm not a partisan. I'm not a Republican. I'm not a Democrat. I'm disgusted.
Chris Powers:I like that. I'm in that camp too.
Robert Bryce:Welcome to it. The disgusted party. Enrollment is open to everyone. And I think a lot of voters are disgusted, and they always vote well, he's the least worst or she's the least worst, so I'll pick that person. But I think it's interesting to see how the Biden administration now lately has been trying to, as I see it, tack to the middle. Why else would he approve the Willow project in Alaska, oil development in the United States, which I'm fully in favor of. If we're going to produce oil and gas, produce it here by God, better to do it here than somewhere else. But you've also seen kind of a change in rhetoric from Jennifer Granholm and other- the Secretary of Energy. So maybe they're just looking ahead at the midterms and saying, oh, we can't be viewed as these radical leftists. Instead, we got to act more centrist. So, maybe there is hope. And I did an interview with a guy that we will air the podcast pretty soon, Jim Murchy, and he said, for all this talk about political dysfunction, and there is political dysfunction, there's still an incredibly enviable position. And I totally agree with that, that for the myriad of flaws in the United States, the myriad of problems we have with high levels of structural unemployment. Now, employment levels are very high, we've got a lot- we have labor shortages in the US. We have endemic poverty in many areas of the country, we have homeless problems, we have massive problems with opioid addiction and deaths from opioids. But the US is still in an incredibly enviable position both when you think about demographics, geography, energy availability, the rule of law, the best universities in the world. I mean, the sixth one, I haven't looked at these numbers, six or seven of the top ten, 20 of the top 25 universities in the world are here in the United States. We have incredible advantages. But what concerns me is that we are passing so many policies, particularly on the energy and power side, that are eroding our advantages, and we're doing it without much conscious consideration of what the knock on effects are.
Chris Powers:Is that because you think leaders are trying to erode our advantages? Or does it more tie back to this religion that they believe in?
Robert Bryce:I tend to believe it's the latter. I think it's just we are led by lawyers, like it or not. And why are politicians lawyers? Well, they couldn't do the math to get into engineering. So we elect them, we have lawyers that dominate our political process. So they are swayed by polls, and they're swayed by what sounds good. They don't know enough about engineering and physics to say, oh, that's a bad idea. And they're also being swayed by, let's be clear, the money, and there's a massive, massive amount of money behind these NGOs. I published a piece about the dark money behind the gas bans and the billionaires behind the gas bans. People say, the left continually says, oh, the American Petroleum Institute and natural gas lobby, they have so much money and so much influence. Baloney. Chris, it's just the biggest whopper of all time. You take the top 25 anti hydrocarbon and anti nuclear groups in the United States, and they're operating on annual budgets of about four and a half billion dollars. Their revenues are 4X on an annual basis, four times what's being raised by and spent by the pro hydrocarbon/pro nuclear groups. And that includes the think tanks like Clear Path or maybe American Enterprise Institute, although they’re really not very active, but then as I said, American Petroleum Institute, American Gas Association. I compiled the list. I mean, it's not even close. The anti hydrocarbon, anti nuclear climate NGOs have so much money. And I'm the only one that I know of, I'm not bragging here, but that’s been reporting on this and putting the numbers to it. And it's staggering the amount of influence and cash that they have.
Chris Powers:All right, I'm going to leave you with a loaded question that we can bring this home with. But if we- well, maybe two. I'll give you a quick one. If the world moves on a pendulum and the pendulum has been going towards the NGOs and kind of that religion, is there anything that shows you that the pendulum might be swinging back the other direction? Could we be sitting here 10 years from now and the pro fossil fuel group is now the largest donor or raiser of money and has the influence, or are we still swinging out towards the NGO model?
Robert Bryce:Oh, I think there's just no doubt that the climate NGOs, the anti hydrocarbon anti nuclear camp has the advantage and that advantage is going to continue. I'll cite one specific example which I've started to write about. In his letter to shareholders this week, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan, said we need to- he said something, to evoke eminent domain so we can build wind and solar projects faster. Well, here's the head of a bank that is worth $375 billion saying we need to effectively steal the land of rural landowners so we can build more wind and solar. And why would JP Morgan say that, the head of JP Morgan say that? Because he has a tax equity finance business that's worth tens of billions of dollars. So here we have the prospect then of the government in bed with corporations and big banks to expropriate land that doesn't belong to them so they can build more wind and solar, which will not cause climate change- which will not cure climate change, but which will provide profits for the big banks and big companies such as NextEra Energy, Mid American Energy, which is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Invenergy, Apex Clean Energy, which is a subsidiary of Ares Management Corporation. These are very big businesses that are now in bed and want to be even further in bed with government, and they want to take land that doesn't belong to them so they can build more wind and solar projects because that's where the money is. So I don't think this has run out yet. And I fear it will get worse before it gets better.
Chris Powers:Okay, and then the last question, if you-
Robert Bryce:I went all Jimmy Swaggart on you there. It's about the money. It's always about the money, Chris. It's follow the money. It's not about climate change. It's never been about climate change. It has been about the bucks. Who's getting the money? Whose interests are getting subverted? I've been all over the country. I was in Michigan last week talking with a group of rural landowners who are fighting these projects, solar projects, in particular in Southern Michigan, in fact, Apex Clean Energy. And they're saying what are these people doing? Why are they coming into our neighborhoods? We don't want square miles of solar panels in our neighborhoods, we don't want 600 foot high wind turbines in our neighborhoods. Tell them to go somewhere else. I'm like, yeah, you can. But remember, they are being driven by vast amounts of subsidies and money, and they want to take your property because if they don't, they don't make any money.
Chris Powers:Interesting. If you had to leave us with like a couple of not policies but just thoughts on what America could do better from your perspective, and we'll leave it on that note, what are a few things that the average American could understand, to think about going forward, things that could put us back on a path to being maybe not more powerful but more efficient and using energy the right way and headed back in the right direction? What could we be doing?
Robert Bryce:Well, first, subscribe to me on Substack, Robert Bryce on substack.
Chris Powers:That'll save the world right there.
Robert Bryce:Robertbryce.substack.com. Well, I'll be serious, Chris, and I think it's an important question. It's one that I've written six books, I've made a documentary, I'm making another documentary, I have a podcast, I'm on TikTok, I do all these things because I'm motivated by the desire to help people understand energy and power. And one of the reasons why we have so little good policy is that people, the general public and voters and policymakers are scientifically illiterate and innumerate. They don't understand the basis of physics. They don't understand what power density is, energy density. And because they don't understand it, they'll believe anything. And so a lot of my work is trying to help people understand, well, what is the scale of our energy system? How big is it? How hard is it- And how often does it change? Why are we still using coal? Why are things the way they are? So if I were to encourage people in any direction, it would be become more literate about these issues. I've written my fourth book Power Hungry, it is kind of a primer on these issues. A quick vignette, Chris, I go into meetings with oil and gas executives and I spoke to utility executives, and these meetings, I’ll talk about- I present numbers in SI units and exit jewels, which is the common unit. And I’ll ask, how many of you know what an exit jewel is? In a room full of energy experts, not one, maybe two hands go up. And then I start shaking my finger. What are you doing? You need to know these numbers. So not only do they- so I'll make that as a little side note. But it's important for people to understand those numbers and to understand the scale of our energy and power systems. Because if you don't, then you'll believe anything. And so those are the things that I would encourage people to do, understand the physics here, understand what power density is, understand what energy density is. It's not an accident we use gasoline. We do it because it's an incredible energy density. If oil didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. So that would be my quest or my request would be, people, dig into this and work at understanding it because it's not easy to understand. It's not difficult, but it does require some commitment.
Chris Powers:Robert, thank you so much for your time today. This was a fascinating conversation.
Robert Bryce:It was great, Chris, glad to be with you.
Chris Powers:I hope you've enjoyed this episode of the Fort Podcast. Be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast platform or hop on over to YouTube to watch full video episodes if that's what you prefer. For more information, you can check out the fortpod.com.