Doomberg is the nom de plume of one of the most successful new publications on Substack. In this episode, Doomberg’s famed green chicken icon explains the power of anonymity in a time of cancel culture, why politicians prefer platitudes over physics on energy, China, supply chains, the many problems with cryptocurrency, the “profound wave of onshoring” about to occur, and why “there’s going to be a lot of suffering” around the world in the coming months.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And today I’m pleased to introduce Doom burger appearing as a green chicken. This is the first Green Chicken I’ve had on the power hungry podcast. But Dubard Welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Robert, great to be here. And given the subject matter that you just described, I think this is right down the fairway for us and our writing. And so it’s been a long time comment, and really a great pleasure. Pleasure to be here. And looking forward to a great discussion.
Robert Bryce 0:33
We’ll see I didn’t warn you. But guests on the podcast introduce themselves. So you are, I was I was writing this down, I thought you’re the Bloomberg is the nom de plume of the eponymous substack publication, which don’t use nom de plume or eponymous very often. But nevertheless, you don’t mind introduce yourself, give us 30 or 45 seconds, 60 seconds of an introduction?
You bet. So Bloomberg is a team, a small team of consultants that come from industry, we collectively have decades of experience in the heavy industry, commodity energy sectors. And Bloomberg is the bespoke, sorry, is the anonymous consulting arm of that bespoke struck do work as the anonymous publishing arm of that bespoke consulting firm. And we, as you indicated publish on substack at Bloomberg on subset.com, six to eight articles a month. And our major themes are energy life, or agriculture, economics, and some geopolitics mixed in to the extent that the decisions we make in the prior sectors flow into the ladder. And so it’s been a real fun time. We’ve been at it for over a year. And it’s been a true blast. And so yeah, that’s that’s doing work. I represent the team on podcast, but we are a small team that worked together. And so it’s been a phenomenal experience.
Robert Bryce 1:52
Well, let me get this out of the way. I’m a big fan. And I haven’t become a subscriber yet, because I’m just overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I read already. But I’ve been really impressed. And I say this sincerely, by the the quality of the writing, which I don’t see very often that I don’t, you know, the other writers that I had that I look at and think, wow, that’s sophisticated, but the content you’re producing is not only very sophisticated, it’s readable. And then the level of sophistication you brought, particularly to the you know, the things I pay attention to the energy business is really remarkable. So congratulations on your success, you’ve just gone behind the paywall on sub stack. So let’s start there, if you don’t mind, just talk about that. What Why sub stack and what is that, and why anonymous.
So sub stack is a facet, you know, subject is representative of one of the five pillars of any business, which is how we look at all the businesses that we interact with. And that pillar is channel. And channel is defined as the corridor in which you bump into people who are authorized to pay you. If you’re a provider of either content services or goods. And substack is kind of like the YouTube for writers. They’re quickly trying to get critical mass in that space of people who go to substack. Understand that a lot of it is free. But most authors on substack, and creators on substack will eventually go to paid and substack makes it very easy for people to pay you. And so that is an ideal channel. And so for that particular pillar in creating the Doom burn business, we decided to go with substack has been a great decision. They’re wonderful platform, they do make it very easy for people to follow you, which makes it easy for people to grow their email list. And then once you go paid, it’s very seamless. And people can subscribe or they don’t subscribe and they still see previews. It’s a really phenomenal platform. There’s some kinks in it that you know, we we’ve worked with substack to try to improve. But overall it’s solid A minus type channel option for writers, especially those like us that had no pre existing social media footprint before we started, which gets to the second question you had, which is why anonymous, several reasons, it’s very difficult to create a large following without standing out. So if you’re if you’re a person and the person is the brand, that’s actually pretty difficult to climb that hill quickly. Whereas the Green Chicken with the stunned eyes and the little smirk on the beak. It really stands out it was it was the brand conception of of one of the partners that our consulting firm who’s just brilliant at such things, and once we saw it, we knew we had a winner. And it goes perfectly with the name Bloomberg, like nobody in finance doesn’t immediately understand what Bloomberg is all about. And so the Green Chicken is our brand icon. And it really works. And we’ve grown our presence on Twitter and fed that the impressions we generated on Twitter to growing our email list on substack. And then once you have a brand that’s anonymous, we think it’s very important to always maintain that anonymity. Because once you sort of reveal the people behind the brand It sort of takes away some of the magic, some of the intrigue, some of the mystique. And so once we started with it, and it took off well beyond our wildest dreams, as you can imagine, it’s just something to stick to. And then finally, the last reason is, although I’m the person that represents the team on podcast, and I’m the head writer, we have an unbelievable editor, you’re talking about the quality of the writing that goes straight to the editor in chief of Bloomberg, you know, our team is got great marketing experience, great design experience, great business execution experience, and so wouldn’t feel right to be a person when you have such a cool equal set of people behind that person who’s fronting for the brand. We’re in this together, we’re very egalitarian. And it’s, it’s just fun to represent that such a high quality.
Robert Bryce 5:44
So how many people on the team?
That’s a yes, a trade secret? Okay. But it would be
Robert Bryce 5:51
less much less than 200 more than to
comfortably count them on one hand,
Robert Bryce 5:57
that’s fair enough.
And you digits despair? Yeah. Okay, got
Robert Bryce 6:02
it. And you’re operating out of the Midwest, you said somewhere, but you’re an Eastern Eastern Eastern Time Zone, which is but flying in flyover country, which is where I spend a lot of my time in flyover country.
Let me put up drive one more point about the rear key to success, we believe is this is truly the work of our lives. This is what we were meant to do. I was meant to write these pieces in our editor was meant to edit, we just had this really great. We’ve done a lot of experimenting as a firm. We’ve told the story before on other podcasts. But we had a very thriving consulting practice, and then COVID hit and a lot of challenges that flowed with that, especially considering that we had a lot of publicly traded companies as clients. And you can imagine in the depths of COVID, how those companies responded to variable costs. And so we had to reinvent ourselves. And we invented ourselves by creating an arm of our practice where we helped other content creators who service Wall Street run their businesses better. And through that experience, which we established our consulting practice to pre COVID levels very quickly, we were encouraged by some of our key clients. So you know, you guys, you guys probably do this, like you should think about doing this. And you’re really good at it, it doesn’t feel like work to you. And the best part of doing it yourself is you will follow all your own advice. And so we decided to create Bloomberg from scratch, it’s been a little over a year, the response has been mind boggling to be totally transparent with you. But it works because the magic is is it flows, the magic flows from that this is an authentic expression of our passion. And we wake up every day with smiles on our faces, we get to do this work, we don’t have to do this work. And so it’s it’s thrilling, the launch has gone amazingly well. We have more than exceeded our wildest dreams. And we get to do Doom both for the rest of our lives if we so choose. And there’s nothing quite as satisfying as developing your own personal sovereignty through hard work.
Robert Bryce 7:59
That rhymes with me. I think that’s great. I really like the way you talk about it. I feel like my have a very purpose driven gig as well. Right? And, and that this is the work of my life, and now I’m in my dotage. 61 What else would I do? I mean, this is what I’ve been, you know, doing this for 30 years now. And finally, finally is a friend of mine who is a medical doctor said and I’ll just leave it at this. He said, he went out on his own recently, and he’s about my age and left a practice. And I said, Well, why are you doing this? He says, Well, I’m supposed to do it. But he also said something that I thought was interesting. He said, I’m finally to the point where I’m not a bad doctor. And just this kind of in wasn’t false humility, but he just feels like he’s finally he’s competent. And I feel the same. But I also thought what she said about anonymity is interesting, because when you reveal what I know, from you know, oh, I work at Manhattan Institute or we you know, there was a, you know, an immediate effort to pigeonhole, right, because it were you better well, I’ve also worked at The Austin Chronicle, you know, so long career in this business, but the anonymity gives you that, that fresh, I guess, you can’t be pigeon holed in one way or another because no one knows who you are.
While it’s more difficult to cancel you as where you go. So that’s a point that I should have brought up in my original answer that we’ve articulated before. When you’re anonymous, by the way, like substack knows who we are and Stripe knows who we are, and we American citizens in good standing with bank accounts and LLCs and we pay our taxes and we pass Know Your Customer anti money laundering, you know, like We’re normal people. But when you write about provocative things, one of our objectives is to be provocative without being polarizing. Yeah. And that’s becoming harder and harder to do in our culture. It’s just a fact of life. And to the extent that being anonymous allows people to or forces people to attack your ideas, as opposed to attacking the person, right? That’s another huge benefit of being anonymous. We’re not ashamed of who we are obviously. But we would like to keep the the polite battle into the field of ideas. It’s just too easy, yeah, to try to cancel somebody as a way to negate otherwise very sound ideas. And in fact, I would argue that the weakening of the free speech in America is part of the corrosion of the underbelly of our society. And so it to the extent that it keeps, you know, honest people honest and puts up a barrier to forcing people to confront our ideas, which we’re happy to defend, by the way, we say all the time, happy to defend what we wrote, can’t really defend what you think you read. And you’d be surprised what people interpret. Yeah. And it’s clear black and white, like the prism through which people read and consume content is really a it’s, you know, it’s testimony to this pre existing psychology from which they are consuming this content.
Robert Bryce 10:47
On the on the speech part of it, because I think that what you hit on something that is very important there about this weakening of free speech and this new, what is it the new disinformation, Glenn Greenwald had a great piece on this just the other day about the the the danger of this new disinformation board within the government now that the Biden administration, I thought, what is that? I mean,
we, we had we had a little chatter around the office about that, and that, my response to that crazy tick tock video, which I’m sure you’ve seen, the first singing about this information was Orwell was a minnow. I mean, this is as accurate as George Orwell was in his 1984. Book it, it’s worse than that. It’s incredible. And just today, there’s this headline that we discussed off air, it was Pelosi talking about passing a bill to make it illegal to raise gas prices. I mean, what are these people think they are I? It’s really staggering, that this is this the best and brightest of society that we’ve distilled up into leadership positions with within government that they think they can just wave a magic wand and control the price of something as critical as as gas at the pump. It’s really astounding, it’s depressing. Something has to give. And hopefully, it’s a reversion back to a more civil society where discourse and ideas are freely flowing, honestly debated. And sometimes even heaven forbid, minds changed based on civil discourse and debate. You know, we’ve lost that as a society and that is not good.
Robert Bryce 12:22
Well, I completely agree. And but I see this and there’s one of the main things I wanted to talk about with you today was the because your your your focus on energy is absolutely right on and your your, the way you’ve approached it, and I want to talk about fertilizer and diesel fuel and so on. But the deep and seriousness, I mean, complete and the seriousness of our political class, when it comes to the issues around energy and power. I just find staggering. And you know, as somebody has been a reporter, I’ve never had a real job. I’ve been a reporter my whole career. Right. But that the the was it really propaganda in many cases, and it being propagated by this administration and at a level that I’ve never seen before? But let’s let me enough of that. And let me let me jump into this piece you wrote February 25. It’s time you wrote it. It’s the headline is rather is, it’s time to get serious about energy. Let me just read this part. Because it’s germane to what we’re saying here, we are left with a simple choice in the US get serious about our energy policy. And this is the day after, by the way, the Russia invasion, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, trying to get serious about us energy policy and preserve our place in the geopolitical order or be forced to stop play acting as a superpower. The laws of physics make our cards transparent to our political enemies. And it’s all too easy for them to call our bluff when they know in advance what we’re holding. So my question here is, why is it so easy or so facile for Pelosi or Joe Biden or John Kerry, who just about two weeks ago said, Oh, we’re going to decarbonize our entire electric grid, and we’re going to do it in 13 years. Why is it so easy for them to demagogue about energy? Or why is it Why do they have such a predilection about it?
Honestly, I chalk it up to shocking ignorance on the part of the people who end up in positions of power. And we have a phrase that we’ve coined, which is kind of gotten popular, which is in the battle between platitudes and physics, physics is undefeated. And this actually dovetails on something that you said about your career and that I think makes Bloomberg unique. You have reporting background, we have decades of experience in heavy industry. But we are freed from heavy industry and freed from the confines of a corporate public affairs teams that shackle far too often shackle the the executives who who know enough and articulate enough to make the case for energy policy. So if you’re working at an Exxon Mobil or you’re working downstream in chemicals at a Dupont or pick your favorite major, right and you’re an executive, last thing you’re going to do is go on social media and engage in the tug of war that involves the shaping In a policy, the shaping of perception, the shaping of, of social media and impressions and follows and tweets and all of the things that you have to do in the trenches to build a brand. They’re more interested in stock options, you know, RSU units, not getting cancelled, toeing the company line letting the professional PR people within their company handle that aspect of the dirty part of the business. Because we’re freed of all of that. We occupy a pretty unique, you know, overlap in the Venn diagram between detailed industry experience, deep background and finance, and an ability to jump into the arena of content creation and effectively compete. And very few teams have all three of those. And so you said, you have reporting background, there’s a lot of content creators who come from academia or who come just from finance. We have all three, we have finance, we have industry expertise. And we have the willingness and the ability to create content in a way that is readily digestible to non technical experts. And so that is the unique value proposition. That’s why I think that that is what explains the sort of the viral nature of the product that we’ve been able to build. And then that also explains why we’ve been able to give a unique voice to it, how many, you know, we were I personally was a, I have a science background. I’m I’m a PhD scientist, and I lead many hundreds of PhDs on research programs in renewable energy on traditional energy, pick your favorite material science development. Very few people who are creating content today for the world of consume have that kind of background and are willing to share it. And so our political class unfortunately lacks that background. What does John Kerry know about the physics of life? Nothing. John Kerry is the product of elite school systems, who, you know, I’m sure he’s a frequent attender of very well fed cocktail parties, and gets all kinds of applause for spouting platitudes. Why wouldn’t he keep spouting platitudes, it’s worked for him for the first, you know, six or seven decades of his life. Eventually, if you speed headlong into the wall of physics at 60 miles an hour, are you going to crash? And we’re going to do that it’s unfortunate. We are optimistic about what happens after that. But the path function neat and be this terrible. It just seems like we are on an irreversible course to make all the wrong decisions and let physics teaches what’s what the true constraints are.
Robert Bryce 17:25
I fear You’re right. Because I just I see what the this administration is doing and I don’t I don’t identify as a partisan as a Republican or a Democrat, but the way that they’re approaching these issues oh, we’re gonna release oil from this SPR. Oh, now we’re going to buy oil from the SPR. Oh, we want more domestic production. We’re going to cancel Keystone. Where are we gonna have it? Well, nevermind. But then. Let me ask you about because your history in your experience in heavy industry. I was at a I spoke to a battery manufacturer earlier this week, and I spoke to furniture. Well, I met a furniture manufacturer in West Virginia a couple weeks ago. The refrain that I hear over and over from the manufacturers and people in industry is in particular shortages of labor and shortages of nearly it constraints in the supply chain throughout. Is that what the sense that you have as well that there are these constraints in the business of being in business in America making things in America that are being confronted in industries across the board? Is that is that rhyme with what you’re hearing or not? What you know,
yeah, we wrote several pieces almost a year ago now called we are about to run out of some stuff. Like one of the things we spent a lot of time thinking about is the titles to our pieces, because that is an important factor into whether I
Robert Bryce 18:37
have to write the headline first by the way, I need a headline to know what it is that I’m trying to say I just start there I’m always
a little a little inside baseball but we have taped on the lamps that that tower over our desks are the words is the title great. We actually start with the title before we write the pieces just like you and
Robert Bryce 19:01
which is what happens at the onion by the way I’m interrupting again. Yeah, they don’t I met a guy wrote for the onion. He said yeah, we just have these meetings and we throw around headlines and we the best headline there once we find the best headlines then we write an article that fits the headline because we got to have the killer headline first.
Exactly. So we are about to run out of some stuff was we wrote almost a year ago. It’s actually kind of weird, but we saw this coming from a long ways away. The the response to the lockdowns has exacerbated and sort of and amplified the the defined fossil fuel movement to the point where we’re at a true energy crisis and a supply chain crisis. And then now what’s going on in China is really shocking. I’m sure you’re following it. This is going to lead to substantial ripples and we’ve written many pieces as you know and alluded to about fertilizer and the upcoming food shortage. These are all just manifestations of energy and getting energy wrong. But lay cheaper materials, just in time is pivoting to just in case which is adding inflationary pressures. All the things we’ve been writing about are beginning to show up. It’s it’s sad, it’s frustrating. We’re trying to do our part, as I’m sure you are to convince, convince as many minds as possible, as our friend Chris Kiefer likes to say, I don’t spend any time trying to argue with the loudest of my opponents, just the ones that have the chance to switch their minds. And, and so, you know, it’s a good framework to think about it. But yeah, our context and industry have been screaming for a year. We were very early on this. And unfortunately, we think it’s gonna get a lot worse here with with what’s going on, especially in Shanghai, but also now, Beijing and other places in China that the response of the Chinese Communist Party to the outbreak is it’s borderline bizarre, it’s almost dystopian.
Robert Bryce 20:56
Well, let’s talk about that. Because I will next week, we’re releasing a I just talked with Ian Bremmer, I have his book here. He has a new book coming out called power of crisis. And we were talking about the lockdowns in China. And I heard him speak about this back in March. And he was saying that about the lockdown so that now today something like 370 million Chinese in 45 different countries, cities are still in lockdown. Well, and then they don’t have effective vaccines, and they don’t. And their only response to COVID is a zero tolerance policy. Well, that means that China could be locked in, or a locking, unlocking from COVID for months, even years to come. So that the supply chains that are now globally that dependent depend on China means we’re gonna have disruptions for a very long time to come. Is that Is that how you see it as well?
So I should, I should preface this by saying that our expertise as it pertains to the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party is far less developed than say energy or, or commodity. Having said that, I personally traveled to China four times a year for the better part of a decade, I have many good friends in China. We were very early on Twitter calling what was going on in Shanghai, the I believe one of our tweets that went viral was the developments in Shanghai is the most underreported story in the world right now. The something very bizarre going on, I can’t say that we have a satisfying theory that explains the observable data. There was certainly something about the fact that GE is up for effectively, you know, dictator for life, right next part of Congress this year, and can’t be seen as having lost face in the battle against against the virus. But at the same time, it’s hard to imagine like the the core social contract. In China, at least as you know, to the extent that a Westerner like myself can understand it is you shall trample on all of our individual rights as much as you like, as long as you provide the goods that are necessary for for sustaining life like food and water and power. And, and to the extent that the CCP has, before this incident been extraordinarily attentive to food inflation, for example, as a direct threat to the persistence of their leadership. This behavior is is a exception to that mindset. As far as I can tell, as far as we can tell, there are people that are struggling for food in Shanghai today. Many professionals, you know, like I know, the Ching Ching Hai university system. Well, I’ve lectured at some of the more famous schools in China, it’s these are professional people that have the same objectives that you would find at anybody in America. Like they have families, and they have jobs, and they have apartments and they have condos, and they have investments, and they have retirement funds, and they have pensions. And they think about all the same things we think about and there’s no question that the Chinese Communist Party has developed and implemented a police state. They put up with that as long as the social contract isn’t violated. This new phase of the lockdown is the first time I’ve seen in my time going to China and studying China, the CCP willingly violating that social contract with little regard for the consequences. I don’t know what the motivation is, and I certainly have no idea how it’s gonna play out.
Robert Bryce 24:22
But damn scary. I mean, because of China’s reach in terms of the goods that I mean, what percentage of the things that we buy in Walmart or from China? I mean, that’s just like I don’t I don’t know 80% I don’t know it’s it’s a very high percentage, whatever it is that all of those could ultimately touch us
as scary as that is a more hopeful in that regard because we need to re onshore or at least move some of that capability to friendlier confines. I’m that genuinely scared for my friends. Like I know and love a lot of people in China and they’re scared and they don’t have enough food and they’re stuck in their apartment some of them are welded into their apartment structures, the These videos that we’re seeing on Twitter are, you always have to be careful to not to remember that this could be some giant syncope operation. But for me personally, those videos are supplemented by text messages I get from my friends who were in Shanghai whose whole compounds have been locked down for 2030 4050 days. This is real. And as a person who has a preparedness mindset myself, this is the kind of horror story that I have been sort of hedging, you know, hedging against at least the tail risk of for many years and to see it play out and to have it just sort of just be it’s just a new cycle. Oh, yeah, sure. Shanghai, Tokyo lockdown, like, know that Shanghai is a vibrant city of 10s of millions of people. These are all souls, these are all mothers and sisters, and children and teenagers and grandparents. And, you know, these are real people that are being welded into their apartment complex. This
Robert Bryce 25:48
just because they’re all in jail. Jail. I mean, there’s no other way to describe it. And I’ve seen the I’ve heard about these stories myself, you know, second, third hand, but yeah, like, you can’t get food. I mean, what the hell? I mean, I mean, truly, what is that? What the hell?
This is why I personally have a preparedness mindset. But, you know, very quickly reduces down to the Second Amendment not to get too political, but they don’t, obviously, they have a zero tolerance policy for personal arms. In in China, it’d be much harder to do that. In Texas, let’s just put it that way.
Robert Bryce 26:20
I can vouch for that. It’s not enough to get that done. There. There are plenty of firearms in this state. This I’m well aware of. Well, let me just touch on that. Because you talked about a preparedness mindset. And we’ve seen the declines in the stock market here in the last, you know, few weeks and growing lack of confidence in the US economy. Bitcoin, is it bonds, stocks, you know, cryptocurrency? They’re all, you know, have seen these big declines in value. Where does and I asked this, you know, both wonder, my personal you know, my interest, but more broadly, what asset class makes any sense? Now, in this we’re looking at, you just tweeted just recently about the graphic showing the Producer Price Index, skyrocketing what what asset class makes any sense? Now?
That’s a great question. And we’ve been very consistent in answering it long before we embarked in this current crisis in the stock market, when things were going up. And you know, the frauds were trading at 50 6070 times earnings. And so we don’t proactively participate in the stock market ourselves. So our philosophy is threefold, we earn money in Fiat, which everyone has to, we save by buying real assets, like gold and land, and we invest privately, where we can at least bend the curve on the outcome, the more direct we can be involved in a private investment, the better for us, because we’re betting on our skills. And we believe in our ability to create personal alpha, through the set of the subset of our experiences and our network and our ability to help entrepreneurs that we would back or the private companies that we would invest in succeed. And so
Robert Bryce 27:54
sorry to interrupt but personal Alpha explained, that is
where you roll up your sleeves yourself, personally, Robert, and you get in and you help a company succeed. And because of that, you make excess returns. And so it’s we are far better at identifying private opportunities that we could impact than we are at judging whether stock a B or C will go up or down in the next one to three years. And so since that stock market is kind of rigged from our perspective, you either sort of have to participate passively, and take what the market gives you, which is fine. The vast majority of personal traders or investors tend to lose money over time, or at least not beat the benchmarks. And so for us, we’ve had significant experience and we have good network and private opportunities come where you can understand the management in an intimate way that you can’t with a stock that’s just a ticker on CNBC, right. And you can understand the nuances of the balance sheet and the income statement and how an injection of equity at the right time might give you a disproportionate return with suitable risk. And so we we have refrained from speculating too much on the stock market and spend most of our time on private investments. And I’m sure many of your listeners are in some similar potential positions. And we would encourage them to consider that it’s far better for us to be able to have some control over the outcome than to just be sort of a price taker in the stock market trading against hedge funds with algorithms and high speed computers and, you know, the very best technicians in the world. We can’t compete with that. But we can help a $30 million business double its business for a piece of the equity for far better than we can decide which stock is gonna go up tomorrow. Yeah,
Robert Bryce 29:31
well, that’s been my reflected Life Learned experience. I meant in index funds. I mean, ETFs I don’t Yeah, Schwab Schwab dividend. I can’t pick them better than those and get a dividend and maybe that’s gonna help against inflation, but I don’t have any illusion that I can be smarter than then Mr. Market. Let’s in on March 10, you wrote a piece that I thought was was was very clear, it was called a serious proposal on US energy and you listed four things To seduce natural gas investment, reclaim a leadership position in poly silicon, which I definitely want to talk about recommit to nuclear something I’ve been talking about for more than a dozen years. And of course correct on evey adoption. I’ve been a skeptic on EVs. My my line is, electric vehicles are the next big thing. And they always will be. But that’s just me. After a century in the market, they have 3% of the market after more than a century. But you wrote this Bloomberg energy plan is grounded in physics. I want to read this because I think you stated again, very well and your the way you write is very clear. The energy plan is grounded in physics is utterly achievable, and would position the US as the global leading as the global energy superpower for decades. In fact, it makes so much sense we expect our political leaders to do none of it. For proof, we conclude with a tweet from President Biden, who is in the administration remains deeply Okay, wait about you said the administration remains deeply unserious about the crisis that will soon befall us. The laws of physics can’t be wished away with platitudes. But this administration seems intent on trying, I’ve thought about this quite a lot about what is it the, you know, the highest ranks of this administration, you have Gina McCarthy from NRDC, but the platitudes and the and the spin the propaganda seems far more important to them than actually doing something that would make a difference, including encouraging domestic drilling for gas and oil. And also really, you know, the Greek commit to nuclear Damn, recommit what what is wrong with these people? I mean, they give some, but they just seem like this is not not even something that they’re like, they’re really not paying attention. But why we talked about this a little bit before but your, your four pillars, do you see any progress on any of those.
So let’s make a couple of clarifying comments. But that’s okay. When we talk about the four pillars, we we envision a world where we do all four of them at the same time. Okay. It doesn’t make sense to read, you know, to develop a domestic polysilicon industry if you’re not going to Unleash the Hounds on natural gas production for. And if you don’t refocus on electric vehicles in the way that we describe, which I’m happy to repeat here, then it doesn’t make much sense to go full battery electric, period. So let me walk through all for sure. And maybe give a couple sentence of context for each. So we have an amazing bounty of natural gas, we have incredibly talented and patriotic companies who have cracked the technic, technically impossible to unleash this bounty to the world. And we are truly idiots for not taking full advantage of it. There’s no other way to say it. And so like we have pipelines, like the mountain valley paths that are 95% Complete, that are still tied up in court, we have, you know, the New England refusing to build pipelines to Appalachia. And instead of importing liquefied natural gas from Trinidad and Tobago, paying international prices, when we have this bounty of trap natural gas in Appalachia, you know, so if we would start by unleashing the natural gas potential in the United States, that’d be great. Natural gas of the fossil fuels is the cleanest, especially if you can get methane leakage under control, which is technically achievable, especially in a heavily regulated economy like the US. If you have a bounty of natural gas, then what should you do with it? So probably, you know, between you and I, the place where we might disagree, a little bit is on solar. The Earth is not a closed system. We are bombarded every day with enough energy from the sun to more than satisfy our wildest dreams and energy. And so we always need to be thinking about developing exploring and optimizing solar energy. Now I understand all of the limitations. We have deep experience in solar around intermittency and all those things. Having said that, there is a real and tangible place for solar power, especially if concurrently we can develop technologies that allow us to efficiently convert that intermittency into baseload power. There’s some gravity storage technologies that we’re very excited about, for example, that we have not yet written about, that might transform intermittency into plausibly and economically viable baseload. And if you could do that, that’s worth doing. And so if you do have one of those breakthroughs, and you don’t have the domestic industry ready, then it sort of, you know, crap before the horse. And so if you have an abundance of natural gas, really cheap energy, because the bid let’s face it, the shale patch can produce natural gas profitably at $2.50 per million Btus. Right. That’s the equivalent of what $15 a barrel oil. I mean, it’s crazy. And so that’s the cheapest energy in the world that is readily accessible at scale. And we have, we’ve handed over the entire poly silicon industry to China because they were leveraging cheap coal and slave labor, and they flooded the market with cheap solar. Why don’t we take that back? It’s jobs for us. It’s a market for net, the natural gas drillers. It’s a boon for the ESG crowd who wants to see more and more solar. It’s sort of the classic woodwind let’s pair those two proposals. We will Unleash the Hounds in the natural gas field and we will I allocate a healthy chunk of the gas that we produce, to create a domestic supply of polysilicon that the world will need, will create jobs here will help the world transition at least part of their energy sources to solar, which we totally support. Solar is completely different from wind, and you see no proposals for wind in our piece. The third, like you say, is the biggest no brainer of the mall, which is to revitalize and reengage with nuclear power. We did a webinar this morning for our Bloomberg pro subscribers, were called the Energy life and currency, universal theory of doom. We talked about how just maintaining the existing fleet is by far the biggest no brainer that we could have. And it’s utter insanity that California is thinking about shutting down Diablo Canyon, the last remaining nuclear power plant. Thankfully, Governor Newsom, and some of his allies have been making noise to the effect that they would consider postponing that closure based on the energy crisis that California is predictably facing based on their insane policy. But for sure, there exists no technical barriers to radically improving our energy situation through the proliferation of known safe nuclear power.
And so, you know, again, you have to do all four of these in context, if you have a growing nuclear power industry, and then you can actually have more intermittency on the grid, even if you don’t solve the baseload dilemma with solar. The more baseload power you have that’s reliable, the more you can feed in solar in a cost effective way and run the grid. And then you also have this ready market for natural gas that you could always divert to LNG exports, if there’s a crisis in Europe, oh, I don’t know because of a war. And so then the fourth part of our proposal is to, is to change this crazy idea that we have that an elite 80 kilowatt hour battery pack in one single car, is the best use of all of those very limited battery materials takes an enormous amount of energy to create the materials that go into creating a battery. If we’re serious about elevating our standard of living while minimizing our carbon emissions per unit of GDP, we have to think about abating as much gasoline per mile driven as possible, right battery materials are that constraint. So if I have 80 kilowatt hours of a battery, it makes far more sense to produce for plug in hybrid electric vehicles that have a 40 mile range that allow the average consumer to spend most of their driving time on electric without carrying around this massive battery pack in one car hoarding these battery materials. So as long as you have a policy, which favors full battery, electric vehicles, you’re going to be stuck with minimal market penetration of vanity electric vehicles so that rich people can feel like they’re doing their part. So you said 3% penetration, if you had divided that by four, you would have 12% penetration, you see them saying like you can then begin to have an impact. And I you know, if you drive a hybrid electric vehicle, you have very few performance compromises. When the battery runs dry, the engine kicks in. Most people don’t drive 40 miles in a day. So 90 to 95% of your driving can be done on the battery, which by the way only diverts the source of the fossil fuel today, that you’re using the power of that battery, which is predominantly coal and natural gas, which is why you need nuclear as well, because if nuclear is your predominant baseload power, and you have a fleet of hybrid electric vehicles, plug in hybrid electric vehicles, right, you can imagine a scenario where you have simultaneously increase your capacity to produce natural gas and oil, while diminishing your domestic demand. Being able to meet international demand and beat the energy superpower as we’ve described in that piece. This is all far too sensical for our political class to adopt.
Robert Bryce 38:54
And instead, I see unending streams of tweets from this administration saying oh electric vehicles in fact the President Biden was just promoting him again the other day and and the trend that I see in the Evie market that is even yet more perverse is oh yeah, we’re now our range is 300 Miles we’ll know as your point is, that know most people aren’t going to drive that far. And it’s a waste of battery. It’s a waste of battery. It’s a waste of all the issues that go spherical, graphite, cobalt, lithium, all the copper all of those things that massive material inputs which are far greater for the electric vehicles than they are for conventional ice vehicles. But yeah, like you said, it all makes so much sense.
Let me also be very clear like it doesn’t make sense to only do solar and not do the other shrink.
Robert Bryce 39:34
Sure. Yeah. And I’m pro solar I mean, I have eight and a half kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of my house so you know, but I Why did I do it I got big subsidies but do I know that the poly silicon in my solar panels which are Korean did they did that poly silicon come from China? I don’t know. But I think yeah, may well be but the power density of solar is 10x that of wind I’m a longtime critic of the wind business. I don’t like those guys that don’t like me back. I’m okay with that. But you know, that comes from a lot of different, you know, years of experience reporting on that industry and the destruction that it’s had in rural America, birds, bats, insects, you know, and the noise pollution but I’m calling dinner, we’re talking about you. So what we talked about assets in an inflationary environment and we won’t talk about that now since we’ve covered that. So what about crypto? You’re you you know, this is I’ve never bought any I’ve never quite understood it and you’ve been a critic of crypto and it’s been you know, now the price of crypto is declining. Get run us through if you don’t mind why why you’re? You’ve been so skeptical. Why are you so skeptical about cryptocurrency in general?
So I should say that we are thoughtful critics of crypto as it exists today. Okay, and take a step back and say that thoughtful critics I like that yes, we have tangled with the crypto the Bitcoin Maxis a fair bit on Twitter and in the comment section of some of our pieces of dough. Now thankfully, they have to pay us before they control us. And if you’re gonna pay us, we’re far more willing to accept the troll, if you’re gonna pony up $30 A month so that you can litter our comments with
Robert Bryce 41:05
I don’t feed the trolls because they’re not paying me anything. They’re insatiable,
if it’s free. So we I should say up front, we understand the desire for anonymous money. We understand the desire for to alleviate what is an ever encroaching government intrusion into the personal and private life of what had previously been relatively free citizens. And digital money, which is what cryptocurrencies proposed to be, are a potentially interesting solution, although a dangerous one because the government collapse it and then we have the exact opposite outcome with a central bank digital currency. So I understand the motivation for digital currency. I understand the lack of innovation in the money sector. And there are some really interesting and really fascinating legitimately innovative things going on in the crypto world. Our view of the crypto world and our critique of the crypto world in the pieces we’ve written has had two threads one, the field is undoubtedly and undeniably filled with Grifters con artists frauds and scams, it just is something I bought the number of rug poles overt frauds, to the primary use case today for almost all cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, is to evade Know Your Customer anti money laundering regulations, because there are very easy ways to send money around the world very quickly today, if you’re willing to submit yourself to KYC AML. And three KYC Know Your Customer anti money laundering, okay? This is sort of an Angular in the banking world. And then three, the money is power. And the US dollar is core to US government’s perceived power, internally and externally, and they’re not going to just sit idly by and let a bunch of Grifters condiments and hucksters circumvent the power of the US dollar without a regulatory response. And so the main threads of our pieces have been, you guys are poking a very powerful bear. And you should expect a response. And oh, yeah, there’s an awful lot of shocking frauds going on in the world that you and I could never imagine I have. One of the things we write on a piece is like, I can’t go to my bank account and withdraw $9,999 twice on the same day without being charged with structuring. And these people are flinging around billions of quote unquote dollars, with no no your customer no anti money laundering, no regard for the existing banking laws whatsoever, and they just think they’re going to be able to do this without recourse. The government is slow to act in these regards. We’re beginning to see a popping of the bubble. Gary Gensler, who is the chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission has made it very clear his intent, we’ve written many pieces trying to interpret his intent for people that are long Bitcoin so they can be prepared for what’s coming to many of them don’t want to hear it. Some of the more thoughtful people in the space at least appreciate that were a constructive voice, giving them a different viewpoint. Back to the whole, you know, why are we anonymous? We don’t need some bitcoin Maximus showing up at our house because we written something critical about their coveted Orange Coin. And so it’s a fascinating space. It’s one that we’re very interested in, we write from the perspective of probably you, it’s in our target, demographic, know a little bit about it, curious about it, and want to learn about it. And so we try to teach from our perspective what it is that we’ve learned about it, freely admitting that we’re not experts in the space?
Robert Bryce 44:50
Yeah, fair enough. And my son Michael is gifted computer software and he was early on into Aetherium. And he still long after and you know, and he’s explained it to me and I Okay, I get it. But I still Warren Buffett has also been critical about Well, where’s the asset making money? Where’s the asset returning value? And so anyway, I just thought your your takes a refreshing and you’re you’re pointing to with a recent decision or the piece that Gensler wrote about that, saying that it pointing out the potential for fraud. And then the other part that to me is thought from the beginning. Well, if it gets too big, well, the government’s just gonna shut them down. They’re not gonna allow this to come in into their turf. Hell no.
Yeah. And we’ve written you know, one of the things we talked about this model that really infuriates people in crypto space, because they have all these What about isms, which are long, logical fallacies in response to it, which is, long ago, and we were early in the space we had an opportunity to, and we wrote this in the piece, we had an opportunity to invest in equity of a company participating in the space. And
Robert Bryce 45:48
this was back in 2016, if I remember, yeah, yeah. And
the thing went super viral, you know, this, this piece of paper, at one point was worth multiples of my net worth. And it was sitting at my desk. And I knew at the time that this was all just sort of magic beans and funny money, but we drew a box around what we call the crypto universe, and we understood how Fiat US Dollars euros, Japanese yen could go in, we never could figure out what was going on inside that box that would generate more Fiat. And, of course, people want to cash out. And so And there’s, of course, with Bitcoin, there’s the mining costs, which is roughly I think, a billion dollars a month of electricity. And you can’t pay that with Bitcoin today, you have to pay it with Fiat. And so we just sort of assumed it was a negative some, let’s call it a pyramid scheme, because when I use the other P word, they get very mad at me, but I mean, there’s, you always need an ever increasing inflow of hard Fiat to justify
Robert Bryce 46:45
to support the creation of the crypto or the or the,
you know, the mining that’s required to, you know, run the proof of work network, right. So, but beyond that, then you have this tether, the stable coin, which, from all evidence is just a giant counterfeiting operation. And people think like the tether is minor, it’s a small part of the market tether explains a huge amount of the price of Bitcoin. Because if you actually look at the percentage of the float, in bitcoin trading, which is actually you know, a lot of people huddle there isn’t all that much liquidity in the space, the percentage of float that this tether, which is created out of thin air represents is huge and determinative. And, and so the price of Bitcoin we ask this question all the time, and we’ve not yet had a good answer or a compelling counter argument to it is, if you take the price of Bitcoin today, and let’s just all of cryptocurrency, the crypto universe is worth $1.5 trillion. Right? How much Fiat is in that universe sitting on exchanges, say ready to be withdrawn, relative to what people think the mark to market value is of their, quote, unquote, assets? It’s not 1.5 trillion. I don’t know what the number is. It’s not 1.5 trillion. There’s not 1.5 trillion of bank Fiat earmarked to take people out. And if you Oh, you could say the same thing about the stock market. You could say the same thing about gold. But actually, there’s there’s regulations in those markets. And the exchanges are regulated and stock trades, clear at clearing houses with equity cushions backing for brokers that fail to comply and, you know, you have FDIC insurance in your bank account, you have, you know, spsc insurance at your purchases, you have none of that in the wild wild west of the crypto universe, you have exchanges front running their clients, you have exchanges failing you have exchanges being hacked. And as a US citizen, you have no recourse because there’s not there’s just no recourse. And so it’s not a regulated industry. It’s a wild wild west. And so when people say bitcoin is quote unquote, worth $30,000, we would say it’s worth 30,000 tethers, and what is backstopping the value of a tether because 70% of the volume traded in Bitcoin today is done in tethers not in dollars. And so it’s a very fascinating market, we love to watch it, we are aware of how angry it makes some of our readers we have subscribers who are Bitcoin proponents who appreciate the rest of our work and are tolerant of the sending of alternative views to try. But you know, we don’t write for them we write for ourselves and write we write we write for the broad audience. And so it’s a fascinating market. You know that not to get into too many details, but I was up late at night watching this war over the tether peg, which I’m sure you have no idea what’s happening at 3am this morning telluric peg pretty substantially for the first time in many years. And that would have been a catastrophic event for the crypto Universe had that spiraled as it looked like it might there’s another total collapse of a stable coin this week and I agree with Eric one. Again, this is too many details but at one point the combination of these coins the stable coin and the and the coin that back that was over $60 billion in market market value. It’s it’s unbelievable numbers
Robert Bryce 49:57
and where’s that? Where’s that money gonna come from to make Got Esther’s hold, right. Yeah, it’s gone. It’s well, I liked what you said there just as well about that you write, you write for yourselves. And I find that to be true with myself about I mean, I get anxious when I don’t publish something because I have far more ideas than I can publish in any given day. And you know, and get actually get up on Forbes or Newsweek or, you know, real clear wherever I’m writing for, but yeah, I’m writing to scratch my own itch. And then I hope that that finds resonates with other people because I this is what I this is my, this is my deal. This isn’t where I live, I you know, this, there’s no more important business than the energy industry. And there’s so much Miskin, you know, misconception about it, and flat out lying about it, and there’s so much money at stake. And yet, I think that whatever modest success I’ve had, has just been people recognizing that and that I’m trying to be honest about what’s going on. One last thought, I think just about the Bitcoin thing people ask me about, well, what about the electricity? And I’m like, Well, I don’t really care. I mean, you know, they’re, they can afford the power bill, go ahead. But if you’re making something of value, you’re like smelting aluminum, well, then maybe that’s worthwhile. But you know, the way you’re presenting it now, I’m wondering whether it’s just, you know, a whole lot of wasted wasted watt hours.
Well, we actually had a slide in our presentation today, saying that if you had access natural gas that you were going to flare, a far better use for it would be to create solar, because at least you’re creating future energy, do you think of energy sort of as a net present value calculation, and the same way you would do a capital project using cash, that energy invested upfront gets paid back, at least, you know, the the energy payback period on solar might be four or five years, depending on the rest of the systems that you have? Right? I can do it. That’s far better than mining it for Bitcoin, because there is no energy payoff down the road. To the extent that
Robert Bryce 51:47
that’s a good point. And that’s, that’s where a lot of this flared gas now is being converted into bitcoin in the Permian, you know, so there are a lot of people out there saying, hey, look how great we are, we’re, you know, reducing the co2 footprint, we’re making Bitcoin but I like your idea about what did you make it into something actually,
because energy is life, and we can distribute that energy to increase people’s standard of living, you know, your human endeavor is a constant, unrelenting struggle against the forces of entropy. And your standard of living is nothing more than the amount of heat you get to waste. It’s just that simple. That’s the physics. And so to the extent that we convert gas that we were flaring or diverting, to Mining of Bitcoin, into making poly silicon so that we can have a domestic solar supply chain and take that, that supply chain back from the Chinese, I’d much prefer the latter than the former look, mining for Bitcoin is better than flaring the gas or just leaking the gas, because there’s a there’s a gradient here and sure, but much better use of that gas, if you can’t, you know, put it in a pipeline, and he homes with it, or put it on an LNG boat and help our allies out of a domestic energy crisis of their own making. At least we could perhaps invest some of it. Yeah, into produce future energy because if he solar and so that’s the piece that we that’s the slide that we had in our presentation today, which I’m sure makes sense.
Robert Bryce 53:00
Yeah. Well, that’s yeah, I like the way you describe that back to poly silicon. And because that the hurdle that I see when it comes to the policy of, you know, your, your, your four points, your four pillars, they’re eminently sensible. But the hurdle that I see both around nuclear and poly silicon is that will require industrial policy to come out of Congress, that we’re going to have to formulate industrial policy. And man, given the the, the divisiveness in Washington and the the amount of special interest money that’s flowing into that. You said you’re not you’re not sanguine about any of this being enacted. But I mean, what we’re challenged with here is passing energy policy that is realistic, and we haven’t had, there’s no evidence that that can happen that in 50 years since the first oil shock that we have, you know, created my friend Peter Grossman’s book, what is it, the politics of failure, I’ve forgotten the exact it’s, it’s the about the failure of the continuing failure of US energy policy, and I want to be more hopeful, and we stumbled into some pretty good cards with the shale revolution. But isn’t this ultimately going to depend on straightening in this energy business out is going to require action by Congress? That makes sense. Is that? Do you see where I’m going with that?
And I had a perhaps a ray of hope for you. Okay. Please give it to me. It’s called Bloomberg. But we do. We’re optimistic people. Yeah. Our friend Luke Roman actually pointed this out to us was a great content creator. He operates an outfit called forest for the trees. Brilliant macro economist and, and a good friend of Bloomberg. And he, he points out to what he would sort of call a low grade civil war in DC between the Department of Defense and Wall Street slash intelligence. And the department defense has been on this supply chain In slash energy crisis for a very long time, and they’re very powerful force, and they view the industrial rot of America and the the pouring out of our energy capabilities as a threat to national security. And to the extent that the Chinese have cleverly convinced our political class that offshoring all of these jobs is great. Now Luke Roman, frames it within the context of the dollar as both the reserve asset and the reserve currency, and how this forces the dollar to be much stronger than otherwise would be, which forces the offshoring of critical manufacturing jobs in sectors like magnesium, aluminum, poly silicon, Magnum, China, tariffs, all of the things we’ve written about the the urgency created by the crisis in Ukraine combined with the attempted ascendancy of China as a geopolitical opponents of the US is going to drive some serious reconsiderations of the policies that got us here, led by the Department of Defense, and they’re very powerful, as you can imagine, as a lobbying group in Congress. And so they actually end loop points to a very fascinating white paper they put out in 2018 150 pages long, basically describing all of this and how this is a national security issue that the US military cannot be expected to fight a war with China, when all of our critical supply chains for weaponry and supplies are based in China. Right? It sounds very simple when you say it. And so we think there’s going to be a profound wave of onshoring. Especially if we can get our energy policy, right. I see, you know, we still have some learning to do. But it’s not that we’re only led by idiots. We do have very capable people with some parts of the government just mostly, mostly. But I am quite hopeful that after having made all of the wrong decisions, and gone through all of the unnecessarily tough path functions, we will eventually as a country arrive at the best answer and to the extent that our writing and your work and similarly minded people, as active participants in our vibrant democracy, continue to do what we do, and continue to advocate for sensible policies. You know, what’s the alternative to give up? And so you know that that’s just an unpalatable alternative to us. And so we’re committing to do our part. I know you’re doing your part as well. And I’m quite hopeful, actually, in the long term.
Robert Bryce 57:22
Well, I’m absolutely hopeful. I’m optimistic as and I’m quoted Molly, Ivan’s, many times the late Molly, Ivan’s. I’m optimistic to the point of idiocy. And I’m bullish on the US just to be you know, level we’re blundering along and there are a lot of divisions, but we have also relative we’re still the best house in a bad neighborhood. March 26, let’s talk about farming because, as I said, I spent a fair amount of time in rural America I speak to a lot of electric cooperatives I meet farmers. And at last I remember last I was in Indianapolis, so six or eight months ago and talking to a farmer about fertilizer prices, herbicides, in your march 26, peace farmers on the brink. You talked about fertilizer store shortages and the prospect of famine, you call it the perfect storm. Let me just write and read this. The coming crash and global food supply will be driven by a similar phenomenon across virtually every input into farming. They are all spiking to historic highs. Simultaneously supply availability is diminishing across the spectrum. And the time to reverse the worst of the upcoming consequences is rapidly falling running short. Other than that, we things are great. We begin with the price of fertilizer, which has been soaring to record highs across the globe. key sources of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus important inputs into soil fertility, crop yield and plant maintenance have all gone vertical. We pride ourselves on seeing patterns early and being months ahead of the news flow. We are consistently human centric, Never have we been more certain in our beliefs, while fervently wishing that we are wrong. Wow. Where are we now? You know, the fertilizer? You know, I testified before Congress last November to the Senate and energy Natural Resource Committee talked about the shutdowns of fertilizer plants in Europe. Where are we now in terms of fertilizer supplies? And are you as pessimistic as you today as you were back in March?
So I should clarify a few things about that piece. So you’re right, that piece we canvassed are pretty extensive contacts in the US agricultural sector. And we predicted a global famine that would mostly happen over there. And people in the US from
Robert Bryce 59:23
Africa, Africa, Southern Asia, South America,
Southeast Asia, the poor parts of Eastern Europe. And people from the US who read that piece misconstrued as we were predicting food shortages in the US. We may see spot shortages of food in the US and for example, we’re seeing this crazy shortage of baby formula rolling out right now, which is kind of spooky. But mostly we predicted that we would see, you know, in areas of the world where farmers don’t have the financial sophistication of US farmers so they can’t hedge their crops or pre buy their fur fertilizer, US farmers are gonna make a lot of money this year, what they do next year when they have to pay the realized price of fertilizer, but the ones who were smart enough to pre buy that have the working capital in the banking to buffer it and the crop insurance to, you know, assuage against crop failure risk, they’re going to, they’re going to have a banner year US farmers are going to be fine. The farmers who are on the brink are the people in South America, in Sri Lanka, in India is having crop failures and wheat in in Mediterranean, like, there’s going to be Africa, there’s going to be a lot of suffering. So the price spike and fertilizer for the subset of farmers who are sort of cash based accounting, and that’s, you know, the majority of them, they’re gonna use less fertilizer, they’re gonna use more manure, they’re gonna have lower yields, they’re gonna have more crop failures, there’s gonna be less food, we believe the behavior in the US that will avert food crisis here will only make it worse over there. So we’re going to for sure, bailout any farmers who need it. And we’re going to provide stimulus for those less fortunate in our economy, we’re not going to let large swaths of American citizens stars not going to happen. So we’re going to pay whatever the price is that we can afford it, that’s only going to exacerbate the exportation of the inflation is going to cause real problems, real people in huge parts of the world. And we’re seeing it already in a piece we wrote all the way back in October, called starvation diet, which is kind of a strident piece predicting much of this, we had a line to the effect of, we’re going to see a cascading series of protectionism that results in economic vapor lock. And we’re seeing it already we wrote a piece about biodiesel, and how Indonesia is already gaining the exports of palm oil. And, you know, the piece was called
Robert Bryce 1:01:48
Africa, diesel for dinner and diesel for dinner. That’s
right ended with less than meat diesel, which was a potential title. But we thought that we’d already sort of use that construct in an earlier piece. In we think it was called let them eat pizza. And so yeah, this this whole insanity of protectionism, which is natural, it’s exactly what we see today with Pelosi talking about making it illegal for gas prices to go up. I mean, the arrogance of these people who think they can wave a magic wand is incredible. We’re going to see protectionist policies, we’re seeing food riots. And here’s the scary part, Robert, is we have outsourced a lot of the heavy industry, mining and things like that to countries that are going to be on the brink. And we’re seeing it already in the copper mines in Peru and Chile. They’re critical inputs into the electric revolution, that are dependent upon these societies being fed and we’re seeing food riots early on, what are we going to see in the fall?
Robert Bryce 1:02:47
Where are those? I haven’t seen those headlines? Where are we seeing food? Where are you seeing food riots?
Oh, Peru for sure. Sri Lanka, there was reports on Twitter overnight of food riots in Iran. Really, you’re a major producer of black market oil. And whether we like it or not, you know, the absence of that black market oil will affect oil prices. We’re seeing what’s going on in China. Some of the theories are that this is just pre empting, the energy crisis. But you know, we’re going to see it when we see Indonesia banning palm oil exports, the war in Ukraine, you know, Belarus is a huge Podcast Producer, the Black Sea is a huge exporter of wheat, we’re seeing countries scrambling to increase their strategic supply of wheat, Egypt and others, you know, it’s a big deal.
Robert Bryce 1:03:36
But but those countries won’t be able to. I mean, what I hear you saying is that, I’ll put it a different way is that the the consumer in Egypt or Sri Lanka, or Peru, they don’t have the purchasing power that I do, or other people who live in Austin, or we’re going to out price them, we’re going to outbid them for for whether whatever it is soybean oil, or canola or you know, bread or whatever, we just have more purchasing power, and therefore, they’re screwed.
Their currencies are hyper inflating. Yeah, that’s what happens. Because they can’t afford to pay for the imports needed to run their societies. And it’s tragic. We people are going to starve in vast numbers. And we wish this wasn’t true, as we as you quoted in that piece, like Never have we been more convinced for right and more disappointed that we’re right. It’s not a happy prediction. I would love nothing more than come back in a year and have you legitimately accuse us of being alarmist? That would be great. We’d be all for that. But if you believe this is going to happen, and you aren’t alarmist about it, then you’re irresponsible. And so to the extent that we’re read by people in Congress, and we are and we can search our email list for.gov You know, to the extent that we can shape opinions on people on Wall Street and at least wave the flag of urgency around these issues, then we would rather write that piece and be accused of alarmism than not.
Robert Bryce 1:04:56
Well, there was another guest on the podcast John Hannah camp who’s as follows the coal market, the coal trading and so on. And as an independent consultant, I had him on the podcast he was talking about the prospect of the same issue then and which is already coming through, as you we’ve been discussing, and he said, what should the US be doing now, cancel all the CRP things in plant to the fence rows, right, we need to take that that reserve land out of reserve land and plant those suckers and get as much grain into it get as much seed into the ground now, so that we can produce more grain immediately. But it doesn’t seem to be any urgency from the USDA, or any indication that they’re looking at this in a global context. But it is damn scary. It’s interesting that you’re looking at this and projecting it. But man, it’s depressing. Even the prospect is incredibly depressing.
It’s, we could stop burning soybean oil in our you know, just saw reports of a massive, unexpected increase in the amount of soybean planted both because it uses less fertilizer, but more importantly, because it’s a, you know, the soy soybean oil is a key input into the production of renewable diesel, burning an awful lot of corn as ethanol. These are all just trade offs, we could pay a little bit more at the pump and feed the world. Or we could pay a little bit less at the pump and starve the world. Those are just you can’t do both. And so you know, we we in the US will not go hungry that much. I’m confident it will it’ll be localized supply chain issues. Will we ran out of diesel on the East Coast. You know, if we drilled and planted and we’re smarter about allocating our bountiful crop, we could help the world that we’re not we’re the world doesn’t vote in our elections rounds, you know, and, and so it’s unfortunate.
Robert Bryce 1:06:50
But I agree with you. I mean, there’s the use of food to make fuel. I’ve been a longtime critic of the corn ethanol business and of all the things you’ve written, that would maybe be the piece that I would look at and say, Yeah, I could explain that one to you. Yeah, that no, I get it. And I understand all that history of it. But you know, just the idea of burning food to make motor fuel. It’s just It rubs me wrong. And funny,
you should say that because I just want to explain it because that’s probably misconstrued. We explained why corn ethanol was a thing. Yeah, corn ethanol is a thing because the oil and gas industry and the automotive industry who don’t always behave in the best way, let’s be honest, like sure, everybody, their scandals and all sectors, the biggest environmental scandal of the century is is leaded gasoline as anti knock. And the deflection away from that was the adoption of, of corn ethanol, which is a very fine anti knock as a renewable fuel. And the oil and gas industry had to plug their nose and accept that for previous bad behavior. And so if we were starting from scratch with a blank piece of paper, we would not have corn ethanol at 10% as a standard gasoline offering in the US, right. But we weren’t starting with a blank piece of paper where we’re starting with a scandal of epic proportions. And for almost a century, we polluted the planet in a way that is unacceptable, and dastardly. And the compromise solution was because there’s two senators from every state, and the Corn Belt was powerful. We’re going to replace, you know, ultimately led but there was intermediate anti knock that has its own issues. Corn ethanol was going into gasoline, or
Robert Bryce 1:08:22
you just have to touch led to MTBE to ethanol, right.
So you just kind of have to shut up and like it. And that’s the position we’re in. So it was mostly a piece that explained it, as opposed to advocated for but I understand, you know,
Robert Bryce 1:08:34
fair enough. And we shouldn’t be converting natural gas and ethanol, which is fairly simple from a chemical standpoint, but that again, that has not happened because it’s how we used to make Yeah, but that’s not happened because of the as you say, the the farm states. So we’ve been talking about an hour I don’t want to keep you much longer yet. Again. My guest is a green chicken. Better known as Doom Berg. You can find him on substack substack Doom burgers, Doom Berg at substitute Burg Dotsub STATCOM. Forget my substack
Doom berg.substack.com is where you find all of our articles, which are now behind the paywall. We have two tiers, we have a tier for just the articles. And then we have a pro tier where our sort of higher net worth family office, sophisticated investor types get much more access to the Bloomberg team. And we have a monthly zum zum where we have presentations and extended q&a. And we’re also very, very active on Twitter at Bloomberg T Ts and team. We’re crossing somewhere around 85 or 86,000 followers right now, which is great. I’m growing that account very fast. We produce original content on Twitter. Twitter’s is the town square. It’s amazing platform. It’s also very toxic and we try to stay out of that. But it’s really great platform that we love being on and so those are the two main places people can follow us and it’s been a real pleasure to speak with you Robert and looking forward to coming back.
Robert Bryce 1:09:53
Well thanks yeah, no, that’s great. You don’t have the blue check on Twitter and neither do i They won’t give me a blue check but I don’t know maybe they don’t give the blue check to chickens. I don’t we got to know Hi. And I’ve been denied like four or five times and pisses me off. It’s because I don’t even want to apply anymore. It’s like, okay, not a notable person, the weather lady from your Bismarck, North Dakota is notable. But anyway, whatever. Well, so just a couple of last questions, and so you’ve covered a lot of ground. But today, what the issues that are facing us now, is that the energy issue that has concerns you most food, what if you if I forced you to say one or two would would be at the top of the list? Food? Okay, fair enough.
And supply chain is associated with food, for sure.
Robert Bryce 1:10:36
And so then what are you reading? What do you obviously have a sophisticated team, you read a lot you’re looking at at international news organizations? What about books? Or what are you certain titles that you’re reading? Now? What has captivated your interest in the book world?
Yeah, we tend to consume an enormous amount of content in the modern bite size, variety, so we subscribe to probably two dozen professional content creators, we’re big believer in paying for work. And so our subscription budget is, is pretty large. And it’s also how we sort of recognize patterns and sorcerer ideas. Anything by Vaclav smear is going to be read pretty quickly from us. And he has a new book coming out that we’re looking forward to reading. I’m making my way through Alex Epstein, his new book, which he was gracious enough to send us a copy of, in advance of its publication.
Robert Bryce 1:11:25
I just didn’t I just interviewed Alex for his new book and, and I just put up a podcast today. In fact, it’s called this is not an interview with Vaclav Smil because he doesn’t give interviews. It’s just, you know, short 12 or 13 minute podcast that is not an interview with Vaclav Smil but I have 13 of his books so I thought well, I can
in our in our spare in my spare time in particular I enjoy reading World War Two books I’m a big war the Pacific history buff that’s my that’s my relaxation slash entertainment slash hobbies.
Robert Bryce 1:12:01
So then you’re probably familiar with the late Jim Ford Fisher who is from Austin his with the with the last end of the tin can soldiers was one of his books, which was very well reviewed and he died of brain cancer I think just last year, but he was a well regarded World War Two historian
I love all all things World War Two, even the west of the European front as well, but specifically that the Pacific Theater is our specialty.
Robert Bryce 1:12:24
So let’s end with a hopeful note here at Bloomberg what gives you hope then we talked about a lot of things that are frankly depressing and some of them very scary. But as we when we talked a little bit around this, but what makes you hope or optimistic, hopeful or optimistic for the future?
Yeah, generally long the human spirit long American ingenuity. And we we are we’re unabashedly proud to be citizens of America, I think it’s okay to be patriotic. You know, we we’ve been able to carve out a successful life through hard work and, and grid and some luck for sure. And some privilege, for sure. But that’s okay. The people that helped us along the way were gracious and when we’re very grateful for it, and I’m thankful it gives me personal hope is the response to our pieces, and why did they even read and how many people resonate with the same ideas, there is a path forward that works, there are a critical mass of people that see that path forward, eventually, they will get the political power needed to execute it when we’ve exhausted all of the other potential paths. And so ultimately, you know, it, especially with the sort of with the recent war in Europe, and the crises that are inevitably going to flow, generally speaking, if you read history, our responses to such crises have been very effective. And in the long term, things do get better as Alex Epstein likes to point out like environment has never been cleaner and you know, people have never been richer and we’ve never had more access to more compelling technologies to improve the standard of living of more people if we just get out of the way and and do it and and I suspect we will and so overall I’m quite hopeful Doom Burgas somewhat of a sort of a winky sort of sarcastic name, but deep down we’re actually pretty pretty hopeful and and looking forward to the future.
Robert Bryce 1:14:13
Well, I like that line. Long the human spirit. Yeah, that resonates with me. I dig that so well. Listen to Bloomberg. Thanks a million. You can follow Bloomberg on substack on Twitter at at Bloomberg T. Numeric. Thanks a million for being on the power hungry podcast and to all you listeners out in podcast land. See you next time. Thanks.