Emmet Penney is an essayist and co-host of the Ex.haust podcast. In this episode, he talks to Robert about his recent essay in the American Conservative and explains why nuclear plants are “our industrial cathedrals” why we need “a nuclear new deal,” and why there is “no such thing as a wealthy society with a weak electrical grid.”
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. I’m the host of this podcast where we talk about energy, power, innovation, and politics. And we’re going to talk about a lot of those things today with my guest emit Penny emit. Thanks for being on the power hungry podcast. Hey, thanks for having me on. So I’m gonna have you I didn’t warn you, but I’m gonna I always have my guests introduce themselves. And you have written a lot your podcast hosts. But if you don’t mind, imagine you’ve arrived at a dinner party, you don’t know anyone there and you have 45 seconds or so to introduce yourself? What would you say?
Emmet Penney 0:37
Yeah, I seem to be like a humanities guy who’s ended up in the nuclear advocacy space. I’m not totally clear on how that happened. But here I am. You’re right on podcast hosts, I host a podcast with my friend john called exhaust, which is about why nothing feels possible. And we take a look at a lot of long term trends, decisions, philosophies, and material realities that make it feel like big societal projects, ethical, cultural infrastructure, or whatever, why those aren’t possible or feel impossible today. So that’s what I’m all about.
Robert Bryce 1:16
But you know, it, but you also talk about movies, and you talk about a lot of other things. I mean, your your, your, the, the scope of your podcast, I think is, as I’ve looked at it, I think, well, where the where’s the fence line here? Where does it fits in? With? What What doesn’t fit in? How do you how do you determine that? Or is that just an ongoing process about what you think is relevant now, culturally, because as I see you, I make you more of a cultural critic, in some ways, I guess, would be one way that I would I see your role is that, is that fair?
Unknown Speaker 1:48
Yeah, I think that’s fair. Um, when john and i are making decisions about what we’re going to do episodes about, or I do a lot of the producing. So I’m making a lot of decisions about what we’re going to take a look at. You know, I think it’s, I was reading an essay by john Dewey, or it was a lecture that he gave on the anniversary of Horace Mann’s death, and Horace Mann was one of the progressive education guys who has a very complicated legacy. But one of the things do, we argues that I agree with in that lecture, is that if we just have like, let’s say a civics course, and all it does is teach you how things are supposed to work, it hasn’t fully prepares you to engage with the world as it is. And in fact, you might be, you know, dealt a bad hand by that when you go out to move in the world. So one of the things that I look at the podcast is, I have a few boxes I want to check is something culturally important that helps us explain where we are now. If I have somebody like Edgardo Sepulveda on who did an episode with us on the history of the electricity grid, will it give my audience material understanding of the way things work that they didn’t have before? Same thing with historical items or scholars that we talked to? It’s really more than anything, a podcast about context?
Robert Bryce 3:16
Fair enough? Well, so let’s go from there. And the I was i’d followed you kind of just at a distance on Twitter, and then you wrote this remarkable essay was published on May 17, in the American Conservative, and it was one of those things that I read, and I thought, damn, I wish I’d written that. Thank you. And the title was nuclear power plants, our industrial cathedrals. And I’m just to tee this up, I’m going to read a couple of sentences that you wrote, you said, the more I’ve learned about nuclear technology or thought about these industrial cathedrals, and the inheritance they represent, the more alienated I’ve become from the left. I have for years seen myself as a socialist, my experiences working dead end jobs all over the country convinced me and convinced me still that the fruits of American prosperity belong to its workers, more than to its vampiric elites, control of our society should be allocated accordingly. Now, I want to add, there are several other things you wrote there, but what inspired you to write it because it was picked up Michael Shellenberger reproduced the whole thing and send it to his, his his people? I mean, it got quite a lot of traction, what why did you write it and when you wrote it?
Unknown Speaker 4:25
I think it was my response, in some ways to the closure of Indian Point. And specifically, one of the things that I talked about in the pieces that I was a very active member of the Democratic socialists of America, along with the Industrial Workers of the World, but DSA is bigger and, you know, has a bigger footprint. And the New York DSA, its eco socialist Working Group, which is probably like one of the most like heinous of the sort of anti nuclear probe renewables, things. And I think like most like congenitally dishonest in terms of like, how it’s going To talk about union jobs in the renewables economy, their response to Indian point was to turn it into a recruiting opportunity, not out of anger, but that they were making progress towards clean energy. And that I listen to some podcasts that some of these people had been on. And they were saying stuff like, you know, somebody would say, oh, what about Indian Point, you know, like, that’s gonna close. And they would say, well, we’re neutral on that. And I was like, okay, that’s already bad. And then they’d make it worse, they’d go, but and then they would trot out all these like NRDC, talking points about why Indian Point was dangerous. And at some point, I had to realize that like, as someone else put it, and I really love this is that the working class has no permanent allies, only permanent interests. Sure. And so it didn’t matter that these people call themselves socialists. I didn’t owe them anything. And that I didn’t have
Robert Bryce 6:00
to take them. What a strange Alliance, the idea that the socialist democratic socialists would be using NRDC talking points, which I think it was a socialist organization, I think it was one of the very elite group.
Unknown Speaker 6:12
Right? Look, I think there’s what socialism is like before, I would say, in America, in America, there’s what it is in America, before McCarthyism. And there’s what it is afterwards. Right. There’s a great essay by Christopher lash on the Congress for cultural freedom, where he talks about how McCarthyism really forced people who are a little too squeamish on the socialist side to just basically out of self preservation side with the current regime. And then after that, and after a few other things happen, including I would say, like, the death of the historical subject, historical subject being either like Marx at the idea of the working class, or Hegel’s, the spirit of history or whatever, that starts to go away and left wing radicals really start to look for ready made revolutionaries. So sometimes they’ll say, Oh, it’s going to be black people, or it’s going to be colonized people, or it’s going to be, you know, some other group that we thought of, and it moved farther and farther away as a political organizing principle. from things like the like militantly patriotic, AFL CIO, Union guy is, you know, we’re very hostile to the sort of socialist politics, especially in the Cold War. Two, I think what we see now in its, like exacerbated form a type of cultural identity politics that is intellectually incoherent, culturally toxic and politically divisive. And so I think that when we say like, why is the NRDC talking points, like, have anything to do with the DSA? I think it’s because a lot of these groups culturally come out of the same moment, and the 60s and 70s. And I also think it’s because they frankly, have a lot in common in terms of class background. So a lot of people that are going to be in this eco socialist working group in New York, are going to be like, basically the type of people who went to college with whoever is young and up and coming in the NRDC right now.
Robert Bryce 8:29
And so it’s it’s just gradations of an elite class that aren’t really working class, but want to be identified as standing up for the little guy. But in fact, what I see in a lot of this, in particular, when it comes to the left and the Democrats, when especially when it comes to the energy side of this, their their climate approach, their decarbonization policies are terrible for the poor and the middle class absolutely ruinous in some cases. Oh,
Unknown Speaker 8:53
yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s enraging. You know, it really is. And so I think that that’s part of where my piece came from, is that I had identified and I talked about this in this piece of kind of commitment to an apocalyptic presentism.
Robert Bryce 9:09
Yeah, I’m glad you know that, because that’s, it’s a great word. And I hadn’t I’ve never even heard of it before. And I you know, I like it. I think I’ve been It was the first time I’d seen that. So where did that idea of presentism define that? and Why that? Why does that apply to the issue of nuclear because I felt the same, especially after the closure. And I still feel it now. Absolutely. enraged by the duplicitous ness of the closure of Indian Point at the same time, we’re hearing all this climate catastrophism and Oh, no price too high. Well, then why are you letting this close? It doesn’t make any sense.
Unknown Speaker 9:43
Yeah, exactly. So present ism is sort of, I mean, it’s just a commitment to the present, and not necessarily in a hedonistic way, but it is that the present moment has everything you need intellectually, you know, resource wise it is. All there is in life is the president. And this manifests itself on the left and sort of an iconoclasm. Right? You know, Christopher lash is one of my favorite writers, I’ve already like mentioned him twice here makes this great point that he said that all the things that leftists seem to work against are things that the market has already destroyed, like, you know, the family. Really, like top down culture and stuff like that. So there’s just sort of like, knee jerk, too little too late. I think response for them to what they seem to see is like societal plagues, and that everything that happened before us is the Dark Ages. Right? And it’s everybody now who’s like a new theorist on the left is going to guide us into whatever happens next. But there’s also this environmental terror, combined with that, that I talked about in the piece, that has to do with the fact that a lot of these people really do just think like the world is going to add,
Robert Bryce 11:06
you know, I think this is the end of time. And this is an existential threat. And existential over and over existential is their line that they keep, they write.
Unknown Speaker 11:15
Like, I think New Republic has like a newsletter that goes out called apocalypse soon. Yeah. Yeah. Right. So and that’s their climate reporting, right. So I think that that’s a good example of that. And that puts them in a place of sort of existential survivalism, as you say, so it’s not just that they have these sort of facile intellectual commitments to the current era is that they also don’t really believe that a future is possible. And they sort of act accordingly. So let’s say we’re talking about renewables versus nuclear. Right. So let’s anchor it in a specific example. Sure. You and I both know that. I mean, I don’t know if you read Michael Shellenberger his latest on like, how bad the presolar projections are, like, they’re even worse than they were. Huge vindication for him. It was wonderful to see that. And if you were to tell them something like that, if they were to engage with you at all, to begin with, it’d be like, well, we have to act now. And renewables are fast.
Robert Bryce 12:17
Because it’s so urgent. And we have because
Unknown Speaker 12:19
it’s this Exactly, exactly. Well, nuclear is going to take like 20 years online, like to say, too long, expensive, right? Exactly. Right. So we’re starting to get a sense of how that panic leads to incredibly uncertain logic and reckless thinking that, in fact exacerbates a lot of the problems that they talked about. I mean, your listeners are familiar with Meredith penguins work, right? The fatal trifecta is, I think, one of the most important ideas there. And that’s where renewables lead us. So I think that that’s what’s going on with their present ism is that there is no past there is no future. There’s only now and if you act accordingly, it’s not surprising that you get the sort of self centered therapeutic culture that they have, where everything’s about, like climate trauma, and you get like bad solutions, like solving something like climate change, let’s say you want to do that, right. I know your views on that you have different ones that I think most people, that’s fine. But let’s say you want to write just for the you’re convinced that things are going to get worse and you want to solve that problem. Why wouldn’t you think that it is going to be a long project that is going to require deep commitment to stable infrastructure, you’ll have to sink into it over time, over decades, over decades, right? That there’s going to be some you know, this is a everything now reminds me I have this line essay where we never left Zuccotti Park. Like, that’s where Occupy Wall Street happened, which was, you know, the big spectacular demonstration of sort of an End of History politics, where it was like, pretty clear, no one had any ideas left. 10 years ago, 2011. Yeah, exactly 10 years ago. And I say that because the sort of spectacular urgency, and the pleading, and also the lack of strategy are just everywhere in all of this. So of course, what ends up happening is you default to the most basic training of the state in the economy, right? You have path dependencies, right? And so that’s going to be deployment of renewables, deployment of natural gas. You know, all of these things are sort of like just in time and are a part of the economy we build and not part of a sort of like a robust state centric thing that the France did with the EDF, for example,
Robert Bryce 14:52
electricity to France. Well, that’s an interesting point that you make there. And one of the things in thinking about this interview today and I’ve been visited Indian Point I write about it in my new book, I tend to use our documentary made with Tyson Culver. And I say in the movie, I say in the film, I’ve been in a lot of places I’ve been in, you know, a lot of industrial facilities, mines, and and smelters, and refineries and, you know, manufacturing plants. It’s probably one of the joys of my job. But it just reminded me that I’m in a question of power, I talked about any endpoint I said, it shouldn’t be compared to, but isn’t some of the great American iconic landmarks, the arch of St. Louis, the Washington Monument? Hoover Dam, it’s not, but but what your point on the idea of nuclear plants as industrial cathedrals is that it’s, they are the apex of our technology. And in certain ways they are then that way that is the absolute pinnacle of our learning, and everything that we’ve been able to come together and also is I just thought about it as the apex of our idea of the Civic network, that this is the grid being the Civic network, and this is the highest achievement, we can, we can manage to make that work. And yet they’re being shuttered. And the final point of this, just this idea of the church wasn’t until later where I thought about Indian Point as that kind of a mean, just an incredible achievement, right, this idea of that, that that that almost wholly purpose that it had. And here’s where I’m going to jump in, which is, well, is this belief then that these industrial cathedrals, the decline of them reflect a lack of belief in our civic network, it reflected, I just looked up the numbers of 20, the number of people going to church on a daily basis has fallen by 20%, in 20 years, for 60 years, from 1940 to 2020. It was under the 60s to the 2020. It’s held steady about 70%. In the last 20 years alone, it’s fallen to 50%. There seems I’m just reflecting back to you some of what I hear you saying or think or maybe your maybe your thing, but there’s just this lack of engagement with the Civic network and the grid is the grid, that lack of engagement with the grid or responsibility for it part of it, making too much of a Am I making too many small connections and trying to stitch them together here?
Unknown Speaker 17:13
No, no. So one of the things that we like to do on exhaust is we like to unearth, like half forgotten documentaries and stuff like that and watch them to say like, how are people thinking about their world? And what was coming next? before us, right? So we found this obscure one put out by the British channel for in 1994. That was on like the internet. And one of the things you hear everyone say any walk of life, almost like from British coal miners to john nez, Nesbitt is they say, you know, we’re seeing a transition from the nation state to the individual. Right. And everybody says that, whether there’s put it in that, or they say, you know, I don’t really see myself as belonging to a country, I see myself as an individual, online, you know, and I think that that really became entrenched as an idea in America, because there were certain things that had to do with perhaps like a Jeffersonian ism, there’s almost like a weird entrepreneurial Yeoman ism, that we already had, as part of our cultural experience that becomes part of like, yeah, we’re really into the individual and the idea of the individual making it and all we need to do is create the conditions where the individual can succeed. But a lot of times what that ended up meeting was, you know, disaggregating, or making certain parts of civic life very difficult or impossible. And some of that can be like on a cultural front as we talk with the rise of secularism or something like that. And I also think that after COVID, we feel it very intensely, in terms of how alienated from each other I think a lot of us felt, you know, and it’s harder and harder to deny that feeling. You know, I like to think about it like this, like how many people like really actually want to be a part of society? Or do you just want society to get out of your way? So you can go do whatever you want, and the extent to which you feel the latter thing is the extent to which you’re probably a little bit disaggregated civic and social life unaffiliated? Yes, actually, or even disaffiliated. You know,
Robert Bryce 19:29
Unknown Speaker 19:30
Yeah, yeah, the Bowling Alone thesis. And did we even see this drop in like our language and stuff like that? There’s a really great book called The age of fracture by Daniel T. Rogers, which is a wonderful intellectual history of American life from like the 1970s to the 2000s.
Robert Bryce 19:50
So following up on your your, your, your, your piece, and in American Conservative which, as a self identified socialist, how did that feel to be public Didn’t the American Conservative? I mean, it was great. And you did.
Unknown Speaker 20:03
So it felt great. Look, I took a look at their, um, what do you call it? Their masthead is that that’s where they have like all the people that work there. And then like what they’re all about. And one of the things that I thought was refreshing to see is they said, Look, we made a bad deal. In the Cold War, the three legged stool was a bad bill of goods. And now it’s come to, and we need to do some serious rethinking. And so that’s what this magazine is going to be dedicated to. There is, like none of that on the left.
Robert Bryce 20:36
It was introspection or self reflection about who we are and what we stand for. Right, exactly.
Unknown Speaker 20:43
I haven’t totally figured out why exactly. That’s the case. But right now, it seems like some of the intellectual energy is on the industrialist or populist right? And that there’s a little bit more of like an honest to get engagement with the material realities of our society. And so when I saw American Conservative willing to engage in those ideas, I said, great, you know, I had previously co authored a piece on what a nuclear new deal would look like, with my friend and colleague, Adrian Calderon, and we published that in a magazine called the bellows. Now the bellows is probably one of the only left publications that has tried to have that moment of introspection, and do things like that. And it is basically been like, blackballed from the left and seen as a reactionary publication for those reasons. And I was like, I’m sick of this, I’m sick of this whole thing. I don’t care anymore. Like I’m not invested in the success of this project. Because what this project is, isn’t what it says it is anyway. Like, what I care about is that life gets better for working people, and I don’t care whether it’s conservatives or Democrats who can help make that happen.
Robert Bryce 21:58
Let’s follow up on that. Because you you’ve identified we talked on the phone a few weeks ago. And you also identified yourself as a nationalist, which is a very loaded word. How do you describe that what you just talked about that that you’re you’re in favor of making things better for working class folks, which I completely identify with and and completely identified, particularly when it comes to the decarbonisation plans that are being pushed totally seeing what’s happening with electric rates in California with subsidies for EBS, which are all being collected by Rich people. Right, that this is all toward solar panels, rooftop solar, which I have, right. But these these policies all are beneficial to wealthy folks and folks are working, you know, that are handling mops and brooms and, and brewing coffee and those kinds of jobs. It’s not helping them at all. It Back to my question. So how do you define that idea of being a nationalist? How do you see that as a as a self identifying term?
Unknown Speaker 22:59
Yeah. So I guess the way I look at it is I think that there was a big check on some of the Wilder aspirations of what a globalized economy was going to mean, when COVID broke out, one of my favorite moments, so when Larry Summers said, Why can’t the most wealthy country in the world manufacturers on masks, and I was like, great question layer. I wonder what policy brokers are co responsible for making that happen? And I’m maybe you know, some of you know, there seems to just be this disconnect from like, what was being said, and what was actually happening. And I think that the nation has been put back into credit with things like Brexit and stuff like that, look, I get that it’s a loaded term. It can mean a lot of things. But to me, what it means is, I am committed to the improvement of the American state, and I have my own ideas about what that should mean, for example, expensive forever wars and light gray area. mercenary contracting is probably something we should stop for both the good of the world, but primarily because I think it’s bad for Americans. I don’t think it’s good to have these sprawling, endless conflicts, because it creates opportunities for worst things to happen. Like you all, you just have to do some simple, like sixth grade, let’s do a timeline. And if you do something chaotic for long enough, will something bad happen? It’s like, yeah, you know, ever bad things already happened because of it. Totally, you know, right. And so I’m not like a hawk or anything like that. And I don’t think that America has like an ethnic understanding of the nation state. We’re Republic. What binds us together is the law. Not it’s not a European nation state. Right. Right. And so we’re already a cosmopolitan country. I think that’s part of being an American. So I don’t see it as like exclusive the way I think Some other people who might use the term nationalist and frankly, it means something kind of weird and racist.
Robert Bryce 25:07
Well, and that’s one of the things that I mean, I generally you see that word nationalist in front of immediately preceded by white nationalists, right, and that there’s a race based and so on. But let’s go back to your and I want to come back to the green nuclear deal momentarily. And just to remind everyone who’s listening, my guest is emit penny. He’s an essayist. He’s the co host of the exhaust podcast, which is available on all podcast outlets. And we were talking about what your call to action is it and you want people to look up the green nuclear the green new, sorry, the green nuclear deal? Yeah. Which is being headed by Madison. Sure. winsky who’s been on the podcast here she’s been on the exhaust podcast I saw as well. And she did five podcasts after the closure of Indian Point we call it Indian Point blackout. We can she was she was clearly I mean, the most dynamic and in terms of just exuberant energy, she’s the pistol. I love Maddie. Yeah, that is great. just remarkable. But you said something else in your in your essay in the American Conservative for May 17. He talked about and I’m going to quit this. Read it because I think it’s important. He said, If survival is all you care about them to cope with hard realities, you’ll retreat to his fantasy. The left’s fant fantasies are romantic, the romance is that of trauma and healing. They think in terms of victimization rather than moral agency. Personal pain, not universal rights, nor civic duty, is the prism through which they derive their conceptions of the social good. Absence of pain serves their vision of freedom. This combined with the lat, less near total lack of engineering discipline, has manifested itself in the wrongheaded support of green energy, and go back in this idea about belonging and church. And so my question is, is so is this belief in climate change in the salvation of green energy? Is this the new religion?
Unknown Speaker 27:00
Yeah, I think Michael Shellenberger made some pretty convincing arguments that it might be something like that. I think for some people, it’s exclusively that, you know, I think on the left, you’re dealing with like, a big basket. Right, right. Sure. So I think you’re gonna have some other like pet concerns in there and things like that. But they all have a similar, as I think I’ve said before, like therapeutic flavor. You know, if we take a look at some of the ways that troubling ways that race is being talked about now, there’s a lot of like, you know, I had to, I really had to unlearn that trauma that I didn’t even know I had done. I had inculcated into myself or whatever, and that dad’s like this, you know, I grew up Catholic. Got a spot that a mile away, you know, like, I know what’s going on there. So yeah, I think that there is a religious element to it. And I don’t think I would be alone in pointing that out. I think Michael Shellenberger people like Frank for rady in the UK, and several others have made such claims.
Robert Bryce 28:04
But there’s, there’s an interesting follow on. And it’s a point that you make, and you’ve talked about it in, you listened to the podcast you did with Chris Kiefer, and I’ve been on the decouple podcast and that, in that podcast, you talked about energy as part of the the culture war and hydrocarbons being demonized as unacceptable. But the result of that is that renewables are winning this, as you talked about a beauty contest. And the result is this fragile zation of the commons. And that’s the part where I am deeply concerned about this because of the importance of the grid, and you use you mentioned Meredith angwin, earlier, the fatal trifecta, and that’s where we’re going. That’s where many of us, including in Texas, in California, and there seems to be no counter push to it. There’s an even the people that are talking about this, it’s just being discarded and the Biden ministration is clearly not taking this seriously. So like you and it leaves me angry, but also sometimes at a loss for words is the wolf, what do I do now? And what right, what do you how do you see that? What is your view on what needs and what has to happen now because we in route, as I read your thing, your piece about the the need for the nuclear New Deal, you’re arguing for a much more aggressive government approach in this regard? Explain that, if you don’t mind?
Unknown Speaker 29:20
Right. I mean, I think that that’s the way to go for nuclear, I think it would be very hard to have a competitive version of that, because it would lead to more of the problems already have with nuclear, which is first of a kind or one of a kind reactors, you know, it’s a economy of repetition, you know, you literally just need to get your reps in to get like cheap and effective.
Robert Bryce 29:44
So you need me to make them by the 1000s. Right, just nothing and there’s no no, there’s no replacement for that.
Unknown Speaker 29:50
Right. Exactly. And that’s, that’s just the way that works. You know, like it goes from the material realities to the politics, you would need it Have to do that which could be like a more social democratic thing or like that. But we’re very far from that right now. Right is one of the things that you say. And when I look at renewables, and I’ve done a lot of thinking on, you know, why aren’t conservatives more pissed? You know what I mean? Like, why? Why isn’t this a national security issue? And I’ve talked with Tom and some do recognize that. But I think this is my cynical answer. renewables are really good for the patronage systems of both parties. Natural gas has a great relationship with the Republican Party. renewables have a great relationship with the democrats and renewables, the natural gas have a splendid relationship with each other.
Robert Bryce 30:53
Well, you see that even in Texas, where where did Where did the wind energy business get its big boost? It was Enron and Ken Lay whispering in George W. Bush’s ear. So Texas Oh, yes, sir. Way renewable portfolio standard course and when, you know, Bring it on, no problem. And that was one of the things were and you still hear it from Republicans saying, Oh, well, we’re for all of the above. You know, of course, we like wind energy. And I think that that’s a very, very good analogy, or very good point. Rather, it provides the renewables provide patronage for both parties. And, but it also has breeded. And I wrote about this recently that in the in the years before the blackouts here in Texas, were $66 billion spent on renewables, and $22 billion given to big wind and big solar in the form of subsidies. So what we’ve evolved the grid into instead of having this government centric because I’m increasingly convinced government centric, government managed system network that is tightly controlled, tightly regulated, to one where you have crony corporatism run amok. I mean, where it’s just that there’s no there’s no, the buck doesn’t stop anywhere. And I think that that’s one of the things that if I’m listening to you and your arguments and looking what you wrote about, about the need for more nuclear, you talk about this pretty directly saying, well, we need a robust government intervention here to make this happen. Am I reading your your messaging, right?
Unknown Speaker 32:12
Yeah, we need an embrace of Hamiltonian ism. Look, one of the things that’s interesting about American history is that we have developed around dirigiste Hamiltonian lines, you know, for a really long time. But we’ve always told ourselves that it is a type of like small government Jeffersonian, at the same time, somehow, and lots of times our plans look like weird frankensteining of these things. I mean, if we look at some of the weird stuff that happens, the New Deal, not all of its good, not all of its worth keeping or repeating. A lot of it seems to be like a confluence of like, hyper management of a small area of land, which is, I think, the fusion there to me of Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian ism. But it’s important to say that like, that is part of our history, we are capable of investing in things like that we have done it before the post office was used to clear out rivers and things like that, so that we can have better waterways that we lose, were all state projects that helped us grow. And I think we interstate highways. Right, exactly, yeah. Eisenhower goes on a victory tour, or whatever tour after World War One, and realizes how difficult it is to drive across the country. And that informs his experience, just like we’ve got to have an interstate.
Robert Bryce 33:34
We’ve got to do that post World War Two, he also saw it as a as a part of a national security thing. Well, if we can’t move our soldiers around internally, then that’s gonna be a problem. Right? We need that, too. So he was and he had the credibility to see that idea, or unify the country around this big, big idea as a whole. And think that that’s one of the things that I also discerned in what you’re talking about, is this kind of just increasing fragmentation of American society, this where there’s no, there’s, you know, there’s the Congress, there’s no sense. I mean, who’s the centrist in Congress now? Well, it’s like Joe Manchin, can say whatever he wants, because he’s the lone centrist around and say, Well, you know, I might be with you. I might not. But in terms of this idea of a centrist ideas around where America should be going, it seems like it’s disappeared it how do you see that?
Unknown Speaker 34:22
Right? Well, the way I look at it is that we, of course, so things are more polarized. Now. That’s also because of the way the structure of the parties has shifted. Right. So I mean, frankly, there used to just be more like material like almost industrial localized patronage systems. Mike Lynch is really good on this Sure. In the new class war, right
Robert Bryce 34:46
and how that used to be structure Austin. He’s a friend of mine. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 34:49
Oh, wow. Great. Yeah. Love his writing. And in that way, I think two parties were a little bit more accountable to things like local union. or church groups or things like that. And now I think this is also some of the effects of citizens united. They have distanced themselves from any sort of accountability and are now playing their own game in the media. And one of the people who really copped on to this was actually Joan Didion. In an essay she writes covering the 1988 presidential election called insider baseball,
Robert Bryce 35:23
you use that as your introduction to your piece on the need for a new nuclear deal. Right. That was your quote from her that that very that if I remember correctly, is that right?
Unknown Speaker 35:33
I don’t think I put her in that. But I definitely quote that essay a ton.
Robert Bryce 35:36
That was in I’m sorry, that was in your essay on lecture porn, which are which I’ve met. Okay. Yeah, yeah, completely. Right. Right. Talk about lecture porn as well.
Unknown Speaker 35:45
Right. And so I think that we’ve seen a drift from the party structures and accountability for the electorate, right? It’s no surprise to me that, like voting numbers aren’t that great. You know, I don’t think people really recognize what their interest is in the US. And it seems that they can gain the elites blame. Now, how that ties to what a centrism might look like, is that these parties have become very divided culturally on a small set of issues, right. But there doesn’t seem to be any more a unifying national interest that anyone can point to the Cold War was really good for that.
Robert Bryce 36:24
And then it was us versus them,
Unknown Speaker 36:26
right. And then the, like, amazing victory lap of the 90s, in terms of American triumphalism was also good for that. Because you could just say, you could be Thomas Friedman, you’d be like, there just needs to be more McDonald’s, and then we’ll never go to work. And, you know, so we just need to export, we just need to offshore, we just need to just rip out parts of our country and put them somewhere else, you know, and then everybody will be more like America. And you know, America’s great, you know, we won the Cold War, after all, you know, and then the war on terror was also great for that, because, again, it gave everyone a national security interest. And they could rally around that, at least for a while. Right. Like, I think that there’s great continuity between the Obama and bush administration terms of some of their commitments to national security. What is that now? You know, like, one of the deals we made, Michael Brennan has just wrote a really interesting book on this called for Mike and right, in which he argues that the build out of our empire was something we did in lieu of creating a social democracy, because it created manufacturing patronage systems, and was something that all parties could agree on. So again, this is a path dependency thing. That’s why when COVID broke out, people were all just like, well, we need to do the wartime act. I mean, it’s just like, it’s the thing that feels at hand, because it’s the thing that’s unified us, and let us to develop. So if we’re not going to be like, the Empire, and if we have I think the American people, and even some of the elites have less and less of an appetite to play world cop. Right. And if the idea of just offshoring and exporting everything about us has come at great cost, we’ve now realized, what is the thing? That’s the unifying national interest over all of the cultural scraps that seem to have been going on intermittently for the past 60 years? Right? I don’t know. That’s a very difficult position we’re in
Robert Bryce 38:20
because we’re so divided around a now abortion race, you know, these issues that are the hot button issues now? What is it? critical race theory? I mean, these are the things that are capturing the headlines, but meanwhile, they’re the fundamental infrastructure is being degraded. And then I think is really worrisome, because there’s no one. There’s very little interest in that preservation of the commons. And Chris keefer makes that good, great point about the grids, the commons, and I think it’s an absolutely critical one that is being ignored. And and oh, there was a point that you just made about the I wanted to come back to and I will, but let me come to you. When we talked about on the phone A while back, you said you dabbled. I wrote this down. You said you dabbled in wokeness. dabbled in wokeness? Yeah. It’s just because I haven’t dabbled in wokeness. You know, maybe it’s because, you know, I’m 60. Now I turned 61. This year. It’s definitely a generational thing that is definitely generational. And that’s not my generation. And yeah,
Unknown Speaker 39:25
Robert Bryce 39:28
What do you mean when you dabbled in WorldCat? Tell me right. So
Unknown Speaker 39:30
here’s a here’s a really great, great way to look at it. Right? Um, I had this experience of living on the poverty line in Florida for several years, right. And that sort of disabused me of I think some of the like middle class assumptions I had growing up, you know, about like, how to get ahead. I really like sort of believed in the meritocracy myth. Right that if I just like did all the right things went to the right schools said the right things, I would end up in the right place. And then I had hard time figuring out why I was, you know, working a 12 hour shift for $60 as a dishwasher just to keep my lights on, on top of the other job I was working. And I wanted explanations for that. Right. And neither mainstream party really offered that. You know, I mean, I remember having this realization during the 2012 campaign, I was watching Obama say things, and then I was working as a dishwasher, in part. And I remember when Paul Ryan went and fake washed dishes at a soup kitchen for a photo op, long forgotten news item. And I just remember thinking my life would break the sky. You know, like, he doesn’t know what work is, you know, who are these people? And so I started to have, of course, radical questions I wanted answered. And that led me to the left. And when I came into the left, I had some other things personally going on in my life where I was very, like, morally disappointed in myself, let’s say, I wasn’t the person that I wanted to be. Society was also not how I would have preferred it to be. And it seemed incredibly confusing. So that people that came in, to give me an explanation on the left, were people that we would, or what we would now call woke, and they had a lot of psychological insights that seemed valuable to me at the time, because their assumption was that I felt bad. And I did. And that the way that I needed to feel and bad, was the sort of participate in this structured culture of good behavior. And I wanted to be better as a person, in addition to wanting to be an agent of change in sobriety, and they were offering it and hadn’t spread it in society. And they were offering both at once. And so for a while, I was like, wow, I really see this, like, whiteness stuff, or whatever that they’re talking about, you know, yeah, like I’ve got I, you know, I was a power lifter for a long time covered in tattoos, I still lift weights, you know, I’ve got hyper masculinity issues, or like, whatever. And ultimately, what happened is my experience of like, actually, living and working class life made it impossible for me to totally get assimilated into that, because I had met problematic people who were the people that helped me out when I was in my lowest spot when I was living down there, you know, because I, you know, I’ve been sober for, like, over 10 years now. And I had seen people morally change or something like that. And it wasn’t through constantly castigating them for thinking wrong or whatever. And so when I say I dabbled a weakness, I had this vacation in a very dark spot in my life in what is, I think, a very dark and psychologically poisonous politics. And it was only because of other experiences that I didn’t get fully absorbed into it. I think they really do take advantage of how disaffiliated we feel, and how isolated people feel. And that I also think that it’s no surprise that it’s taken root in my generation, the millennial generation, which has come up online, and everything feels like you’re being moderated by an internet forum moderator all the time that you could get kicked out. Because we grew up on the internet,
Robert Bryce 43:14
you know, so it gives it provides an identity. But you mentioned that as well that you mentioned in our phone call some weeks ago about your own sobriety. So you’ve seen this redemption on a on a on a I’ve experienced it on a spiritual acquired a different kind of personal agency and personal responsibility that Yeah, sounds more like that’s coming from the right, right, who is the left? Well, they’re all victims, of course. And Michael Shellenberger is talking about this. Yeah, he’s great lately about this very powerfully. So I remembered what I was gonna say before was this, this idea of the national purpose and climate is becoming the new Cold War, right, and we’re gonna rally and we’re gonna go on a war footing. I mean, Bill McKibben and many times, Naomi Klein, you will, this is going to be our national identity, we’re going to redeem ourselves from the specter of climate change by then banding together to go low carbon that this is the way forward. And I just drove Oklahoman back over the weekend, and I saw maybe two Tesla’s on the highway in in drim, 1000 miles. I mean, yeah, these were who did these people think? Where did they think they’re going to get gasoline? I mean, it mean, this is what drives the whole economy. Yeah, this is the way things are and yet, there’s this idea of we’re gonna unite people around this very narrow vision of saving, saving ourselves and if you don’t believe we’re gonna save you and pull you along, even if you don’t want to go with us. But that that’s the new that’s this. This is a new opportunity for identity politics around climate as the rallying cry but no nuclear because that’s the wrong kind of energy.
Unknown Speaker 44:46
Yeah, what was the what was it from like I’m used to the people over at good energy collective put something out about like nuclear like, white man ideology problem or whatever that it was like to Central Realize to top down to like, okay, like, Go tell South Korea. Come on, like, what are we even talking about here grow up? You know, I think it’s a look when I see this stuff, what I see is a term what I call the oligarchy of sob stories. You know, like, if you want to live in a democracy, if you want to live in a republican democracy, you have to advocate for common standards. The standards have to become, you have to be moral agents. That’s just the way it works. It can’t work another way, where you have this exculpatory thing, because of victimhood, that isn’t to say that you live in a highly punitive, cruel society that doesn’t lift people to meet those standards, right. But to sacrifice the common standards is to default to whoever already has power. Right. That’s why it’s been so easy for elites to use grievance culture. Right? So here’s an example. Like, there’s the show like the trashy show Gossip Girl. Right, and now they’re rebooting it, right? New Gen Z, Gossip Girl. And you know, they’re all like, kids who go to Yale with like, pink hair, and stuff like that. And, you know, I’m not like, against people being who they are, or whatever. I’m like, pretty laissez faire with that. But I do think it’s funny that, you know, of course, you’re going to have like, the genderqueer person or whatever on there. And these people are going to have all sorts of hang ups about their wealth, I will bet you a million dollars, that there’s going to be a plot arc in that show where someone founds an NGO based on climate justice or something like that. Right. And that that’s how they’re going to deal with the trauma and internalized pain that the wealth is brought them
Robert Bryce 46:52
in their corporate lawyer mother is going to give you seed capital. Right,
Unknown Speaker 46:55
right, exactly. And by the way, this is only a hop skipping away from like, the weather underground. You know, who were the children of like, Major, like oligarchs and things like that? How
Robert Bryce 47:08
did Patty Hearst end up in the Symbionese Liberation Army? Right, right. Exactly.
Unknown Speaker 47:13
Yeah, exactly. So I think that that’s sort of where we’re headed. But to me, what’s worrying about that is that it does get rid of the common standards. And it I think, it also allows two people live in this type of like fantasy, where there’s just like, we’ll just do like, whatever, we’ll just like make you do renewables, we’ll just make you do like Never mind how much it costs, like Never mind like, this is this is so much bigger than your real world concerns. You know, there’s
Robert Bryce 47:38
there’s a part of that that I find deeply worrisome as well is that there is there’s smacks in some ways of of a totalitarian regime, we’re No, we’re going to tell you what’s allowed and cooking with natural gas in your kitchen. No, no, no, that’s not allowed. Right? You who you and you have, you can’t buy in, you can’t buy an F 150. With an internal combustion engine, you have to buy the electric one, right, that this is and it’s going to be good for you because it’s good for everyone. Right? And then there’s some this and but that’s the that’s the tension, right? between what is the what’s good for the individual, what’s good for the for the, the the group, right, where it’s good for the society as a whole. And what’s your let me just talk about that takes me to your your article on lecture porn, which you published in 2017. It’s called lecture porn, the vulgar art of liberal narcissism. And then you said what is what is lecture porn? It is the media spectacle of lecture, whose audiences the opponent of the lectures intended target, and then you took off Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Samantha B, you know, Keith Olbermann, we all know and but it’s, it’s this, the echo chamber that everyone is is wants to hear you sit and watch someone ingratiate themselves to you while they eviscerate someone you don’t like who is in turn unlikely to watch said lecture. So is this? How is that essay aged? That was one of the things that, you know, I’ve looked back at some things that I’ve written in the past? And I think, well, I’m proud of that, or there was parts of that with I missed it. How does it? How does that essay age because I think it’s many parts of it are relevant to what we’ve been talking about. Yeah, I
Unknown Speaker 49:03
think part of it parts of it is Ah, well, I mean, I think there are actually certain things, especially towards the end that I would disagree with, in terms of my own politics or whatever, I’m not going to get into that, you know, whatever. But I think it’s a deeper problem now. And it’s also like, everywhere, you know, I think it’s still remain, it’s primarily a liberal progressive paradigm. But I think if you want to wade into the cesspool of political Tiktok, you can see plenty of like, conservative versions of this same thing. And I think what it speaks to is a sort of, Okay, so I want to put this, let’s say there are two fundamental facets you need for a democracy, at least two, right? And one of them is going to be a sort of like, um, like a basic materially equality and inequality and law, you know, in other words, like, if you have some guy Who’s I mean, this is sort of where we’re going, if you have some guy like Jeff Bezos than somebody who lives in, I don’t know, a really bad part of South Central, it doesn’t really feel like those people have the same. That’s not like an honest, democratic agonism. You know, so you want that. But then on top of that, in order for it to be a democracy, is democracy is a discursive regime, you know, you have to be able to talk through things. So when we see lecture porn happening, what we’re seeing is a bunch of people who have through interesting, like, maybe even like, libidinal, or psychological reasons, basically given up on the project of democratic discourse. Now, that’s not to say that democratic discourse should always be holding hands and talking about where we agree, it’s going to have divisive issues. shawntel mufe is an interesting thinker. In this regard, she had referred to it as a type of democratic agonism, sort of struggling for what’s going to happen in the state. But I would like to contrast that, which means meeting your political opponents almost in the open field, and dueling it out for where the state’s going to go. And figuring out how to hold the nation together, in spite of that, to basically saying that everyone who isn’t like you, in your own country is your enemy, and actually wants to destroy your country. And there might be some truth to that,
Robert Bryce 51:25
which is, which is what I see every night, you know, I watch television, my wife and I watch, we might mostly watch basketball. But we generally will turn on CNN, and then I’ll turn on Fox, and it’s that very thing what you just said, they those guys, the bad people, the trumpsters on CNN, on, on, on Fox, it’s the critical race, those people want to destroy America, and they’re the other and we have to beat them. And that’s the drumbeat every every every night. And it seems to me that that, but that’s the appeal to the edges that where there’s no central because there’s very few people who are actually debating actively on any of those shows,
Unknown Speaker 52:06
right? Or you get punished for reaching across the aisle or whatever. And certain things you’re just gonna have to reach across the aisle on one of the reasons that I wanted to talk to conservatives about nuclear is because there needs to be more of that. What do we expect? Like what do we expect that there’s just going to be like some socialist patrimony in America in the next 20 to 30 years, like get lost, which is not even going to be Democratic Party hedge your money in America completely for the next 20 years. So we need both sides to make a long term project happen.
Robert Bryce 52:36
You know, do I think isn’t that the I mean, isn’t that one of the fundamental challenges though, with nuclear is that it takes that long termism. You use presenteeism, I’m coining long term termism. Yeah, we’re gonna need that long term ism because we need a common view of the future. But it doesn’t serve the corporate crony corporatist to have long term vision. Because, I mean, you’ve pointed that out in your in your piece in American Conservative that, that’s the short termism is where they’re gonna make their money. Yeah. So, I mean, is that is it? can we overcome that? And if so, what’s is it just going to require more? You talked about the left having no engineering background? And you know, and so imagine
Unknown Speaker 53:16
your friends that really laughed at that line? They were like, finally, someone says in
Robert Bryce 53:21
my line is, well, why are so many politicians lawyers? Well, it’s simple because they couldn’t do the math to get into engineering. Right? Yeah, totally. Yeah. But what’s the argument, then that’s gonna make that, you know, bring us around to this common mean, you’re arguing as I hear you for a more common vision of our shared future. Right. And that’s really that when I hear from your piece in the American Conservative that spoke to me very deeply, and you should be really proud of that essay. Because Thank you, like I said, I shouldn’t I wish I’d written it myself. But it requires a more common view of who we are and where we want to go around this common network, because that’s the network we all depend on. What’s that going to take to achieve that kind of kind of together ism, and long term is what’s what’s it going to take to get to that? Because it’s critically needed?
Unknown Speaker 54:14
Yeah. So this is I hope that a return to energy politics would be a good way to actually figure out what the national good might be. I mean, I do think that the case for renewables is starting to really fall apart. Look, we have to think about this in terms of how long it takes to seed an idea how long it takes to grow. Now, I’m not saying that everything that everything is like this cultural Overton window or stuff like that, I think that there’s a good relationship between how things materially happen and how things culturally happen, you know. And I said, like with Michael Shellenberger, his work and the work of many others, like, what’s going on in China, perhaps with the forced labor what’s going on with just a car If these things like, eventually the bills just gonna come do. What’s gonna matter is like, is if is there? Are there any other workable ideas in the wings that people are already embarked upon? Right? And so that’s how I look at it. I mean, I think about this Julius cry, who’s written a wonderful thing in American mind, I want to say, which is conservatism? Can conservatism be more than a grudge?
Robert Bryce 55:24
And last name, Jonathan,
Unknown Speaker 55:25
would you think Julius krein. He’s the head editor over at American affairs, which is probably one of my favorite publications right now. It’s a great little piece. And he sort of talks about some of these problems from the conservative side, what do we do now that the three legged stool has fallen apart? Like there’s more at stake than just cultural issues? Like we have infrastructural problems that the right needs to figure out how to talk about but in 2017, right, this is when like peak Trump hysteria sets in. He sits down with his co editor gladden papen. Across from two editors from the left wing dissent magazine, I think at the verso loft versus a left wing publisher for people who don’t know. And it was supposed to be a debate. And he opened with an interesting Gambit, where he said, Look, I know this is supposed to be a debate. It’s very dramatic. There are boxing gloves on the flyer. He’s like, I want to offer you this idea. What if we could be the new centrism? We seem to agree that we need big infrastructure, we seem to agree that we need more social spending for working class families, we seem to agree on all these things. Now, there’s plenty we disagree on. And I’m sure that we will have interminable boring, horrible fights that poison the cultural well in our country in our own special way. But wouldn’t you rather have that type of centrism, where at least arguing about the spending plans and infrastructural deals then whatever is going on now? Like, why don’t we work together, and then they basically just called him in gladdened racists for the next hour and a half. And that nationalism can only be a type of racism. Now, when I watched that, I was like, first of all, this is just so incredibly disrespectful to both of them, that it almost turned my stomach and it was so intellectually lazy as well. But I thought personally, yeah, I’ll take that bet. Whatever is happening on the industrial right, seems to be a better intellectual and material honesty about the situation of the nation. Do I agree with all of their cultural concerns? No. Have any of the cultural concerns in my entire lifetime ever really been resolved? Like, yes, we got gay marriage and things like that. So these things are sort of like over. There’s just like feedback loops that have created media path dependencies, and jobs for moralistic rubes fresh out of J. School. You know. So
Robert Bryce 57:54
good. Start me on journalism.
Unknown Speaker 57:58
classes in college. Yeah, me either. But, yeah, so that’s the deal that I want to take. Because there I think that there’s at least a thinking about what the common interest might like and that it seems to be built around. What do we do for and with working people?
Robert Bryce 58:18
Well, in his feed that back here, what I hear you say is that the left and the right can come together and say, what are we going to build? Again? What and what do I mean? We’re talking concrete here? What do we add? Where’s the steel in the concrete gonna go? Yeah, where are we going to agree? Right. And energy
Unknown Speaker 58:32
politics is necessarily going to be that discussion.
Robert Bryce 58:36
Absolutely. Central to that. Right. And Joel kotkin makes this very point in a lot of his work about what’s going on in California, right. He was saying, This is central to the California dream, right, that you can have a small house in the suburbs, and you can thrive, but he’s saying no, those people are being priced out. And the and the policies in California are working against those people. And in his view, and he and I’ve had him on the podcast as well. He says, it starts with energy. Having abundant, reliable, low cost energy is key to their ability to rise in the system and to have a comfortable life. He said, and it’s being being strangled. So yeah. So let’s talk about your your piece that you wrote. It was last year it was we needed a nuclear New Deal, not a green New Deal. And you advocated for the US At first, the US will need to commit to an industrial policy like those of France and South Korea, which I think is really interesting, because I think that particularly France, where in going to Paris talking with some people who really familiar with the history of nuclear in France, they said one of the first things that they did out in the wake of the first Arab oil embargo and 73. They said they went to the Communist Party and said, Look, if we build all these nuclear plants are going to be great for patronage jobs. This is going to be great for working class, great for unions. It’s going to be great for laborers and it was and it is and it still is and that was one of the things such so outrageous. An interview James shillitoe, who’s with as the union rep for, for Indian point on the podcast a few weeks ago, great interview, by the way, which I thought was just fascinating in that here’s saying, you know, they talk about all this stuff, and then they put us out of work. And you know, we arranged the you know it, well, they did it, you know, he’s trying not to, you know, be friendly and say, well, they still Rangers, so they go these other plants and so on. But that that part of it that to me, it goes back to the what we were talking about before about this need for this common view. And the end, the unions, and the working class folks have to be on board with it from the beginning. And that seems that that could be one of the strongest ways to sell this vision of a more unified industrial policy in America. Is that is that a correct lead of which? Absolutely, absolutely.
Unknown Speaker 1:00:43
Some of the parts that Adrian and I worked on in that piece were like, what would that mean for education? You know, how do we get on ramps to these jobs, where you don’t have to go into debt and half a degree, you know what I mean? Like, you should be able, like my grandfather, to have an eighth grade education, and work your way up to being able to provide for five other family members on one salary.
Robert Bryce 1:01:10
And didn’t that’s how it ought to be. And it almost seems an impossibility. If you’re a tradesman. Now to make that happen, yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:01:16
exactly. And that like, to me, that’s what I’m looking for, like, I want single parent income to provide for a family.
Robert Bryce 1:01:25
Right? Like, it’s good, because it’s good for the family.
Unknown Speaker 1:01:27
It gets good, yes, it’s good for the family. It’s good for local communities. And, and it means that people have a greater say in how society is run. If you have a situation where that’s true. That means that there are networks where working people can advocate for themselves in the public and political sphere.
Robert Bryce 1:01:48
You know, like, they have enough time or their wife or their spouse or someone in someone, right, or through
Unknown Speaker 1:01:54
the union. They’re integrated into a power block. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 1:01:57
Right. Exactly. They can advocate for better schools, they can advocate for parks, they can advocate advocate for those things that make up civil society. But if they’re both working and or, you know, and then the children are left and attached, then these these become real problems for them to be full, full members of society. Is that is that fair?
Unknown Speaker 1:02:17
Yeah, I think that’s fair. And like. So last year, I went and re read one of my favorite books, after the pandemic broke out, and I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. And what was the book? What is it? The Republic? I played? Okay.
Robert Bryce 1:02:36
And I, you know, you’ve read a lot more books than I have. I haven’t read the Republic. We talked about it on the phone that I remember the other day, you we talked about the would you call it the greatest piece of propaganda ever written? Or the?
Unknown Speaker 1:02:48
Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s Cicero’s Republic. Yes. Which is the greatest piece of Roman propaganda ever written, I believe, but Plato’s Republic is solving an interesting problem, right. So the Peloponnesian War has just broken out of has just ended, Athens lost, Plato lost his teacher, Socrates with it. The Empire and democracy were spot welded together in Athens. And Plato’s obviously worried like many of his peers to cities, and I think also Aristophanes, among others, that democracy is a failed project, it leads to much chaos, it leads to many things. But because of their experience with the hunter of oligarchs Spartans installed, you couldn’t just say, well, then we need an oligarchy. So he has to argue for what would the proper political forum be. And he’s going to argue that it’s an EPA stock recei basically, the rule of those who know, they know what the just is, and then they enforce it accordingly, and everyone stays in their right place. Now, to me, we’re living through something like a return of Plato’s Republic, with the ruling classes where it is increasingly oligarchic, and the way that they shut down working class power, at least culturally and sometimes materially, like, physically in politics, is through the sort of, we know what the just is wokeness and stuff like that. And I have faith in working people to decide for themselves. I’m not scared of them. I don’t think that they’re automatically racist because they grow up in flyover country or whatever. First of all, that’s not been my experience of living mostly in flyover country in my adult life. I think it’s a crime. That that is the broad view of what it’s like there.
Robert Bryce 1:04:33
There was those gun a gun gun owners and what it was it clinging to their Bibles and guns, right. So it was the great formation of who was Yeah, it was Obama who said that right.
Unknown Speaker 1:04:44
Right. Yeah, I think was Obama said that Yeah. Which is again, just like a half step away from basket of deplorables. Right.
Robert Bryce 1:04:51
And coming from the Democrats, who would in theory, be the ones you know, these are our people were the working and that that’s shifted now that the republicans and Trump To those working class think that that was really his great his great asset was using, you know, these elites are not on your side he and I may be an elite but i’m not i’m for you right and and it dare to speak in favor of oil and gas and now the Biden administration is doing everything it can to strangle the oil and gas industry. Right.
Unknown Speaker 1:05:17
Well, and also Rick Perry was vindicated as Meredith angwin points out when he tried to secure backups for Texas,
Robert Bryce 1:05:25
right. And everybody thought he was crazy. And having an outside fuel store. Yeah, but he was up. He had on site fuel. And yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:05:32
he might not remember what he needs to Santa’s debate stage. But he at least knew what was going on with oil and gas. Right?
Robert Bryce 1:05:39
Well, and this idea and that idea about resilience and reliability, and that you owe that to society, that in fact, it But to your point about the epistaxis It’s a new word to me, I hadn’t and and I want you to finish the point about Plato, if you if you had more to say on that, because I always love me some playdough. But I see these big environmental groups, where are they getting their funding? They’re getting it from the oligarchs, it’s Jeff Bezos, it’s from Michael Bloomberg from from Tom styer. This whatever decarbonisation regime that comes in is not going to fit their private jets, not gonna affect john kerry on his private jet, you know, I mean, so there’s this, this detachment that I think is really dangerous. And it’s one that how do you eat it, but it’s, it’s become the de facto operating system for the vanguard on the left, when it comes to climate policy? Oh, these are our funders, we’re not going to say anything about Amazon. And we’re not going to attack anything that they’re doing, or even Google or any of these other because that’s where they’re getting their money.
Unknown Speaker 1:06:38
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, and again, that’s where it’s like the class background is important. Like, who’s, who’s been the steward of the left? For the past, however many decades write the Academy. Now, that isn’t to say that everyone who comes from the Academy, like immediately gets like, woke is it I think that that’s a bad argument. And as my friend online, she’s a great account default friend, very smart woman, argues that it’s not that the academy made all the Tumblr kids woke, it’s at the Tumblr kids were woke because of Tumblr and then changed the academy as they went through it. But that is to say that a lot of the people who are on the left and decide these things, like I said, probably love rub shoulders with people who work at the NRDC and stuff like that. And on top of that, they’re product of the same sort of societal cultural left post 60s, basically, anti Marxist or labor oriented vision of the left that came out of those academies. Right. And that’s how they’re looking at these things. Well, it’s
Robert Bryce 1:07:45
interesting you say that because we’re, we’re the biggest cheerleaders are where these biggest models are, we have a tremendously fantastic, you know, detailed model we can do these aren’t wearing From where are these things coming from, from academia, and from not only just from academia from some of the most elite institutions in America? Yeah. That Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Cal Berkeley? Oh, yes, we can do all this. But as you pointed out, I think in your in the decouple podcast you with Chris Kieffer. None of these guys were making these these men and women who are creating these models, they have secure positions, they may have tenure, what do they have to worry about? They’re not they’re not welders, they’re not, you know, what does Mark z Jacobson care about the truth? notes? There’s a lot to say on that. And I’ll say more on it, but not here. So you said something else, and we just we’ve been talking for about an hour and my guest is is Emmett penny. He’s an essayist and a co host of the exhaust podcast and his call to action is to look up the green nuclear deal, which being headed by Madison Czerwinski. So please look that up. We talked on the phone and just a few more questions, because we’ve been talking now for over an hour. And he said something and I wrote it down when you said when a country’s elites, immediate financial interests undermine the material structures that provide them their status, a country can be said to be in decline? Is American decline?
Unknown Speaker 1:09:16
Yeah, whether it’s terminal decline, or not, as I think the question and to the extent where we can have some bottom up power to connect working people to political systems, to work with them on and talking to him, but frankly, creating jobs in this country that empower them, this 1099 hose down, breaking solar panel farm, out in the middle of nowhere type job, but a real one that pays out in the community over a long period of time, like nuclear is the extent to which we can overcome things like the decline of our nation materially and the intellectual cultural decline that comes from the elite opinion. Credit catcher money that we live through now, which is basically like an HR department with a heavily armed police force.
Robert Bryce 1:10:13
pistol, pistol kradic. hegemony. I like that. That’s good. Well, you have in your background, and you’re watching on YouTube, you can see that you have nuclear power plants are two big cooling towers in there. Your your, your background on the on on zoom here. Why isn’t the Biden administration Why didn’t the Biden administration speak up to preserve Indian Point and why are they not saying anything about the impending closure of Byron and Dresden in Illinois?
Unknown Speaker 1:10:40
Who? Okay, um, I think there are a lot of reasons for that. One of them is that you have people he McCarthy, former leader of the NRDC, who is the first ever climate advisor in the White House, right. So you’ve got that there. Look. You also have Jennifer Granholm in the DMV, right now. Auto was Americans manufacturing heart. Right. When we lost that we lost a lot and nowhere felt that more than Michigan. Now, the way a politician who comes out of Michigan is going to see things is through the eyes of trying to recapture the tray. Now, Jennifer Granholm, Shrek co authored a book with her husband in 2011. And lays out a vision for bringing manufacturing back that looks like what she tried to do for Michigan, which is have renewables manufacturing, domestically, there. And so I think that when these people look at saving nuclear and stuff like this, what they’ll say is, oh, you know, we definitely need to save the plants and not do anything. Because that gives I think, we’re easily persuadable people, the idea that there’s a type of hope, and then do whatever they’re going to do. Because a, that’s their vision, right? Jennifer Granholm? This from Canada, this is the highest office she’s ever going to hold. This is her legacy, right? Is upholding this, Gina McCarthy is towards the end of her life, like, you know, she’s coming to those winters years, and she wants to make her stamp on what the Biden administration is going to do with these people aren’t going to change because they have been shaped by the institutions and the political situations that have brought them to bear and have allowed them to succeed in the Democratic Party, which is what it is now. In other words, their products of their environment. And they’re acting accordingly.
Robert Bryce 1:12:38
And to say anything about nuclear goes against everything that they’ve been about for their entire careers. Exactly, exactly. in jeopardy.
Unknown Speaker 1:12:44
Because look, if you’re like, yeah, nuclear is really the thing we need to say if and like, we need to do that. And maybe we need some more, right? They’ll say like, do we need some new nuclear, right? We don’t, because it’s not like other girls. It doesn’t have all those Gen three problems, you know? In other words, like, yeah, your think tanks gonna get money? Don’t worry, just keep voting de, you know, keep writing those white papers for us. You know, keep getting 10 PhDs to write 1.5 1000 word piece that uses the word justice at times. Keep doing that, you know, don’t worry, the money will flow into new scale, and you’ll get it to.
Robert Bryce 1:13:20
And that’s the part that I think you hit it right on the head. And it’s what I wrote the piece about the 66 billion spent in Texas and 22 billion in subsidies to build all that renewable capacity, follow the money, follow the damn money. Where’s the money going? And why is Granholm the Secretary of Energy so she can follow the money right into the the automaker’s who are that’s been her base in her. I think that’s the same for why Tom Vilsack was appointed the Secretary of Agriculture, follow the ethanol money this right. He’s the Secretary of Agriculture.
Unknown Speaker 1:13:51
And here’s an important thing to write. Because as we start to talk about what is going to be our national industrial interest, especially around energy politics, that is where this is going right. People need to be very wary of when Hillary Clinton comes out and says we need to bring back manufacturing. Importantly, she doesn’t say bring back manufacturing in America, it might be Germany, for all we know if it’s going to be wind turbines. So the game to play the game to play is neo-con, or nationalist. And if they’re neo-con, it means those jobs have gone straight to Germany baby, if they’re a nationalist, we might actually research reassure them, or at least that’s what’s on offer. So I think paying attention to the way people want to adopt or co OPT, what’s happening in that to perpetuate status quo is going to be very important for people’s political literacy. Going forward, you really do want to pay attention to a politician’s entire history to figure out where they’re going to go. We need to establish memories that are longer than the last presidential term.
Robert Bryce 1:14:53
Yeah, interesting. Well, and it’s just one last thought on that kind of that since we’re talking about the nationalism. It’s that The the the more conservative Republicans are the ones that are talking about this kind of Marco Rubio talking about national industrial policy. You know, some of the other ones that Tom Cotton, right, but they’re also talking about taking a taking it back to some of the tech oligarchs saying no, no, no, you’re you’re limiting speech, you’re limiting conservative thought online. That’s beyond your that’s beyond your brief here. But you don’t hear that same kind of discussion coming from the left. Because, as I see it, that limiting that online discourse works for the left doesn’t work for the right.
Unknown Speaker 1:15:32
Yeah, so I think you’ll actually see, so if you go to their credit, if you go to jacobin. And you see like some of the stuff on like, Biden’s new domestic terror initiative, which is, of course, more a justification than a motive, his motivation for anything. Or you see how that the socialist element of the left is going to look at these things. They’re also hostile, but the broad left, which will include the Democratic Party patronage systems, and things like that aren’t going to be as hostile probably for the reasons that you say, you know, I mean, just think about the bidding war that happened in all of these blue states over who could lower their taxes the fastest to accommodate Jeff Bezos. Right, right. That happened a few years ago. Like, just think about the fact that when Texas your state was going, it was entering into the legislative period, to figure out what to do after the blackout, who leaned on the legislature really hard. Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, for sure. Hathaway, all of these people, Google,
Robert Bryce 1:16:29
they wrote a letter Jeff Bezos, just the April 7 letter. Oh, don’t make us we’re the renewable providers. Hey, we’re the good guys here. There’s no, that’s not our deal. Yeah, haven’t
Unknown Speaker 1:16:38
you heard? By the way? I, Jeff Bezos, you know, just gave $100 million to NRDC. So how could I be bad? Right? You know, I’m on the side of the environment. So that’s, that’s how this is going to work. And, yeah, you’re right, I think for certain very repressive elements of the left, that seemed to be at least appear to be culturally dominant, or at least are intensive enough a minority, and they have enough capture of the media system, that they seem to be dominant. Right, it’s sometimes hard for me to actually tell my experience of walking around with most Americans is that they’re generally saying, and it especially helps if they didn’t go to an Ivy League.
Robert Bryce 1:17:26
So just a couple more things. So one of the questions I like putting in people, and it was something I went to a dinner party some time ago. And the question is, what’s your one thing? You know, what’s your one thing? And as I’ve thought about this, and even to describe myself, and we talked about you how you identify yourself, how do I see myself? Well, I’m a reporter, I just, I just, you know, I’ve written books, I do a podcast, but I think of myself basically, as a reporter, and have for 30 years. And what’s my one thing when it comes to energy, it’s, it’s all about power, density, power, density is the key. If you understand it, and deeply understand it, then you understand why our energy and power systems are the way they are. What you one thing,
Unknown Speaker 1:18:07
the time horizon of society is potentially forever. It’s not quarterly, it’s not annual. You can’t afford to only think that way. society will continue beyond us will die, our children will take it up. It might be unrecognized or recognizable to us later. But some of the things that we do now are going to show up in that forever. So the time horizon of society is potentially forever. And I think if we think about it like that, our lives get smaller, right, which is good. We want to be right sized and who we are. And our aspiration should become bigger.
Robert Bryce 1:18:50
I like that. If the time horizon for society is forever, we need to be thinking more about what that means. over the long term. Or we need more we need more long term ism. Yeah, less present ism. Yeah, absolutely. So what are you reading? You mentioned Plato.
Unknown Speaker 1:19:08
Right, right. Um, so right now I am. For fun. I’m reading Heinlein Starship Troopers. I’ve made you do that for a while. It’s great fun, very fun little novel. And the thing I’m diving into pretty seriously is Alistair McIntyre’s after virtue. Which is an incredible check on like the Enlightenment project of ethics and morals. I think it’s a important book that people should read. And then the other one, I’m going on a little trip, so it was like to bring like a smaller book to just read on the flight, you know, right. Yes. I’m Katherine Luiz. I just picked it up. Catherine Lou’s virtue hoarders the case against the professional managerial class. I’ve got my first interviews with her she’s very sharp woman. And I think she’s got some interesting things to say. Here, so I’m interested, and figuring out what she’s all about.
Robert Bryce 1:20:04
Last question, what gives you hope?
Unknown Speaker 1:20:07
What gives me hope? You know? So I went to St. John’s where I studied the great books, right. And when I left St. John’s for a while I
Robert Bryce 1:20:17
and you mentioned this in, by the way in in your piece on industrial, Nuclear and Industrial cathedrals. You mentioned you start there talking about being in Santa Fe and go Yeah, St. John’s and that that view of history and St. The st. JOHN the cathedral there.
Unknown Speaker 1:20:33
Yeah. Yeah, the St. Francis Cathedral there, yeah, had a huge impact on me. And I had some time where I was teaching the classics online or holding seminars, on the great books through online, great books calm. I hope I can still do some work for them in the future. I love that project. But what it taught me was that you don’t necessarily need a big institution to steward something, you know, is that people will do it that these things that are worth doing and worth handing down, people will find a way to do it. And so what has given me hope is finding people who are doing that, and working with them on that project, I see. inheritance, cultural heritage in two ways, right? conservation and critique. And sometimes they’re the same thing, right? Because to critique something, you have to try to understand it, right, which means that you bring it, you know, into the next iteration of the culture. And so for me, a cultural project like that gives me hope, my, like material life’s work, let’s say what I would hope that I could say I play a small part in in giving to the American people, and making our society more stable would be the maintenance, defense and expansion of the US nuclear fleet.
Robert Bryce 1:21:57
Well said, maintenance, defense, maintenance and expansion of the US nuclear fleet. Well, we’re in complete agreement. They’re a violent agreement. And I hope we have more people who are willing to sign on because we need to defend what we have and build more. And building more is going to take a long time, but getting what we have is eminently reasonable and defendable, and, alas, not getting much support from the people who can really make that happen. So listen, I think that’s a good place to stop. And Emmett unless you have anything else you want to add. All I want to say is the fights over when you stop swinging. Well said, All right, well, great. Well, my guest has been in a penny. He’s an essayist. He’s the co host of the exhaust podcast he recommends we all look at Madison sure winsky and her work on the campaign for a nuclear New Deal. And thanks, again for being on the power hungry podcast. Thanks to all of you for tuning in. Tune in for the next episode of the power hungry podcast. We’re going into our second year, which is already remarkable, but we’re not going away. So see you next time. Thanks again. And thank you.