Robert Bryce : 0:05
Hi, thanks for being with us. This is the inaugural the very first the Premier Edition of the power hungry Podcast, where we talk about energy power innovation. And because we’re talking about energy, power and innovation, we’re going to talk some about politics as well. I’m Robert Bryce. I’m super happy to finally be launching this podcast and I’m even more happy that my first guest is my friend and colleague Tyson Culver. Tyson directed the new film that we just released. In fact it just came out on June 2. It’s called Juice: how electricity explains the world. And so given that I just made a documentary I was the producer Tyson was the director that we talked about the film so Tyson, welcome. Thanks for being with us today.
Tyson Culver : 0:52
Thanks so much for having me on your inaugural power hungry podcast. Excited to be here first premier. Yes, exactly. Glad to first to touch ground. So, yeah, excited to talk about the film. Let’s, you know, let’s have at it, you know, as far away we could talk about, you know, all the stuff we’ve covered multiple times in various, various places. So, let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s get after it. Sure.
Robert Bryce : 1:18
So Well, one of the things that just came, you know, comes to mind we’re now we’ve had a pandemic, we are seeing demonstrations in the streets, widespread this demonstrations. And one of the things I’m thinking, Well, why is this film relevant now? What is it about today that makes this film relevant? What do you What’s your view?
Tyson Culver : 1:41
You know, I think it I think it hits on a couple of different factors. we’ll tackle the easier one first, the pandemic side, I never thought I would say a pandemic is easy, but as it relates to the pandemic and more, we made a film about electricity and all the things that that are being used. combat this pandemic, rely on electricity, whether it’s the hospitals, whether it’s, you know, whether it’s the boredom, you’re stuck at home and you’re watching Netflix and you have your AC running because it’s the middle of the summer in Texas. There are so many different ways that electricity touches our lives. And the way we have it here in the states is in stark contrast to the way the the folks outside of the US in developing countries have it, especially given the, you know, the the current, the current climate of there being a pandemic going on. In terms of the, the, all of the issues we’re seeing with regards to race relations in the US and systemic racism. I thought about this the other day, there’s a our films about inequality, it’s poverty, women’s rights and climate change, and it’s really talking about energy poverty, and energy inequality. And while I would never say inequality and systemic racism are the same thing. I would say that they’re their cousins, you know, they’re they are related. And the air that gives them breath is apathy. You know, you know, we don’t seem to really care about what’s going on the rest of the world when it comes to energy poverty, because we got it so good. And a lot of us that are, you know, a privilege. And in white, you know, there could be a strong case to be made that, you know, we’re not really thinking about what’s happening to, you know, our fellow humans or brothers and sisters that, that don’t look like us that don’t sound like us. So, I think that, you know, like I said, I could never equate racism and inequality, they’re not quite the same thing. But there there are, there are parallels, I think, between what’s going on today and in some of the stuff that we cover in our film.
Robert Bryce : 3:52
I’d put it slightly differently. I did not disagree with any of the points you made. But I what I see is the is the one of the key is issues that’s being at issue here is yes, it’s about racial issues. But I think there’s also an that inevitably is about class. I think that that’s one of the key issues that is related directly to energy and energy availability is the issue of class and class are you can you afford all the energy you need? And as we saw in the film, we went all over the world and in particularly in India, Lebanon, Puerto Rico, people could not afford the energy that they needed, and they were just simply wasn’t available. So, let’s, what, let’s talk a bit more specifically about the film itself. So what was your favorite interview? I know we we interviewed 50 different people over a five year period when we first started talking about this. There are a lot of instances a lot of moments that stand out for me, but my experience was I wasn’t working with a lot of you know, the gear and you were handling the camera gear and everything. But you were there for all of them. So what would you have all the people in moments What? What stands out for you now looking back?
Tyson Culver : 5:09
I thought about this because we’ve talked about this the other day. I think there are two that stand out. The first would be Priscilla matanza. And we covered her pre funding out of the breakthrough dialogue with a host of other interviews, but I really just, she just jumped off the screens useful life, but I mean, she was just, she knew everything we wanted to discuss. And her answers were just spectacular. I mean, you know, she became a constant thread throughout the course of the film. And the way she talked about, you know, what, what the absence of electricity means for women and girls in developing countries, just I mean, it’s it’s stuff you and I discussed, prior to the interview, but to hear it from someone from Ghana, when she brought in like her family members, you know, that didn’t grow up like this. All
Robert Bryce : 6:00
right. And the story she told about trying to do her math lesson, right?
Tyson Culver : 6:02
Yeah. In the blackout. Yeah.
Robert Bryce : 6:04
Rotation tables. And she was and I’ll just add to what you’re saying about her because she was. And I think she’s in graduate school. Now back here in the US. She was at the Center for Global Development. But she was one of those people of the many interviews we did. She spoke not just in complete sentences, but in full paragraphs are perfectly punctuated. I mean, it was just amazing, because we’d finish one segment and we’d look at each other like, yeah, that was perfect. That was cool.
Tyson Culver : 6:33
Yeah, it was. It makes it easy, but also difficult in the editing room because her her answers were so perfect. I mean, I mean, we could have done you know, 30 minutes just with Priscilla. The other interview I liked a lot and I, it’s hard. I mean, there were so many who say Moser will talk about him, but it was towards the end actually, when we interviewed Jessica Lovering. And I think the reason that I liked it so much was I still hadn’t Come around all this stuff on nuclear whether or not you know, I agreed with some of your points and other points I’d read I just, I hadn’t got there yet. And I was like, well, will then explain to me why is explained to me someone that definitely came into the film not thinking that that nuclear was the answer or, or this, you know, a big answer, you know, explain to me why, why it has such a bad rap. And she went through this whole thing about, you know, renewables sound good, because they’re like, your grandmother’s energy. And, you know, I mean, nuclear, I mean, it came from the, you know, millet industrial military complex. And I mean, it was just, it was just like, she stated, all the things that, you know, if you think about it are already there, but I just hadn’t considered them. And it made it, it became a tool that I could, that we could then use in the film to explain why the audience member might have, you know, a preconceived notion about nuclear and so, that was just that was critical because we needed that in order to get film to where we’d have an ending that made sense, you know, and that covered all the points.
Robert Bryce : 8:06
He really gave us that context. We’re the history of nuclear opposition, and also that context for why renewables are so popular. Right. And yeah, and she was she had that great dress on with the little elephants on it. Remember that? That was? That was great, which my
Tyson Culver : 8:22
wife loved because my wife loves elephants. We have elephant elephants everywhere in my house, I guess.
Robert Bryce : 8:26
The film is produced by electric elephant films, the company that we formed to do the project. Yeah, she was great. And to be able to do it in New York. At a time when we were filming at Indian, the Indian Point Energy Center made it even kind of more perfect in terms of the timing.
Tyson Culver : 8:44
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, we could go on and on talking about so many different interviews that I enjoyed, you know, the like, I think we talked about saying Mosel, the gentleman that picked us up in the cab, you know, when we got into Bay route, you know, within 10 minutes of our taxi driver. You know, you’re just riffing with him asking him questions about the landscape of energy and electricity in in Lebanon and I’m just you know, snapping pictures away and looking at military and stuff and Hey, is it okay if I put this camera you and again you know in in that’s that like I said before that’s the most honest interview he did because it was just oh great we got this moment and he was cool with it
Robert Bryce : 9:22
was on the fly and you had your your Sony SLR there in the moment What do you call them not slrs anymore what do you what is that? A
Tyson Culver : 9:31
mirrorless a seven s two. Thank you Sony.
Robert Bryce : 9:35
Yeah, but it was, you know, you had that camera, you know, a very small camera that we could do those kinds of interviews. We didn’t make him up. We didn’t queue him. We It was no more we just to make that story clear. So we landed at Rafiq Hariri airport in Beirut, and there were four of us it was you and me and john moody and Matt Wallace. And, you know, also for pretty big American guys, you know, and we Have a ton of stuff. I mean, you know, all of our cases and our luggage and the rest, and we load it into the van. And you’re right. We hadn’t left the airport more than five, maybe 10 minutes. And I’ve done some homework on Lebanon, and I knew the things that I wanted to look at. But I did I said, you know, tell me, what do you know about the generator, the generator mafia? And he’s like, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. And then you said, Do you mind if we record this? And it Well,
Tyson Culver : 10:23
yeah, go ahead. Go ahead. Yeah. And and
Robert Bryce : 10:26
shout out to my friend, Jimmy Moore, who is here in Austin. He and I were on the board at Parkside Community School for many years. And three or four years ago, I said, Jimmy, I’m thinking about going to Beirut, he says, Oh, well, and his family is Lebanese. And he’s been in the US his whole life. He’s, his dad was born here. But he said, if you go over there, I’ll go with you. And I said, Oh, come on, you know, just Just give me a name. No. He and Simone Najim, his brother in law, medicine, Beirut. They showed us all around and I’ll bring this up, one because I have great great admiration great, great friendship with Jimmy But he said before we left, he said, Listen, when we get over there, people are very willing to talk about politics. And he said, from the from the shoeshine kid on the on the corner to the taxi driver, they know all about politics, and they’ll talk about it. And it was proven before we even got to the hotel.
Tyson Culver : 11:17
Robert Bryce : 11:18
and who say, Mazel, who had spent a lot of time in the US and Dearborn and Michigan. Everything he said turned out to be true. And it was exactly as Jimmy told me, before we even left that everyone knows the deal. And he knew the deal. And you’re right. It was just a tremendous, and we were lucky to run into him later remember, because we didn’t get a release from him. Oh, yeah. And I had to find it again. Because I was like, Hey, man, we really want to use
Tyson Culver : 11:45
Robert Bryce : 11:46
Yeah, that was nice stuff. Okay, so yes, I agreed. You know, the the interview I’ll say quickly, one of my favorite interviews was, I just thought Puerto Rico was amazing. You know, this the entire story. In Puerto Rico, and I de tortoise. Luis Gonzalez, his mother was one of these kind of little bits of Kismet that we were even able to meet this woman who lived up in the hills in the rural area near Macau, Puerto Rico. She was charming. But EDIUS Ortiz was the other interview that I just thought was really remarkable, because, you know, she was a young woman pretty had three young kids, and and reminded me and I think probably you you have three children as well. Well, this could be us and living in a living in a house in and without grid power for seven months. And who to have her say, Yeah, I feel like I’m living in the time of my grandmother that we’ve gone back in time. And it was just really a very, she was just had this beautiful poise about her that I just thought was just remarkable.
Tyson Culver : 12:52
Yeah, and I’m in you know, Puerto Rico was the last major trip that we did to and I know we’ve kind of went back and forth on it. Even In, you know, we had stories from India and we had stories from, you know, from all over really. But we it’s that it’s that it’s the happy thing we talked about earlier, how do we make it matter to folks in the West? And, and I think it’s so important that we did that, not just to tell the story, because it’s, it’s a story that, you know, it comes some coverage but not near as much as it should have gotten in the news, I think. But also, I think it’s somewhat grounding for folks that are going to watch it in the States because, you know, well, that’s happening in India or Africa. Well, or, you know, wherever and in for here, it was, well, this is this is this is happening to, you know, United States citizens then and it says, you know, American soil, American soil and you know, they they are essentially, you know, relegated to living in a third world country, they have no power. You know, many folks didn’t have any water because it’s so hilly and the water can go uphill with electricity. So yeah, The interview we did with the majority senator in San Juan, you know? Yeah, that was, that was that was something special. It was also, I mean, I don’t I not special in the sense that the power went out, you know, the second major blackout hit when we were having that interview. I mean, and as a director, I’m like, Oh my gosh, you know, this is that’s Verity, you know, in its truest form. And you just kind of and it was interesting, too, because, you know, you’re bilingual. And, and but, you know, the Spanish is a little bit more difficult in Puerto Rico. And so I remember you would ask him a question in Spanish, he the answer in English, you’d ask him a question in English, he would answer in Spanish. And then you finally found this, you know, this kind of momentum and then suddenly, the lights just went out, and UPS starts going on. It’s like, Oh, you know, what’s bought the batteries and we just rolled with it. And that’s it. That’s in the movie. And I think that’s, it’s awesome that viewers get to experience what we experienced when we went there. To some degree,
Robert Bryce : 15:00
yeah, that’s a great point. And I didn’t you know, I was flustered at the moment because I’m trying to, you know, deal with the Spanish translation. I mean, his English was about the level of my Spanish right? Yeah. So when you say on bilingual I remember when Jim Hightower had a slander for some politician A while back it was claimed that he was he could speak Spanish and Hightower said, Well, he’s by ignorant.
Tyson Culver : 15:27
I would never call you by ignorant Robert. very kindly.
Robert Bryce : 15:30
So you know, my tourist level Spanish wasn’t up to the task. But thankfully, we had Gustavo Rodriguez who was there unable to help us with a translation but throughout Puerto Rico, the number of people who are really went out of their way to help us in terms of what, you know, the making of the film, to me was the really the joyful part, right, you know, the doing those interviews, and getting to, as I’m talking to these people, knowing that I can take those little bitty seconds That we’re talking and then this things that allow them to become human to the people I want to see the film. That to me was really the the great joy in the making of the film. You know, that’s a prelude to the one of the questions I wanted to just bring up about the hardest part. Because, I mean, to me, the the joy was in the making, the hard part was in the distributing. Right? And yeah, with the business side of the film business, which I knew nothing about, and, frankly, had I understood how hard it was gonna be I might have taken another thought about it. But I was familiar with the book business. So that was the movie of you know, how hard can this be? And it was a lot harder than I thought.
Tyson Culver : 16:40
Again, it’s interesting too, because so I come from the commercial world, you know, juice was my, you know, that was my directorial debut. Right. And I’d worked on independent features in the past, but in the commercial and branded content world, you know, you make it and it’s out there, you make it and it’s out there and And that just that wasn’t quite the case with juice. You know, we did have a spectacular team, you know, Matt Wallace, enemy winner from disgrace john Moody, multiple Emmy winners, including Deadliest Catch, we had a score from Silas height, another Emmy winner, we discovered, you know, James Franco along the way, who had been cutting all kinds of stuff for our company, and brought him on and he cut an amazing film. And, you know, did such an amazing job was such an integral part of the story, you know, we we tag tagged him with a co producing credit. So we had this amazing team in place, and it was a small footprint, you know, and so and that was helpful because it allowed us to get some of those more intimate stories that maybe we may not have otherwise been able to do. So had we had, you know, 15 or 20 people on set. But yeah, you’re absolutely right. The, the, the distribution part of it was a mother and you know, and it’s, it’s one of those things that, you know, we learned along the way right, you know, there’s so much that we learned After the film was done, you know, when it came to getting a sales agent, and making sure that people saw the film and, you know, I remember, you know, seeing our trailer out there and looking at our trailer versus others and our film and others and thinking, what why are we out there just got, and then thankfully eventually landing with gravitas. And what’s spectacular about gravity was when when they say they’re gonna put the movie everywhere. They put it everywhere, you know, I mean, it drops on iTunes and Amazon, and it hits Vimeo and VUDU and Google Play, and it’s on Comcast on demand, and it’s on all these different things because that’s the part I think that was so disheartening after we wrapped what, you know, looks and sounds and feels and I mean, it was mixed by the dude that did a Lita reading looking, you know, it was posted by TBD TBD post here in Austin who are amazing, do all kinds of films. So we had this great product, but it wasn’t out and so having our film, take that next step and get out there was just like a Yes, now folks can see it. And I mean, and, you know, it’s hard not to get a little worried along the way. And did this thing really look as good as I think it did? Did, did we make all the points I think we made? And then you know, I mean, you go to the review section on our site, and heck, yeah, man, we got 20 plus reviews from all kinds of folks just talking about how much they enjoyed it, and how, you know, we’ve talked about it before how you lean right and lean left, and we tried not to make it about, you know, tribal, like, typical interview stories are and it said, you know, focus on you know, what’s what’s, what’s the story, let’s, let’s ask people questions, let’s listen and weave a story out of their answers. And that’s, I’m excited, and I’m thrilled with the response we’ve seen so far.
Robert Bryce : 19:46
I am too. I mean, that’s been the part that’s made me forget about the hard parts. And I know that one of the, you know, dealing with the distribution and getting that figured out. And also just knowing, you know, who could we really trust and You know, I’ve heard stories about the movie business and how hard it is and the rest of it. But I had to experience it myself. You know, I just thought, Oh, well, we’ll figure out the distribution later. Which maybe, in hindsight, of course, you know, is easy to see your mistake. But now getting some of the positive feedback has been really rewarding for me. So we kind of jumped to the end there. But so those that we had several false starts though, right? We thought, Oh, well, we’ll start with my refrigerator. And we’ll build a story around the refrigerator, but it really wow, yeah. wasn’t really until we went to India. And this is another person that I want to acknowledge is joy Sri Roy, who we met through the breakthrough Institute, and she facilitated our entire visit to India, which, you know, it sounds trite but it was life changing for me because it really brought home from the very beginning of the project. The depth of energy, poverty and depth Electricity poverty that still exists for one of the world, one of the world’s most populous countries where you have 300 million people with no access to electricity, and where the average Indian uses less electricity than my refrigerator. So it’s a long kind of rambling intro, but that the the experience I had and I think for you in India was just truly extraordinary.
Tyson Culver : 21:21
It was I mean, it absolutely was. And you’re right, you know, when we started, and there were even times during the course of production, where it felt like we might make this to film about numbers because the numbers, the statistics are just, I mean, they do tell a good story. I mean, it tell you sold me on it, when we had, you know, tacos and Rios taco Express, you know, five years ago.
Robert Bryce : 21:43
It’s not human. And that was what I think we were seeing in India, we had to tell people’s stories. Mm hmm.
Tyson Culver : 21:49
Yeah, I mean, but I still I still remember I met with you. And I immediately like immediately after I left that lunch, I called up Wallace. I was like, hey, You got to hear this and I laid out what you laid out to me. You know, the average weed legal weed dispensary has power density similar to that of, you know, a data center for Amazon or Google, you know. And then we talked about a women and girls and we talked about a billion people without electricity and 2 billion more use less electricity than a typical American refrigerator. And I had in my head at the time, and I’m sure Wallace did as well. Was this giant infographic do all these numbers? But you know, there’s I don’t know that there’s ever really been a Guinness Book of World Records movie because that wouldn’t have been kind of flat. You know, and here’s another stat. Right. And I think when we took that first international trip and went to India, it was absolutely life changing because it’s impossible to to witness that level of energy poverty, and see how people’s lives are impacted. And not come away a change person, you know, and, and we were lucky we had someone like Joyce Roy, that I mean, I got there three days. Before you did, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know, I just bought an Fs seven. I mean, I’ve shot for years, but I mean, I wouldn’t qualify, I wouldn’t say I’m a dp and I’ma go out and shoot a bunch of stuff and, you know, the footage in any of my favorite footage from the entire film, and so I just like let it roll the whole darn time. And I mean, it was just, it was just awesome. And it was, it was critical, I think to how the rest of the story drew out from there, you know, because because that interview with Rihanna was just was just so so touching.
Robert Bryce : 23:32
And you’re referencing Rihanna Damodar, who we met in this tiny village called Medallia Procore and joy a Sri arranged for us to go there because one of her students, doctoral students who was doing her work on this little village on energy availability, how much electricity do they use, how much LPG liquefied petroleum gas they use? And that that was where we found I think the heart of the film was in that interview. with Rihanna Damodar, who’s this gracious woman that we met in this tiny little agricultural village about an hour southeast of Kolkata. And I remember that, you know, I remember it my whole life and just asking her about her life, and she had lived for 30. She was 44. She had a first job when she was 14. And you’re sure one of our daughters was in university. And I said, well, would you have gone to university if you’d had lights in your house when you were a child? And because one of her children whatever daughters was going to the university in Kolkata, and she was clearly proud of it, said, if you had electricity in your house, when you were growing up, would you have gone to university and she, you know, she remember he nodded her head to the right. You know, the Bengalis do and she said, Yes, I would have gone. Yeah, and I didn’t, you know, sometimes it takes a while to absorb things and understand what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard. And it was a couple days later when I came up with that line that darkness kills human potential, and electricity nourishes And she knew, you could tell by the look on her face. She knew that was an opportunity that had passed her by. And, you know, she’s only one woman among hundreds of millions who are living in similar situations.
Tyson Culver : 25:15
Well, and Joyce really touched on that a little bit in her interview with her because, you know, once you had that amazing line, you know, you educate the woman, you educate the household, but she also talked about all of the lost opportunity for humanity. How many how many women and girls first and then how many just you know folks in general that are suffering through energy poverty, how many Einsteins have we missed out on? How many brilliant minds that could have cured disease could have invented who knows what how many amazing things have we missed out on over the course of our lifetimes and countless lifetimes before it because of that countless but you know, several lifetimes before us because of just you know, the geography where someone is born and what that means, especially the women and girls because they’re the ones gathering the dung gathering the firewood, you know, gathering the fuel and essentially, to light the fire to cook over. And they’re spending all day inside the house essentially, you know, living lives of indentured servitude, as opposed to you know, being educated and having their dreams dashed before they ever really get get a chance to have their dreams begin. You know, it’s this is the life they live and and it’s not changing because of where they are and and how the absence of electricity has put them in that position.
Robert Bryce : 26:38
Yeah, well, and it was also the same story we saw with Ed sorties in her three girls, right. And then for seven months, they weren’t able to do their schoolwork to the best of their ability, because they didn’t have electricity. They didn’t have internet access. They didn’t have didn’t have enough computer time at home. So that that the global nature of the problem and the Reach of this inequality in terms of what we take for granted, was really striking. And then to go from that level of poverty in India where people commonly steal electricity to then come to, you know, another part of the United States and see a place where the electricity is, is, is in short supply as well. I mean, it that changed my frame of reference as well, because I think the, frankly, part of the Puerto Rico shortage the part of Puerto Rico problem is there’s some racist attitude there as well. Right. I mean, this is Spanish speaking Island. It’s a new colony of the United States. It has never been made a state. You know, they don’t have
Tyson Culver : 27:43
voting rights. Yeah, I mean, I mean, absolutely. And it also, I don’t want to get too far off point, because I like where you’re going with that. But there was there was something when you talk about the absence electricity And how they were dealing with, you know, kids not being able to be educated, you know, a great parallel to that story is, okay, bring it back to the current day. And we’re dealing with a pandemic. And we do we have three kids here at my house and, you know, to six and 13. And, and that, while while it has not been pleasant to be stuck inside all this time with me, we’re also having an opportunity to kind of reconnect as a family. But we also have all these amazing opportunities at our disposal. You know, I’m here in Austin ISD did a great job of figuring out okay, well, we’re going to work with zoom, and we’re going to work with all these different, you know, mechanisms to ensure that our kids are still getting educated. And maybe they’re not in the classroom, and maybe they’re not getting the same level of attention that they might have gotten. But in other cases, maybe they’re even getting more opportunities because I will, this one’s a little more advanced and we can put her on other Their subjects, once again, using electricity using all the tools that we have at our disposal and in our home. And I think of the, you know, the luxury that we have here versus, you know, places in Puerto Rico where they don’t have that accessibility, and they weren’t able to plug back in and, and that extends, you know, into, into places that are, you know, impoverished neighborhoods here in America too. I mean, you know, sure, the privileged few are quite privileged, we’re really, really lucky with, with with what we have, and a lot of that ties back to access to electricity and our capacity, you know, to pay for it and, and, you know, be able to, you know, take care of our family and it’s just, you know, it’s disheartening. You’re
Robert Bryce : 29:47
well, and when one point that we are when we talked about adding this to the film, but we didn’t we were able to talk about cannabis, right and we talked about Bitcoin mining. We didn’t talk about the high tech or the big tech companies and out of electricity they consume so you know, you’re talking about you know, zoom and and and you know, we shop on Amazon we use Amazon Prime we get you know, Netflix, iTunes, all these things. We only think about the electricity that we are getting from the wall plug but all of those companies and it’s a point that I make in my in my my book.
Tyson Culver : 30:21
Oh, there it is. I mentioned a question of power. Gotta have your props close by man,
Robert Bryce : 30:28
electricity and the wealth of nations that I mentioned the book, I write in the book about the technology companies, Google, or alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and apple and how much electricity they consume, which is on the order of 30, or more terawatt hours a year means exactly as much as Denmark. I mean, these are enormous numbers, right? So that electricity wealth that you’re talking about in your house is only part of the electricity wealth of the society that we live in. Right and so there’s this off site. Consumption that we don’t even consider. But when we use our, you know, our cell phones or any of these other devices that we rely on, we’re relying on a massive electricity infrastructure that we don’t even see or ever think about that is also part of the wealth of the nation. Mm hmm
Tyson Culver : 31:18
yeah, there was a there was a term I remember you used but that we didn’t touch on in the in the film also about invisible infrastructure, you know, all that all the power lines that are just there all the utility companies that are just there all the dams, I mean, there’s so much that powers our you know, quite prosperous lives here in the states that we just don’t even think about.
Robert Bryce : 31:40
I did it was one of our disagreements. I said, Hey, man, let’s shoot some transformers and some
Tyson Culver : 31:45
Robert Bryce : 31:46
Tyson Culver : 31:48
Yes, but I remember.
Robert Bryce : 31:51
But it was one of those things where we do see them and we see these telephone poles we see or the, you know, the power poles. We see the power lines. We don’t think Think about it, we don’t have that infrastructure that is absolutely essential to our lives. And yet we, we just don’t see it. It’s just become invisible into our, somehow to our collective understanding. Right? Well, of course it’s there. And of course it works. Well, no, not, of course. And that was what I saw in Lebanon, where that lack of integrity and I thought about that for a long time. What’s that right word? system has to have integrity and Lebanon is still in now in dire straits. Iraq is in dire straits. Because the systems the the political systems in those countries are very weak, and without strong governance without strong civil society. Electric grids just don’t work. And that was what we clearly saw in Lebanon and one of the parts that I you know, maybe the more uncomfortable parts of the of all the travel we did was shooting the generator mafia in Beirut and getting chased off by some really big dudes who did not want us there.
Tyson Culver : 33:00
Yeah, I mean, you know, our crew though our crew is small, you know, none of us are dinky. You know, I’m 61. But Wallison and moody are both six bore and you know, so I wasn’t really worried about anything and so I remember we were driving through, you know that one, you know, we were just in the middle of Beirut. Believe is a baby, wasn’t it? Yeah, we were in middle Beirut driving along and I’m like, there’s a general let’s get a shot of it. Really here. Yeah. And we’re talking to the taxi driver and he is okay pulls over and we hop out and I’ve got a I think I had a Steadicam and but he just pulled out his red and we start shooting in like, and I saw this guy kind of like going over and then they whistled and then they Oh, hey, you come here and we’re like, No, I’m not going to do that. And I remember getting in the car and being chastised by Wallace and and the Tax Service. You can’t do that. You can’t just get out. I mean, you got to get going. I’m like What are you talking about? You know, we came up world away. We’re going to get the shots or like you didn’t see the size of the guys because I did I didn’t see Yeah. There’s large men coming after us, thankfully. So I was, you know, really, really brave because I didn’t know how stupid I had just been.
Robert Bryce : 34:06
Well, it was stupid, but it was also part of the story and I was desperate. I want to get that shot too.
Tyson Culver : 34:11
Yeah, you know.
Robert Bryce : 34:14
We’re going to see the generator mafia we have to see the generators and yeah, and, and this was an area of Beirut that was notorious for being controlled by the generator mafia, which In brief, in Beirut, the electric grid goes dark every day in Beirut for at least three hours, sometimes more. So virtually everyone in Lebanon pays two electric bills one to EDL electricity doodlee bomb, which is the grid operator and another bill they pay to the generator mafia, who is the neighborhood supplier, in their, in their in their in that gives them electricity when the grid goes out? So this idea that you would pay to different generators. I mean, it’s so foreign to any experience that we have in the United States. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Beirut. Because I’d heard about it and I and in fact, just a few days before we arrived, there was a murder or shooting. I think people were killed in the city of Sidon, which wasn’t far south of Beirut. And it was a dispute between rival generator mafia so they were, you know, having a turf war over who gets to supply electricity. So this is deadly serious business.
Tyson Culver : 35:21
Yeah, I mean, of all the places we went, Beirut may have been my favorite. I mean, I just I really, really, it was, it’s beautiful. For one and it’s beautiful, both where it’s not beautiful and where it is beautiful, you know, when you see some of the poverty that exists there, but also some of the wealth that exists there and then you know, we went outside of Beirut. To the end, we saw that amazing microgrid but as much as I loved it, when we went you know, we went from Beirut, we went to Iceland, and you know, leaving Beirut was you know, not, not sketchy. Like either ak 47 is everywhere. We’ve got all this gear, how do we make sure that I’m, you know, taking any of our stuff? You know, are they going to jack with us? really got to get to Iceland and then you know getting landing landing in Iceland and coming off their plane like, Oh, look, it’s there no men with guns, you know and so that was that was that was that was pretty amazing. But I really I loved loved love our drip, drip favorite I would absolutely go back. But it I felt a heck of a lot safer. safer when we got nice one.
Robert Bryce : 36:31
Yeah, no, I will. I’m not especially interested in going back right now Beirut’s will 11 maybe not now, the crisis again. But we could also see that an influx of what 2 million Syrian refugees
Tyson Culver : 36:43
Oh, yeah. Right.
Robert Bryce : 36:44
The, you know, Lebanon has been unstable for a very long time. But it’s especially unstable now. And you had the rise in the city where Hezbollah was in control and the people who lived in that part of the city didn’t pay any electric bill. So this was part of the kind of the uneasy Alliance among the Christians the Sunni and the Shia in Lebanon. And that’s what’s allowed the Iranians to have control and some info a lot of influence there. And, you know, in the interviews that we did, pretty much everybody acknowledged all of this political division and said, Well, this is the way it is. But yeah, it was a fascinating place and the people were incredibly friendly and the food was fantastic. And it was marvelous. It was really just a tremendous, tremendous opportunity to be able to go there. So just a quick review because we’ve been talking now over 30 minutes and I don’t want to wear out our listeners on the very first addition to the podcast but we talked about what soldiers initially so what good tell tell people why they should watch this film. You know, what, what is your takeaway now we’ve talked about branding, we’ve talked marketing slogans, and now we have a little bit of distance. So what do you how do you sell the film now?
Tyson Culver : 37:55
So there, we’ve been talking about how you sell the film, right? You know, like you We we nailed down our story over a three year period and traveled over 60,000 miles interviewed 50 people from seven countries on five continents to tell the human story of electricity and why power equals power. And that last part, humans sort of electricity, why power equals power. That’s the critical component of it. I, for me as someone that entered the story, very much a proponent of 100% renewable, I saw that as kind of just in that natural transition of our energy grid. Not that I know a lot about energy. That’s just I’ve heard that a lot. I you know, I’ve seen lots of articles talking about how it’s feasible. I think it’s important to one get outside our comfort zone. I think it’s important to challenge challenge ourselves and look at the entire picture for all kinds of stuff but in in you know, right now we’re facing a lot of things, but when it when it comes to energy, poverty, the line that came to me in brackets Road Rage was anyone that’s talking about climate change without mentioning energy poverty is just kicking the can down the road. And I 1,000% believe that, you have to realize that, you know, you can’t just you can’t just cover the landscape with windmills and solar panels because people are going to have a problem with it that you know, the whole thing of Do you want to pave the planet to save the planet. Of course, you don’t want to do that, of course, you don’t want to put, you know, all this stuff out there that eventually is going to have to be replaced with other stuff. That stuff’s gonna go in a landfill, you know. And
Robert Bryce : 39:35
it’s you’re saying that I’m sorry to interrupt but I, the thing that comes to mind when you’re talking about that is the other thing that we learned, which is, and we saw it in India, we saw it in Puerto Rico. We saw it in Lebanon, people are going to do whatever they have to do to get the electricity they need. They’re not going to stay in the dark. And I think that that is part of this inequality discussion, right, because we have this idea. Oh well, the rest can just use less well, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, they’re not going to agree to that. No, because oh, no, they’re not happy being in the dark. They want what we want. And so that’s the thing is, you know, I asked you for your takeaway, you know, my takeaway is that we have to accept the reality of the situation today, which is that countries all over the world are simply not going to agree to be energy poor, they just went out. This was one of the things that Roger pinkies idea about the you know, the iron law that people are not, you know, that when it comes to issues of climate change, or politics, or economic growth, economic growth is gonna win every time. And that absolutely, and that that’s key. And so, that’s part of I think, the broader global dynamic now, that is, is playing out Germany’s opening a new coal fired power plant this summer. So this idea that people are going to do without electricity? No, that’s just not true. That’s not true. And I think the part that, you know, my takeaways were telling the human story of electricity. And that’s essential to
Tyson Culver : 41:07
understand. Well, you know, I also, you know, we joke about this, as well, because I mean, listen, we’re not saying, you know, just put up a ton of coal plants or LNG everywhere, you know, because that’s the other thing you know, pillow key has that great line about you know, there is no silver bullet or silver buckshot in geography does play a part, you know, what works in one part of the world may not work in another part of the world. And I think you just need to be pragmatic about that. But you know, that that line about carbon imperialism, you know, you can’t just say you can only use these energy sources, because that’s what we in the West have deemed are okay, for everyone else, you know, instead all that other line about what, well, don’t you want to leave a better world for your grandchildren? I’m like, Well, why do my grandchildren today? You know, you know, my grandchildren in the future? Why do they matter more than someone else’s life? Someone else’s children, you know, right now, yeah. And so it’s like I said, it’s, you know, to me, the film, it looks at both sides of it. And and it just it forces people to step back and think, you know, what do you truly believe? You know, do you believe that people should have opportunity, that they should have an opportunity to be educated? To live a better life? to, to be free to not live a life of servitude, because of geography? Because of gender? You know, do you believe that, you know, the climate is is is changing that we need to do things about that. If you believe those things, you need to gotta you have to realize that this is not a black and white discussion. It’s a very great discussion, because there are so many different options on the table, and we really need to consider all of them if we’re going to see any kind of real change in the future.
Robert Bryce : 42:44
Yeah. Good. And with and with 3 billion people living in electricity poverty today. I mean, this is the this is the reality. So I think that that’s the other part of the film. So let me thank you, Tyson. Thanks for joining in. I’m gonna learning how to use All these tools on stream yard I’m just going to end with this just a single frame with me. Thanks to all of you for tuning in listening to the first edition of the power hungry podcast, a few things, calls to action as we call them in the media business. Watch my film if you and Tyson’s film juice how electricity explains the world, it’s on iTunes, it’s on Amazon. It’s on other streaming platforms. You can find us on the web at juice, the movie calm our Twitter handle is juice for all at juice for all you can follow us there. We’re on facebook, facebook slash juice the movie, if you want to buy my book, by all means, it’s around here somewhere. Here it is. A question of power, electricity in the Wealth of Nations. I’m super proud of this. It came out in March. I also do the audio book. You can find that at your fine local bookstores as well as on online. You can look at my website Robert bryce.com I’m also on Twitter at power hungry, pw or hungry. So, thanks to all of you power hungry listeners. I’m Robert Bryce, I’ll talk to you again in the next podcast. Thanks again for listening