Michael Shellenberger is a former gubernatorial candidate in California and the author, most recently, ofSanFransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities. In his third appearance on the podcast, (previous appearances were on July 6, 2020, and May 27, 2021) Michael talks about the California legislature’s vote to save Diablo Canyon, nuclear’s new-found traction, his run for governor, why he might run for office again, Greta Thunberg, and the “narcissistic nihilism” of climate catastrophists.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone, welcome to let me start that again. 321 Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. In this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics and I’m very pleased to welcome back my friend Michael Shellenberger first third. That’s right, third appearance on the power hungry podcast. Michael, welcome back.
Michael Shellenberger 0:24
Great to be back, Robert.
Robert Bryce 0:26
So much has happened since you were last on I think it was May of 2021. You’ve run for governor Diablo Canyon. Ukraine, there’s a ton of things to talk about. So let’s get going. But first, yesterday, I gotta tell you, I was happy. I can’t imagine how happy you were to see that the California Legislature passed a bill that extends the life of Diablo Canyon till 2030. It’s not long enough. But tell me how to tell me how you feel the typical journalist question to just feel
Michael Shellenberger 0:59
so good that I have been trying to not completely experience it all at once so I can make it last longer. I always believed we were gonna save it. And I bet Robert, and I have you as my witness? Because I think you can testify that I always had faith in it. I’m not sure if you always did. Or I think very few. My wife did not. I think it’s fair to say. Not many people thought we could save Diablo Canyon. Not many true believers.
Robert Bryce 1:32
I was very, I was very skeptical. I just thought that this the green light at the end of the I’m not gonna call them green anymore. The NGOs that they I’m not calling them environmental groups anymore. They’re NGOs. I thought they just have so much sway and that this was something that was just a fait accompli. But I mean, I was this tell me why it happened. I mean, in your view, I mean, there are a lot of factors here, the heat wave that was hitting it at same time that the vote happens, you know, clear problems with reliability blackouts. It there are many factors. Is there one that’s more important than another to tell me how you see why the Why did the tide change and why now?
Michael Shellenberger 2:11
Well, look, I mean, obviously, the overriding factor was we’re on the cusp of blackouts again, third year in a row, Robert, I mean, this is a very serious situation to get a sense of it. August 24, the state announced that it was going to ban all internal combustion vehicles in 2035, or six days later, the state warned people not to charge their electric vehicles because there wasn’t enough electricity. This is in the fifth largest economy of the world, an economy that has been a leader on renewables that considers itself a model for the rest of United States, and is the model for the Democrats for how to do energy policy around the rest of United States. We’re having to, you know, we’re struggling to keep the lights on, we have to beg people to stop using electricity. So clearly, that was a huge part of it. I mean, Kevin himself said when he announced that he was looking at this earlier this year, he said that the 2020 blackouts were a key moment, I was the only journalist and there were others on the conference call to actually quote the head of the grid, I wrote a fourth column on it, saying that it was fundamentally about lack of supply, da, and, and B that it was because they had shut down they had lost and a no for a nuclear plant in 2013. Nobody else reported it. The state is full of fake journalists, I have to say it’s pathetic, who do not properly report on this issue you report on properly, but of course you don’t live here. You’re Texas. So that is by far and away just the main issue. Now it
Robert Bryce 3:48
was it was fundamentally about reliability. And I thought it was only about reliability. And it was remarkable. I thought Elliot Mainzer, the CEO of queso on the day of the vote, send a letter to the governor saying we don’t have a reply. I mean, effectively, I’m paraphrasing here, and I cited in my Forbes piece yesterday, but but effectively saying we don’t have a replacement here. And so this is if you’re want reliable electricity, we need this plant, and it was his plane. And, you know, it was in that bureaucratic language, you know, but I thought it was a room. I think that letter was really important. And one of the most plain for all the bureaucrat ease in it. It was the message was very clear.
Michael Shellenberger 4:21
Yeah, no, absolutely. So I think that was absolutely fundamental. I mean, you know, they, I just, I just, I got a tip yesterday, and I tweeted it out. But you know, they’re firing back up a kerosene jet fuel powered power plant in Oakland, that is considered one of the worst power plants in the States. It’s environmental injustice. It’s an of course a poor black and brown neighborhood in Oakland. It’s totally disgusting and dirty. They announced to great fanfare in 2019 that they were going to replace it with batteries, right? And they announced that they’re going to keep operating it so close reliability issue and I will say A I think that, you know, our advocacy for Diablo also played a role here because you know we’ve seen they could just burn more diesel you know in other words you just kind of go or more gas I mean it’s not inconceivable that you could just drop some more natural gas power plants into California before then or pull more or get more contracts or have them in Nevada or somewhere
Robert Bryce 5:28
and and a new gas plant had been built and just in the last few months yeah,
Michael Shellenberger 5:34
yeah, absolutely. So it’s not inconceivable that I could do more of that to try to replace Diablo, we certainly have seen Germany, which needs its all of its nuclear plants resisting to the final moment to make a decision on whether or not to keep it three plants up and apparently now they’re just going to sacrifice one to the gods and then keep the other two alive.
Robert Bryce 5:55
Is that the latest? Because they’ve been it’s been going back and forth and back and forth. And first, oh, we’re gonna save all three and then we don’t the gas isn’t really that important. And and then just before we logged on, Gazprom announced that Nord Stream is being shut down indefinitely, right? They’ve been toying with toying with Germany for a while now. They’re saying it’s indefinite. So, yeah, well, that’s that’s Germany, but I just felt that California was gonna follow that German model off the cliff because of some, I don’t know, I want to come back to this narcissistic nihilism that you that line that you’ve been using. But But tell me I mean, this is a win for rationality isn’t I mean, it’s just a win for energy realism, above all, is that that’s how I see it. How do you see it?
Michael Shellenberger 6:38
Well, yeah, I think it is, you know, but of course, we’ve seen a lot of irrationality, too. And I also think it’s a win for politics. I mean, I think that Gavin, it shows the importance of politics. I think Gavin, wants to is going to run for president wants to run for president does not want blackouts on his record. You know, we have changed public attitudes on nuclear in California. It’s a plurality of support for keeping the plant open. You know, I I’ll take some credit for it. I think my TED Talks and our advocacy have made a big difference in terms of some of the coverage. You know, I was basically blacklisted from most mainstream news reporting for the last six years, Robert, I mean, I had some attention for my advocacy in 2016. But for the most part, you know, I was persona non grata in the mainstream news media. Well, just in the last, you know, few weeks, I’ve been quoted in The Washington Post, National Public Radio, CNN is actually flying me to Portugal, later this month to give a pitch on nuclear. This is I was just interviewed by Chris Cuomo. Yesterday was his own podcast, and he’s changing his mind about nuclear even though you may know his father shut down Shoreham nuclear plant, and his brother, of course, shut down in the point which we talked about. Sure. So clearly, something’s happening. I mean, I just tweeted, my latest favorite tweet was this some young person, you know, because you put it in context in 2016, as you remember, you go online on Twitter, and you say something nice about nuclear and people accuse you of being a shill for the industry, or they would say, oh, nuclear is carbon intensive. Today, a young person I used to it’s a young person seems like they tweeted. The fact that basically the entire world is in an energy crisis, because a small group of people decide to be woke about nuclear energy is mind numbing.
Robert Bryce 8:28
Well, let’s talk about that a little bit, because it’s something we’ve talked about, I think, and I’ve noticed, and you were, had a hand in nurturing some of these people, but there is a different generation now. And I think there’s a, you know, I’m 62 this year. So I’m an older you know, I’m a boomer. But there’s a different cadre, I’ll use that word of younger people in the not I don’t know, they’re like, Forget Gen X, Gen. What what, but 20 and 30 Somethings, that they have a different attitude toward nuclear and that they that really gives me hope in looking at the future about where this is going, because they’re bringing fresh energy and a fresh perspective to it that I think is much needed. So you know, Maddy Healy, Mark, Nelson, and Penny, you know, other people that have been out front on this and have really, I think, have helped change the public discourse on this. Is that is that do you see it the same way? I mean, you know, all these people.
Michael Shellenberger 9:22
Well, I hired them all. Yeah. Right. Um, I trained them. I mean, these, they’re totally inspirations to me, and they make me feel much more comfortable to be able to work on other things now, knowing that the movement is in the hands of very strong leaders. I mean, what I did when I started environmental progress in 2016, and started the pronuclear movement was to basically de snapplify it. I mean, you have to remember that before 2016 All pronuclear advocacy was elitist. It was openly snobby. It was openly you know, celebrating nuclear reactors that didn’t exist. Just they tend to people that were pronuclear tended to look down on ordinary people. You know, I very early on establish an ethos that we were going to make the movement open to pronuclear people of all points of view, including climate skeptics, which was, of course, very controversial for the left wing pro nuclear people who wanted to exclude climate skeptics from the movement. I also said, Look, you can be a climate alarmist, you can be a climate skeptic, you can be more lukewarm like me on climate change. But what matters is that you’re pro nuclear. There’s people in the pro nuclear movement that I don’t particularly like, but don’t like me, and that’s okay. That’s what it means to have a movement. It’s not a it’s not a social club. It’s not, you know, this is not the Harvard Club. This is a movement and that movement is real, it exists. It’s separate from me. It has people in it that I don’t know, it has people in it that I didn’t hire. You know, you see the Wall Street Journal today, we run a huge piece about Chris Keefer, the Medical Doctor in Canada, on lights, who did briefly work for us, but then started our own group. Maddie, Hilary has her own group campaign for green nuclear deal Emmett Penny is writing daily electrical, and energy substack that is actually a must read for people that follow energy.
Robert Bryce 11:21
That’s Nelson this grid and grid grid brief.com.
Michael Shellenberger 11:25
Outstanding publication, Mark Nelson is running, raising Energy Fund and supporting standard for nuclear power nuclear protests around the world. So look, it’s an actual social movement. And it frankly, it’s got its leadership is a heck of a lot younger, a lot more intelligent. A lot better looking than the
Robert Bryce 11:49
punch on that one. Well, let’s talk about let’s talk about Europe for a minute. Because I think the other it seems to me the other big picture, part of this change on Diablo Canyon is the European energy crisis. And it’s only getting worse. The announcement that Nord Stream is going to be shut down indefinitely have flows of gas out of Russia into Germany. But that are also we’ve been talking about what’s happening in the US. And of course, Mark and others have been active in Europe. But what I see in Europe is is a whole other kind of genesis of more pro nuclear movement because of the soaring price of natural gas. So you’ve seen last energy a US company announced 10 SMRs, potentially in Poland, the Brits are announcing, you know, they’re they’re pushing Rolls Royce for SMR. So, what’s the lay of you are in Europe recently? Tell me about your experience there and how you see nuclear in Europe today, given the ongoing crisis,
Michael Shellenberger 12:42
totally back. I mean, and it’s not only back, it’s very mainstream. It’s, I mean, you still have the European Commission, which is in this love affair with renewables because it’s overwhelmingly dominated by Germany but I mean, I was in Sweden last fall. Nuclear is back there. Britain nuclear was back. Strong last fall. You know, you saw McCrone last fall came out strong for nuclear in Netherlands came out for nuclear as well. So it’s it’s a huge change. You know, it’s and it’s worldwide. It’s Japan and South Korea, everybody’s going nuclear. As you know, I’m very skeptical that the smaller reactors will ever work. I think they’re just going to do big reactors. That’s what they know how to build. You know, we’ve had a wobble in France, because of course, the French have been trying to go from 70 to 80%. Nuclear to 50%. Nuclear Well, in the process, they basically demonized nuclear, they drove some of their best people out of the out of the company, EDF electricity to frost and demoralize the nuclear folks. So then they discover in routine inspections, but ones that should have been detected years ago that the welds on some of the pipes needed to be re welded. This is not, you know, some catastrophic event, but it had to happen. So these plants are like half of the nuclear fleet in France is down for maintenance. Of course, the anti nuclear force, we’re making a lot of hay of it. But unfortunately, President Macron of France came out and said, Oh, this is the end of abundance, the energy crisis. And I was I did an interview with laguan, which is an important publication in France that we know McCrone reads and so I said, Well, what is you know, what is it the End of Abundance because you guys need to weld some pipes together. I mean, this is, you know, these guys lapse into Mofu Xion you know, dystopian, apocalyptic talk because of you know, my routine maintenance issues. So, that always plagues nuclear. I mean, nuclear is it is a technology that people catastrophize about that is the go to mode with a nuclear plant. I mean, sorry, natural gas pipeline can explode and kill a dozen people. But nobody’s like, oh, gosh, it raises existential questions around the sustainability of Western civilization. You know, they go, You better check your pipelines, you know. So nuclear is obviously the site of so much existential angst, which, of course, is what makes it so interesting and why I’m writing a book about it. But I do think nuclear is something where, you know, look full employment for pro nuclear advocates for centuries to come, because there’s we have our work cut out for us. But I do think, you know, looking back in the six years since we started the pro nuclear movement, that there is a good ethos, it’s an ethos of inclusivity, it’s a, it’s a populist, anti elitist. It’s got very strong young leaders who are going to be you know, who are in their late 20s, early 30s, who are going to be strong leaders for for decades to come. So I do think I’m overly apt. I’m very optimistic about nuclear, the pro nuclear movement. Of course, as you know, these plants take a super long time to build. So nuclear, so it’s going to be gas, not nuclear, it’s going to gas and coal, right now nuclear that comes to the rescue of Europe.
Robert Bryce 16:07
Yeah, and that’s going to be for a while. But I wanted to just bring up one quick point where you talked about this catastrophism and was interesting to me, NPR dutifully quoted after the vote, they quoted this woman, Juliet Christian Smith, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, who claimed that the earthquake induced accident Diablo Canyon could cause could more than 100 billion in debt 100 billion dollars in damage and 10,000 cancer deaths. And that this by passing the bill, the legislature ignores the plant’s environmental impacts and vulnerability to earthquakes. Safety cannot take a backseat in our quest to hear the key word, keep the lights on and reduce global warming emissions. I mean, to me, that was just remarkable that the fearmongering continues even after these groups got a well deserved spanking. And I gotta tell you, Michael, that so much to see in our DC you need to concern scientists, Friends of the Earth all get not just, you know, wasn’t a close vote in the assembly. But then but they just continue the same narrative even after they lose with oh, well, this is the cat the catastrophism. But it but you’ve you’ve written a whole book about this about this Apocalypticism? Is that invariably going to inevitably going to be always tied to nuclear? Is there a way to move past this irrational fear of radiation?
Michael Shellenberger 17:26
Oh, big question. That’s the right question. So it’s a big question. Let’s unpack it. I mean, I’ve been you know, as you know, Apocalypse, never where it goes is it says this is a religion? Yeah. You know, it’s a religion that and you can see it very dramatically in Germany’s you kind of go, why is Greta tunberg and Greenpeace? Why would they opt for coal and oil burning over nuclear? Because nuclear is the devil? It’s a secular devil. It’s demonic. You know, coal might be polluting, but nuclear is satanic. That’s basically the way it works in the mentality.
Robert Bryce 17:59
And, and why is that? Because it’s the it’s the, it’s the pinnacle of technology is that were that that, that that that we’ve bitten from the tree of the apple of knowledge, and that this is the ultimate example of that? I mean, there’s some very clear Christian overlap here that we talked about in terms of ideas about sin and salvation.
Michael Shellenberger 18:17
That’s got to be part of it. Right. I mean, that in the extraordinary power it brings, I think there’s another part of it, you know, I read this piece for Forbes a few years ago, called the real reason they hate nuclear is because it means we don’t need renewables, right? Yeah. So the problem with nuclear is that it solves too many problems. So you can’t catastrophize about the end of the world if you have nuclear
Robert Bryce 18:43
weapons. We’re not because we’re not going to run out of everything. Right.
Michael Shellenberger 18:47
Yeah. I mean, what role like Greta tunberg, there’s no point in being lectured by an adolescent, you know, by a spoiled school girl, if you just do what France did. So if you want to be lectured by an adolescent school girl, which Europe clearly does, it’s why they keep promoting her, then there’s no nuclear threat. Now, am I saying that people think consciously that way, no, these things kind of emerge, you know, organically and unconsciously. So that means that I think that we’re seeing there is something in the west and I do think it’s in the West, by the way, we don’t like Japan and South Korea. They don’t have like a nature guilt. They have more like ancestor guilt, which fits more of their spiritual traditions. They have an ancestor worship in those places, they feel guilt, they’re worried about, you know, you know, their, their, their fear is bringing shame onto their family, you know, and shame onto their community. In the West. It’s guilt around what we’ve done to nature. And then the disaster that is coming. And as you said, that’s that’s obviously just a kind of a restatement of the Judeo Christian myth. So yeah, you get into the late 19th century, early 20th century, and people in Europe stopped believing in God, they stopped believing in traditional religions. They a new story emerges. People say it’s an atheist story. But atheism is still a belief system science, you know, the scientific story. So a belief system, and that story says, You’re just an animal, you, you know, eat, reproduce and die. That’s it. There’s no meaning to your life. Your life is meaningless. That’s the story that really gets told. And it really gets taught to baby boomers in particular, after World War Two. This is all really well told by in the biography, the Unabomber, he describes how Harvard and other elite institutions start telling the story. And they start saying, well, ethics is subjective, and morality is subjective. So all we know is science. And so they just tell a story. But that story is so depressing, that it creates this crisis of nihilism, nihilism, just meaning. Nihilism just means the idea that sort of the world is meaningless. And there’s sort of, you know, there’s no purpose to life. The answer, of course, to nihilism is that there is a purpose and meaning to life, it’s to love your family, it’s to love your community, it’s to, to make the world a better place for your the people that come after us. There’s all sorts of stories we can tell. So you do have a nihilism that emerges. And and then you get this alternative religion. That’s really, I think, fascinating. The greatest threat to civilization is obviously not coming from either lack of natural resources or from the technology, the threat to civilization is coming from within ourselves. It’s coming from the neuroticism, the nihilism and the narcissism. And you see all of them swept up into Greta, tunberg and extinction rebellion, a sort of simultaneous, kind of a desperate and sad you know,
Robert Bryce 22:11
your dystopian ism, right, good, dystopian. We know, it’s actually we’ve, we’ve created this mess. And so it’s a secular, secular religion around our own sin here on earth against nature, and we have to attend. And I said there, you
Michael Shellenberger 22:28
know, it’s, you know, so the so it’s fear mongering and service, also a power, you know, so the desire for power and meaning are kind of tied up together here where, you know, Greta tunberg, gets power extinction, rebellion, activists, they get a sense of social power, they go on the media, they get to testify, they raised button, right. Yeah, they feel they feel famous, and they and they get a sense of purpose and meaning from that by depressing everybody else and depressing our kids. So I’ve obviously the solution for the traditional solution from the political right has been well, we need to affirm markets. That’s too thin of a story for to compete against that the right story. You get a little closer, just to plug a new a new book. That’s very good. I blurbed it, Marian TUPE. And, and Gail Puli. Is new book super abundance. You’ve probably heard it too, or at least you probably have him on.
Robert Bryce 23:18
No, I know about the book. And I wanted to have Marian on for a long time. But yeah, I need to I’ve seen that book. And we should talk about Peter Zions new book as well.
Michael Shellenberger 23:27
Oh, my gosh, let’s let’s get into it. But anyway, yeah, but he so that’s, that’s the story. And but you know, my view, which is that, we need to have a much more inspiring story than that. It’s a story of lifting everybody out of poverty. It’s a story of reducing humankind’s environmental footprint to close to zero, natural gas to nuclear, which is something you’ve been a big evangelist for. I’m increasingly coming to a view and we can argue about a little bit because I think you’re more skeptical than me, but that we do need a vision of getting into hydrogen. been spending more time with our common we have a common you and I are like the children of Jesse awesome. You know, I was just with our mentor, I was just with dad. And we were talking about I love
Robert Bryce 24:08
I love Jesse. And I am skeptical about hydrogen, because it’s a very small molecule, and I just don’t see many fuel cells around. But let me jump back before we go to how we’re
Michael Shellenberger 24:17
gonna get there. But I think that vision is important to to share with people. Yeah, it’s a vision of environmental progress, rather than a vision of environmental decline. And it’s also different than the traditional, I think, conservative or libertarian story, which has just been a story of freedom, freedom, freedom, markets, markets, markets, I don’t think that that’s I don’t think it’s competitive or purpose driven enough for the need to spiritual eighth.
Robert Bryce 24:41
I like that. I like the way you’re catching that. I would read it back to you a little in this way. I’d say it’s, we need a more pro human pro energy, pro nature view right then, and markets aren’t going to be enough and we need government involvement, particularly when it comes to nuclear and this is one of the things that I’m exploring The documentary that I’m working on, we’ve talked to you about it already, but that these markets aren’t going to be enough to foster new nuclear, we’re going to have to have a stronger governmental hand throughout the chain. Right. Whether it’s the mining, the processing, the decommissioning, we needs more robust government or intervention or involvement, I guess would be their better word. Why skepticism on SMRs? I think I understand where you’re coming from, but walk me through your greater enthalpic efficiency, greater material efficiency of having a bigger power plant, right? That’s been known since Edison, right, you know, the bigger your power plant, the more efficient the system is, because you’ve you know, just fewer machines, and you get better economic, better capital efficiency, etc. But there are a lot of SMR technologies that are that are being developed. Some of them are, you know, paper reactors, new scale, got approval for construction of their Modular Reactor SMR. In Idaho Falls, Idaho National Lab. Now there are other SMRs appear to be promising. So, tell me why you’re skeptical? And what is the right size? Is it 300 megawatts or above? Or where’s that threshold that use? You go from SMR to actually a size that you think is viable for the long term?
Michael Shellenberger 26:11
Yeah, I mean, so I mean, like, I think if we’re in a heavy nuclear world, there will be nuclear reactors of different types, but we’re in a very low nuclear world right now. And so I think that when, you know, when you look at governments, when they make decisions around what kind of nuclear to go with, they go with big standard designs. That’s what the Dutch government is gonna do. I was just with the I was just with the guy in Netherlands who will basically make the decision he said they’re just looking at it’s basically between the Koreans and the French, at this point
Robert Bryce 26:42
between the Korean design and the new the European pressurize reactor EPR. Is that right? Yeah. I mean, we’re talking we’re talking. We’re talking a gigawatt scale. Gigawatt size reactors. Yep. Okay.
Michael Shellenberger 26:53
Yeah. And not just the design, but obviously, the construction crews as well. They just all go together. So yeah, and even sometimes the financing but yeah, I mean, so you know, and look, we’ve had small modular reactors, they are aircraft carriers, their submarines, their icebreakers and Russia, so there’s possibility for it, I’m not gonna go out there and say you shouldn’t do it. But I get concerned because here we put a bunch of blood, sweat and tears into ap 1000s. In the United States, we built them in Vogel and then we’re just now we’re walking away from it. The workers are to the wind. I mean, they trained so many welders to do Nuclear Grade welds, and now it’s all lost. I think the United States needs a nuclear building program to build a p 1000s. If we don’t want to do if you want 1000s, then we should partner with the Korean so the French to build large nuclear plants here, export our gas abroad, expand LNG export terminals significantly. It takes, you know, basically five years including permitting and construction to build a new LNG terminal to export. We should be exporting gas all around the world. It’s it’s it’s our obligation, honestly, and Europe needs it. And you know, people always say, oh, it takes too long, it’s fine. Someone, by the way, posted a tweet of video of a Brit in 2011, saying, there’s no point in doing nuclear plants because it’ll take it would take until 2020. To build to have a nuclear plants online, right. So you gotta you know, best time to start building was yesterday. Second best time is today. So we should be doing these things, in my view. But small, I just go Yeah, it’s guaranteed to be more expensive. Yeah, there’s always been a lot of fascinating designs, I can appreciate the as the nuclear enthusiast and me I can appreciate the designs. I think if anybody if I trust anybody to do it, it’d be the Japanese, because they’re the ones that finally got nuclear plant building down so fast. And they have a Hitachi small modular reactor that that does seem more promising, but I just I just kind of go it’s not the main events, you know, it’s not the Okay, it may isn’t a moose. Boosh? Maybe.
Robert Bryce 29:05
Good. Okay. I like that. Well, then, where would you how’s it then? I mean, because this is one of the other complications in the US grid, right? We have a very diffused ownership system, right. 3000 different providers between the investor on utilities and Co Ops, publicly on utilities. So if you’re going to have the government do this, are you going how’s it at the DOD? Are you proposing a new agency that would be in charge of this and how does that work? I mean, is essentially what because what I’m hearing you say is I’m thinking in my head? Well, you’re proposing a federal agency that’s going to Bigfoot, a lot of utilities around the country. And that’s going to be a difficult political fight. And I’m not not arguing with where your your your point, but I’m just trying to think ahead about how is that how does that manifest itself? What is it gonna look like?
Michael Shellenberger 29:48
Well, I think this context is worth pointing out, first of all, that the government has basically taken over electricity production in the United States. These heavy renewable subsidies that they just expanded under Ira are so big that they’re going to if assuming they continue to, they’re going to bankrupt all other forms of generation, and it means that everything’s going to end up having to be subsidized. So that’s what’s already happening with natural gas plants in many markets, they have to be subsidized on capacity markets in order to keep operating. So you basically had a government takeover of electrical generation in the United States. And that’s the reality.
Robert Bryce 30:21
Let me stop you there. Because I haven’t thought of it. I haven’t thought of it in those terms. But I mean, the the inflation Reduction Act mentioned Schumer, it adds 120 billion in subsidies for for wind and solar, it’s it’s a quarter trillion dollars $240 billion dollars between now and 2031. So those are massive subsidies, but I hadn’t. I mean, I’m not I don’t mean to be implied erupting so much, but it’s the you’re saying this is amounts to, in your view, a government takeover, then of the utility sector, because the subsidies are so lavish it’s gonna
Michael Shellenberger 30:50
result in that. I mean, if you if those subsidies now the other thing is, I think the question is, how much less renewables can they do given the transmission constraints, right? You know, what Roger, our friend, Roger Pilkey, calls the friction, the real world friction, but nonetheless, I do think there’s a heavy amount of government control in general over electricity energy, we’ve seen oil and gas production being being throttled by the Biden administration, because it refuses to permit drilling, they refuse to permit the pipelines that refuse to permit the LNG facilities that we need. So I think that’s some context. Maybe the other issue is that we have a we have a history of this, which is that in the 50s, and 60s, Eisenhower, really trying to 50s Eisenhower in the do we because we don’t like to have state owned companies in United States. But we do have national champions, and we chose to national champions General Electric and Westinghouse. And they use those guys to go and promote nuclear among utilities in the United States and around the world. So you had two designs, the pressurized water reactor and the boiling water reactor that went through different generations. We have, so we so if you were to if I were the the nuclear czar, working for a President of the United States, I would probably try to do something similar, you’d have two different states, you’d have two different national champions, you could do one, but it seems like you have to because you always need to hedge and, and one of them, I would say would be a new company that the federal government would get behind that would be a, that would basically be Bechtel and Southern, taking the people that built the AP 1000s, and Vogel Georgia. And and, and then I’d have another you have another state owned, not say down but state backed, national champion that would be in the, you know, Hitachi more in the Hitachi boiling water reactor line, like the a BW ours out in Japan. So you’d have a piece to continue with the PW or a BW, or you have both full sized. And it would be nuclear plants that would again, be stayed on, they would not be stayed on, they would be staged, they’d be national champions. And you would then go and, you know, work through Congress, and also the utilities to have a plan to take nuclear from today’s you know, 19% of electricity does something like 50%, over the next, you know, 30 years. And you would just create the incentives to do it, I don’t think you’d want to necessarily do full public ownership, but you would basically create subsidies incentives tax structure to make that happen, so that you don’t have a grid that is super expensive, unreliable, like the kind of grid that we have now. But you’re also building nuclear plants at home so that you can build them abroad. And we can compete with Russia and China to provide nuclear power plants.
Robert Bryce 33:53
And we can we write, and we manage that supply chain internally, including mining more uranium? Well, I like the way you outlined it, because I think that I mean, that makes sense to me how because I think it’s exactly right, we’re going to have to have some kind of a national champion if we’re going to deploy nuclear at scale. The one thing that and maybe you saw this, but it was just last month that Dow Chemical announced that they were planning to build an SMR on the on the US Gulf Coast using x energies design, which I think is interesting because it’s an industrial company making this move right and looking at the price of natural gas and saying well we see this I read it as them saying we see this as a hedge for against higher natural gas prices, which looked like they’re going to be around for a while and we’re going to use it for electricity production and process heat. So to me that’s quite interesting because the first as far as I know, industrial companies saying we’re going to embrace the SMR so not not arguing with you on your your views on SMRs but I think it’s just worth pointing that out because to me that’s a very interesting development. So let’s shift gears shift gears for a while because I think we last time we talked we talked about Apocalypse never instance then you had symptoms. Echo come out? How did it do? Did it do better than apocalypse? Never tell me, you know, I write books. I’m just curious. How did that compare in terms of sales? In terms of the reception? How do you compare those two? Because you produced two books in a remarkably short amount of time. And both of them were very popular what? What was the reception? And how does? How does it? How did it change? Your your view of what books are about how did you know what was the result of those two books? And how did you how did you perceive it?
Michael Shellenberger 35:32
So just at a commercial level, both books were very successful commercially, Apocalypse never was a best seller, San Francisco would have been a best seller had it come out. In the summer rather than the fall, many other books have sold last and make the bestseller list. So it was a very successful book commercially. Not quite as much as Apocalypse never, which also had a big international sales, it’s now been translated into I think it’s now 17 countries. So it’s been 17 languages. 17 languages in 17 countries. Yeah. Okay. So a real thrill. I mean, I’m excited my one of my life schools to go to all the countries that’s been published in which I haven’t been able to do yet. So yeah, I mean, but then I think more at a social change level at a political level, you know, it had a big impact. I mean, it’s still I know that San Francisco is read by elected officials, including I’m not gonna gonna name names, but by by some well known elected officials around the country, including District Attorneys, including mayors, including City Council’s I’m advising a number of elected officials on how to deal with homelessness. I think it changed the conversation. I just think that the big issue has been that people, you know, most of the people on the left, but but a lot of people, including on the right, had just kind of convinced themselves that people that are living in tents on the street are just there because they can’t afford the rent. And that has really nothing to do with mental illness or drug addiction. And I’m pointing out that really, this is almost entirely about drug addiction and untreated mental illness that people that can’t afford the rent, they move into cheaper apartments, they don’t go camping tent on the street, this is not something that people, you know, that are in a sane state of mind do. We’re in a terrible drug crisis. We’re in a terrible psychiatric crisis in the United States. We don’t have a mental health care system. I think that I also, you know, it started at the end more. And I as you mentioned, I ran for governor, in part because I wanted to, I mean, really, the main reason was I wanted to address this issue of homelessness in California and the people that I thought would run, nobody was running that was willing to kind of run on this platform. And it went great, man. I mean, what can I say? It was actually super fun. It. It was not the drudgery that I had heard campaigning would be in terms of fundraising. You know, we raised a million and a half dollars, we had just three months. That’s an incredibly short period of time to do it. I had, you know, this time I was able to afford political professionals. You know, and we were really building up momentum. And then I think we just ran out of time. So we ended up coming in third. Third place, we didn’t make the run off, which is very disappointing. But, but nonetheless, I’m real proud of the campaign, because I think I think it did bring a lot of attention to the issue. And I think it just changed how people think of this. I think people now understand that when we’re talking about homelessness, we’re fundamentally talking about a problem of addiction and mental illness. We certainly need more housing. But this is not fundamentally a housing problem.
Robert Bryce 38:43
How much money it will you mentioned a million and a half dollars. I know I’m in Austin, and one of the mayoral mayoral candidates here raised a million dollars, if you’d had $5 million. I mean, was there a number you had in your head about how much uh, you know, I talked to politicians all the time about how much money they had ran into a woman who’s on the Provo, Utah City Council a few months ago, and she raised $90,000, you know, automatic, if I meet him is how much? It’s like this reflexive question. I asked, How much money would you have needed to make it? Was there a number in your head rather that you wanted to have to get into that? runoff?
Michael Shellenberger 39:19
Yeah, I, I had every I had good reason to think that we were going to raise something between five and 10 million.
Robert Bryce 39:28
And it really would have made a huge difference.
Michael Shellenberger 39:31
We would have gotten in the runoff. Without it without a question about it. I mean, there’s a there’s a lot of I mean, politics is there’s obviously a lot of complexity in it. But I mean, there is a part of it that is about just spending money on advertising, to buy yourself into the Roth. And so I got into the race because I felt confident that we could raise five to $10 million. I was disappointed that we only got one, one to one and a half without going into a lot of the technical details. Writing as an independent was a big part of the problem, because basically, if you run with a party, you can donate to the party. And you don’t have to put such a target on your back as the donor. That wasn’t possible as an independent, you had to be much more exposed as a as a donor. And you know, affluent folks are not always comfortable with advertising their wealth and advertising their politics, particularly in this environment. And right. And, you know, suffice it to say, you know, my political opponents will use various methods to keep people out of supporting candidates. So, but look, I mean, I, you know, we were gratified by the amount of attention that we got, you know, we at the very end there, you know, I was on Joe Rogan a second time I, and then we got on Bill Maher. And then we just ran out of runway, you know, the election was four days after was on Bill Maher. And I think there was a sense in which we were gaining momentum, but we just ran out of time. So, yeah, I mean, but that’s if I run it again, that would be one of the issues. If there looks like there’s a chance for me to run again, we would just need to know that that the money’s there. Otherwise, there’s really no point. And there’s no point in asking people to support you if you don’t think you can get to that, that number.
Robert Bryce 41:18
So it’s all to be bought about it, then it’s all about the money.
Michael Shellenberger 41:23
Yeah, I mean, it’s not all about it. I mean, I don’t I think that it helps to have a good candidate. But I think I think if I had the money, it would I think I would build it there. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 41:33
So the talk about I’m just curious, because I’ve, you know, I’ve known a lot of politicians. How long did it that it really hurt? I mean, it was that how was the disappointment of not making the runoff? Because I mean, you know, from here, I’m thinking, well, could you possibly be Newsom in one, you know, face to face? That’s a big challenge, right? Because of all the money that was behind him. But is it still hurt? Did it take you a couple of days? How did how did that what was it like afterwards? Yeah.
Michael Shellenberger 42:00
I had somebody asked me, Did you cry? Because I hear that politicians cry. And I was like, I did not cry. And I don’t know. And I do cry about things. I cry, actually, especially as you get older, you find yourself crying over like ridiculous crap. But I did not. I was disappointed. My wife Helen cried, Election Night sucked, because I had to go and give a I give a concession, I had to concede and give a defeat speech in front of all my supporters at a bar in downtown San Francisco. And that was that was a terrible experience. You know, Helen, who was not excited about me running but was basically convinced by these mothers of homeless addicts to who asked me to run the night of the election, I party, she met one of the moms and her son came and, and I think she’s comfortable with me telling the story. But basically, her son who’s in his early 30s, and has been an opioid addict for over a decade, is as a hunchback. Now, he’s like, literally, it looks like an old man. And he was at the bar. I had never met him before. But I write about him in the book in San Francisco. His name is Cory, the mom is Jackie Berlin. And Helen met them. And, you know, we laughed and, and she cried, and she was angry. And just angry at the system that lets very sick people stay on the street in the name of compassion. She’s She, I think she, I think for the first time felt like, this is really fucked up in like, there’s something actually sinister going on that this is not just like, you know, that I think, you know, she always, you know, she agreed with what I was saying and supported me doing it. But I think for her, it felt like finally that, that this was like important for the society to put an end to what’s going on on the streets of San Francisco.
Robert Bryce 44:02
And so for the feel it then was different before and to feel
Michael Shellenberger 44:07
that it was more like, okay, these women want my these, these moms want my husband to run for governor. And you know, I don’t think you can win, but who would I be to get in the way? I think that was that was what she said. I think after the election, I think she was like, she’s like, I think she was like if you want to run it again, I’m going to be fully supportive because this is a this is an absolute injustice. This is just obviously wrong. What’s going on. So yeah, and then I took you know, I took the time I needed to, to lick my wounds. It wasn’t. I mean, I’ve had some hard times in my life. I’ve had some difficult times I’ll tell you something. I was much I was much, I was much darker period between 2016 and 2019. When I decided to write apocalypse, never the frustration, the loneliness, the sense of not getting the support that I needed to do something thing that I thought was really important, which was to save nuclear plants. That was a much darker time than after the election after the election. You know, I post I watched, I sat down and binge watched a TV series about a politician, by the way, in Sweden called Borken. on Netflix, and I tweeted out a photo or I put, I posted an Instagram photo, just, you know, holding up my fingers for the sign, and how a lot of very warm support like nobody, I mean, it must have been some people, I probably blocked them, but they were I mean, I think there’s some people who were you were like, you know, neon, yeah, you loser. But you know, most people were very, they thought it was a noble effort, you know, and they were very supportive. So I think that was very nice. And it’s kind of kept going. I mean, it’s really, because you gotta remember to Gavin announced, he was probably gonna keep Diablo open when I was running for governor. And so really, since then, I mean, my life is now a much happier person than I was, you know, six years ago, six, seven, you know, four or five, six years ago, after,
Robert Bryce 46:02
after leaving breakthrough, and between starting environmental progress and period
Michael Shellenberger 46:08
now, and then really losing all my donors and not getting the support that I needed, because I was criticizing renewables, and I wasn’t promoting small modular reactors. And, frankly, just being a good journalist, I, you know, rather than a kind of, you know, a no, no, no thinking, a non thinking, thinking, you know, promoter of nuclear. So, yeah, I mean, I, I’m, I’m actually in a really good place I’m on so it
Robert Bryce 46:35
was worth, it was worth it. And you sound like you might do it again,
Michael Shellenberger 46:41
we might, you know, I have the same view, which is that I’ll do it again, if there’s nobody better to do it. And in other words, if there’s somebody else that wants to go through the pain of the asset, having to ask people for money and run for governor and govern, fine, and I’ll volunteer my services. But if there’s not, then yeah, and if there’s not, and we think we can raise the money, then then then we probably do it again, you know, all else being equal.
Robert Bryce 47:08
Let me fix up like,
Michael Shellenberger 47:10
I don’t need I don’t need it. You know what I mean? Like, I’m actually quite happy with my dogs and living in Berkeley hills and writing my books, making money and my substack. Finally,
Robert Bryce 47:19
we’ll come back to substate we’ll talk about journalism for a minute, because I’ve been you know, I’ve never had a real job. I’ve been a reporter my whole career, you know, men and I used to think liberal media. Oh, that’s a fiction. But now that I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, I look at the industry. And it’s very different from when I started, of course, but I clearly see and the the, the amount of uninformed, particularly around energy and power that the the reporting that I see consistently from some of the biggest media outlets in the country, it’s just terrible. I mean, it’s just like, there’s no questioning about numbers like pretty good after mentioned, Schumer, oh, this bill is going to reduce co2 emissions by 40%. The hell it will, you know, get your calculator out, do the basic mathematics. You’re just repeating what’s in the Democrats. Press Release. Why are you doing this? The New York Times, Jason board off at Columbia, they reprinting the same thing. And I’m like, No, this is not right. Why are you doing this? So I’m ranting a little bit. But how do you you’ve been on both sides of this being reported on and doing reporting? And we talked about this a little bit the last time you were on the podcast, but how do you see media now? Is it getting is a big question, but is it getting better? Is it are the big outlets getting worse? How do you what do you see in terms of trends, particularly when it comes to energy, climate and power? Robert, can I just take a quick break and deal with somebody at my door? Yes, we’ll be right back. Yeah. I’m gonna stop this here. So let me let me condense that question. So you’ve been on both sides of the media story. Now you’re you consider yourself a journalist. We talked about that before. You’ve also been a politician. You’ve been on both sides of the media fence, so to speak. How do you see the media coverage of energy climate power? How is it getting better getting worse? Give me a general kind of view on how you see that.
Michael Shellenberger 49:13
I mean, I would have said getting worse until about you know, until they start saving Diablo and then and then and then the energy crisis and so the energy crisis. I mean, I vent occasionally on Twitter you may see criticizing other journalists for not doing a very good job. But I should say I do think that the guys at Bloomberg have done a really good job a pretty good job. I think Bloomberg like the difference like Bloomberg is so far ahead of everybody else on energy that I for me, it’s like I just I read I go read Bloomberg and then I read stuff in the New York Times and Washington Post and I just kind of go it’s just nowhere even close to it.
Robert Bryce 49:51
Javier blows sort of gloss is really good. His coverage here on the electricity stuff is so good. I mean, I read his stuff all the time and follow him on Twitter, I just think he’s amazing.
Michael Shellenberger 50:02
They have a bunch of good people there. I mean, they did a story the other day about how, you know, Europe is buying up all the all the is beating up the price of LNG and leaving Pakistan, other countries in trouble. They, you know, they’ve been doing stuff on fertilizer shortages. That and not just by Javier but a broader team. So I think Bloomberg has done a pretty good job. The mainstream news media, I mean, they just basically have been swept up in the apocalyptic religion, for the most part, I mean, even the Bloomberg guys still, they still have to talk about the energy transition by which they think we’re gonna move to solar panels and wind turbines. Right. But you know, so on that, and that’s tough, I’m disappointed. You know, like I said, I’m actually making money for the first time on my substack. And so I, my I’ve, which has been a real pleasure. I mean, it’s not just the making money, but it’s the kind of the independence, the being able to just really not have to mean, my nonprofit now is a small part of my income. It’s, it’s about half and half my time. You know, the substack is really been the main event for me substack and speeches. So I’m super happy. I know that that’s not the situation everybody can enjoy. But I do think even for people for him stacks, not a huge source of income, at least it’s another source of income that allows them to do some of that journalism and get get properly paid for it for the first time in human history, if you think about it.
Robert Bryce 51:24
Now, is really interesting. And I’ve thought about doing that myself, but I don’t know just kind of inertia and kind of like writing for different outlets, because it allows me to reach different audiences and so on. So how many how many? How many subscribers do you have?
Michael Shellenberger 51:37
I have at this point, I have 2100 subscribers?
Robert Bryce 51:41
And how many paid subscribers and then unpaid? Is it? What What’s the what is the difference in the numbers day?
Michael Shellenberger 51:46
It’ll tell you the exact numbers 33,600 all subscribers 2100 paid? So yeah, it’s turned into Yeah, I mean, my goal is if I can get, you know, five or 10,000 paid subscribers, then I can I could actually start doing you know, some, you know, hiring more freelancers actually building it out. It’s a funny environment, because, you know, I’ve talked to Roger Pilkey about trying to join forces a little bit I’m also become a become close closer friends with Leighton Woodhouse, who’s also as you know, on our WhatsApp group, and sometimes we talk about kind of Joining Forces, but then it’s like, well, but you’re making your own money. And so the incentives aren’t really aligned at this point for people to join forces, right? That may change if there’s like a recession or for example, and people start cutting back on their sub sector subscriptions. I still get people that kind of go hey, I subscribed to you I spread the lateness or to Barry Weiss, like Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, I’m starting to spend a lot of money on substack how much more money should I spend? And there’s some people out there that just, you know, are people with money and they and they want to spend money on this. There’s other people that can’t afford it. I’ve gotten into a thing where I paywall the second that I give away the first third and I which is usually the debunking I do, and then I and then I pay while the last two thirds, right. So I love it. Yeah, I mean, the state of journalism. It is what it is. I mean, some to some extent, it’s driving the perception to some extent just reflecting. You know, I kind of go is the nihilism coming from the news media. Is it coming from the public? Is it coming from scientists? Yes. is sort of the answer all three, they all kind of work together the advocates, the scientists and the journalists kind of form that, you know, or policymakers to kind of form a, the Bermuda Triangle of of, of both positive information and misinformation out there. Right. I mean, I gotta say, I mean, there’s stuff on the climate, I still see is just bonkers. I mean, John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson got up to the day and he said something about how natural disasters are getting worse. That’s just that’s just factually wrong. national disasters are not getting worse. Roger Pilkey just posted a whole set of Thinkstation that natural disasters, measured as IPCC measures them, which is deaths and cost of disasters are going down, right, because societies are becoming more resilient. So this decline ism, this idea that the environment is getting worse rather than better. It’s coming, I guess, on the one hand, from journalists that want to sell newspapers, it’s coming from scientists, but I do think it’s coming from something deeply nihilistic in the culture that is projecting that kind of dystopian ism onto the environment that isn’t there. You know, the environment. I just, I’m about to publish a piece where I put up a picture of Pittsburgh, 1940, Pittsburgh today. I mean, smoke in the streets in the 1940s. You know, it’s a huge difference.
Robert Bryce 54:41
So it occurs to me as you’re saying this and we’ve skirted around it, but you talked about the hard times that you had what, what does the drive come from because you have a lot of drive and I work hard and but you’re very prolific writer. It takes a certain kind of stones to run for governor not just do it once but do it Weiss, we talked last time about the fact that you you quit drinking, you raised your Christianity. What’s the motive? What drives you? What? Because you clearly have a lot of it. What’s behind that? What it what is? How do you decide? How do you define that?
Michael Shellenberger 55:16
Well, maybe I might say, if I’m being honest fear of death I mean, you can look at you can you can, when you’re aware of your mortality, you can respond in a couple of ways. I mean, one way you can respond is to sort of try to deny it, and just kind of go, well, I’ll live on forever and heaven, or I don’t want to think about it. It’s kind of another form of nihilism. Another approach is Memento Mori, you know, it’s remember your death, be aware of your death, because when you remind yourself of it, I can even feel it happening right now, even though I just talked about, it makes every interaction special. If Life is short, then you better want to talk to Robert rice right now. You really better you know, if the clock is ticking, you know, and you’re
Robert Bryce 56:06
going to do your best and get on with it.
Michael Shellenberger 56:08
Yeah, and also and be really clear and make and the choices. What I like about it is that it adds gravity to the choices that you’re making. So it’s not like oh, I’ll do I mean, by the way, I reached out to you as to do this, because I wanted to celebrate Diablo Canyon with you. That’s that was part of my motivation. We have to celebrate the victories when you get them. Sure. But yeah, I did add some intensity. Spend your time with people you like, you know, spend your time doing things that you’re passionate about. And that doesn’t mean that everything that you do is easy actually often means quite the opposite. You’re gonna do things that are hard, but do things that after you do them you have some satisfaction that you think if you look back in a finite life, you’ll look back and be like, I’m glad I did that podcast with Robert rice. I’m glad I took the time after the Diablo Canyon victory to celebrate. I’m glad I rested over the weekend. And I’m glad I got back with it. The following week. You know, I just did three weeks, Helen and I did about a month in Martha’s Vineyard. On vacation I got some real deep relaxation, you know, so and I no regrets at all. I might regret the COVID I got on the way back home but
Robert Bryce 57:18
you know, every everybody’s gonna get it. Yeah, it’s
Michael Shellenberger 57:23
memento mori is a big part of that brother, a big part of it is actually keeping in mind that you’re mortal and that Your choices matter and you only live YOLO YOLO No, FOMO.
Robert Bryce 57:38
Talk to me about this. You use this line narcissistic nihilism in a recent Twitter post and I thought you’d put something on substack. But to me it was remarkable. I think it was some extension rebellion people are that they had glued themselves to Botticelli defeats the gallery in Florence. It wasn’t they didn’t attach themselves to the painting. But there was another one that I thought they actually had glued themselves to a painting or something. Yeah. And to me, it was I mean, just truly shocking. And it’s partly on, you know, I’m not in Europe, but the mindset of someone who would do that when Europe is in the middle of what is a brutal crisis. And they’re saying, Oh, we shouldn’t build any more LNG plants, or I mean, there was a demonstration in Germany just a few days ago, but oh, we shouldn’t. It was we want the crisis to be worse. And I, it’s so hard for me to identify with that kind of a mindset and, or is that Narcis? I wonder? It’s just that phrase, is that your phrase? Or exude BB for someone else? I’m not, you know, amateurs borrow professional steel. Where did that where did that phrase come from?
Michael Shellenberger 58:41
I mean, I actually said, Sure. I haven’t seen people combine them. I don’t know that that people have or have not before. I mean, I think it’s those three things. It’s it’s nihilism. It’s narcissism. It’s neuroticism. So I mean, I think what’s interesting about that example is people are suffering and will die because of lack of energy. And so these activists are standing up there saying we want more of that.
Robert Bryce 59:04
Yeah, exactly. That’s it. Exactly. And the fertilizer issue, which is when I want to maybe if we have time, we can talk about that as well, because this is the looming catastrophe. I mean, just truly I had a podcast this week with John Harpole. And we talked about it. I mean, and Jordan Peterson, and Peter Zion for predicting famine. I mean, this is incredibly serious. And yet, you have these and I would say youngsters, I mean, they look to be 20 Somethings attaching themselves to this painting, because we’re using too much energy. I mean, where are you from? What do you mean? Well, bad is your life that you’re advocating for death? I mean, that’s because that’s how I saw it.
Michael Shellenberger 59:41
Yeah. Right. So there is a so yeah, I mean, so you see, what are they doing? They’re saying pay attention to me. So that’s the narcissism
Robert Bryce 59:50
because I’m suffering because I’m suffering. Yes,
Michael Shellenberger 59:54
yes. Right. They are suffering and often they’re suffering because they’re mediocre. I mean, those people that are glued themselves to it, so artworks are artists themselves? Do we think that those are great artists? Do we think that great artists are going out and gluing themselves? I don’t think so I think these are probably not very good artists. These are probably people these are these are unhappy people. These are depressed people. They’re seeking to give their lives meaning. That’s the nihilism. Another aspect of the nihilism is that they’re seeking to, to basically just undermine civilization. That’s the anti energy part of it. The neuroticism is this kind of idea that the world is coming to an end. It’s a kind of fear mongering, which, you know, you make yourself scared so you can scare others. And that’s what they’re doing in that move. So, I think the psychology is very, very interesting. I’m also very interested in what does it say about a civilization that would seek to take instruction from a spoiled child from a tyrannical spoiled child? Remember a tyrannical child, you said, you’re your father, you’re your parents. You have a five year old, and you say, Honey, you can have peanut butter and jelly or mac and cheese. And your child, your child says in a spoiled moment, but by the way, because all kids do this, I don’t want either of those. The proper response as a parent is to say, okay, you don’t have to eat mac and cheese or peanut butter and jelly. A coddling parent says, Oh, well, can I get you then we’re gonna make for you. Then another choices were peanut butter and jelly mac and cheese. And but the tyrannical child says no, I don’t want. So you say that good. It’s great timber says we have to stop emissions. It’s black or white. That’s what she says in our TED Talk. Google said, Okay, great. Well, let’s do more nuclear. Nope, can’t be nuclear. Okay, well, you’re dealing with a tyrannical child. This is a child that’s not interested actually, in what she says she’s interested in what she’s interested in is control. She’s interested in exercising power, and over, getting more attention, and getting more attention for herself and remaining control me at the center of attention, throwing food around the kitchen and banging on the tray. You know, good parents ignore those behaviors. You know, good parents aren’t, you know, they don’t beat their kids. You know, it’s hard to do. By the way, I’ve seen parents do it when their kids throwing a temper tantrum to let them throw a temper tantrum. It’s hard to do in public. So embarrassing, but it’s actually a form of it’s a positive form of parenting, it kind of goes, I’m not going to react when you throw a temper tantrum. Well, Greta, his parents were unwilling to do that with her. And so then Then she’s released into the society and then imposes on society. And then a society celebrates this petulant behavior. And it then says, we’re actually going to take instructions from her. You’re dealing with a child, you’re dealing with a society, a decadent society that is reverting to an infantile state. That’s what’s going on in Europe. And that’s what’s going on with this desire to take instruction from Greta tunberg. Or we have AOC. A similarly petulant child, they know nothing about energy, they’re not interested in learning about it. So obviously reflects, you know, who is answered or need to go? I don’t know why you’re criticizing credits. The adults have elevated her. It’s like, Oh, I get it. Absolutely. It’s the people that have empowered Greta Greta is just a unhappy child experiencing a festival of narcissism. So I mean, that is I think that that speaks to where we’re at. You know, with Al Gore, we went to the Old Testament preacher with Greta tunberg. We want the tyrannical spoiled child and, boy, this energy crisis, it’s going to kill a lot of people. And that’s terrible. But it’s also going to have a positive impact, which is that it’s going to wake us up back to reality. I certainly need some Reality Bites.
Robert Bryce 1:03:54
I certainly hope you’re right. And there are signs that that is happening. I don’t know if you saw the headline that Liz trust, who’s the odds on favorite to succeed? Boris is the prime minister and Britain said if she becomes prime minister that she’s going to end the fracking ban in Britain right away and start drilling well, they just don’t they just don’t have any other option. They have to start drilling. There’s just no other the US LNG. Yes, I agree with you. We can export a lot but we can’t, we can’t, we can’t supply the world’s supply of gas. They’re just their limits on the system. So that they’re going to have to in the other countries in Europe are going to have to in their fracking bans, and they’re gonna have to get some roughnecks and tool pushers and some drill rigs over there to get after it. And they need to start yesterday, but we can’t start yesterday, the next best time you start today.
Michael Shellenberger 1:04:37
Absolutely. I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I think we’re gonna see a return to power of the grownups
Robert Bryce 1:04:44
and the energy and the energy rationalists that we’re going to have to face up to the mistakes that are made over 20 years right of these fracking bans and over dependence on Russia that they’re going to have they’re going to have viable societies. They’re going to have their they will have to produce is more hydrocarbons. And they’re going to have to go nuclear because they can’t do it with just one. There’s nothing there enough hydrocarbons. Nuclear is ICCF is the only way the only way to scale up electricity production that is going to make any sense. And so, but it’s going to require grownup attitude. Let’s talk about Peter Zion for a minute, because I know I find it fascinating. I’m gonna have him on the podcast in a couple of months. I’ve got his book, I’ve read parts of it. But I’ve listened to his podcast talking about Europe versus the US and the rest of the world. To me. What’s interesting about his there are many things about his book, it’s called the end of the world is just the beginning. But one of his conclusions is the US is going to be the best house in a bad neighborhood. And which I find interesting, but it’s because large Well, there are many factors demographics, geography, but particularly energy. How do you have you read his book when he has he’s particularly bearish on on the demographics of China and some of the rest of the particularly Western Europe? How do you see what his work is about? Because I find it he’s one of the most provocative intellectuals out there right now that I see. What’s your view? And it’s
Michael Shellenberger 1:06:05
a monster bestseller by the way? Yeah. So I should say I love this book. I read it cover to cover. I learned a lot. I think the basic argument is wrong.
Robert Bryce 1:06:19
So that’s okay. But if you could put a finger on that What do you mean?
Michael Shellenberger 1:06:22
Well, you know, it’s like a vos love Smeal book and that like I read we’re screwed. Well, yeah, me I read apostle snow book and I get so much out of it. But the basic argument is malfeasant and wrong, like he’s just stuck in Malthusian ism, but Zions not a Malthusian but he the argument and the whole book kind of pivots around it. So it’s a really interesting like narrative device. But you can disagree with the main argument and still find the book. Absolutely wonderful to read. But the basic argument is that the end of the world is just beginning. Because what he means what he’s referring to is the demographic collapse, particularly in China, but elsewhere in the world, where we’re not producing enough new kids to be able to support the old people. And so you’re going to have a significant decline in living standards. And the second thing that he assumes will happen without very good justification for it. And I’m, by the way, I met him, and I interviewed him, and I think he’s a great guy, too. So this is just a strictly analytical disagreement, or I think it’s a mistake. But he then says, well, the United States is going to stop being the policeman. So the world is going to stop, put, you know, policing, shipping lanes for the oil trade. Right, you know, countries are going to become balkanized. And I do think the world’s reverting to nationalism. But I don’t think that I do think the United States has a lot of reasons to keep playing that role. We we’ve still got this incredibly sophisticated military, I think it needs to evolve, I’m going to argue in my next book on nuclear that the nuclear shield in particular needs to be split into three parts so that Asia, Japan and Korea need their own weapons, Europe needs to provide its own nuclear shield. United States can still play a role in global policeman. But I do think it’s time for the nuclear shields to evolve. But I just think the United States, we’ve got this, there’s just so much momentum behind having policing the world with our aircraft carriers and our shipping and just watch the new Top Gun movie, to feel inspired by it. But I mean, there’s nothing that even remotely comes close to it. So I don’t see that happening. And the LNG trade is, is being going like gangbusters. It is a deeply cyclical business. But nonetheless, I do think you’re gonna see a significant expansion of LNG trade pipeline. So. So no, I mean, I think that I still think that we’re in a period of significant material progress, and we’re going to have much more material progress around the world demographic collapse, by the way, Americans developed the solution to that, which is that you import a bunch of, you accept a bunch of immigrants, and then you assimilate. And the biggest challenge is just assimilation. You know, you’re the best at it, though. Your struggles with assimilation, Asia, struggles with the Japan Japanese, or, you know, they’re just not very welcoming of foreigners. But the solution is you import a bunch of people, you know, who want to come to your country and work and you let them become residents. And then citizens and their kids go to school and they marry locally, and intermix, and you have this wonderful, you create these wonderful, you know, mixing, which I’m a big fan of, and that’s the solution. And you don’t have to have demographic collapse.
Robert Bryce 1:09:30
Yeah, well, I think that that the demographic analysis I thought was provocative. I also liked how it I think it was right. I have had Gregg Easterbrook on the podcast to talk about his new book, which was really quite good. It’s on the US Navy, but I think my read of Zion is the Zion is that the his his negative view of the US Navy are that it’s not going to expand enough. I just don’t see the US Navy ceding that control of world sea lanes is that China’s going to challenge in the South China Sea that’s what they’re going to do. But you know, I get that but but I just don’t see the US Navy saying, oh, sure it’s your backyard, you go ahead and control that. So we’re what’s next? Tell me about the new book? Because when is that your how far along? Are you? What’s the pub date? What and the title? What’s, what’s up with that?
Michael Shellenberger 1:10:16
So I’m working on two books. I’m really excited about both of them. The first
Robert Bryce 1:10:20
one. Okay, so you published two books in the last three years. And now you’re writing two more?
Michael Shellenberger 1:10:24
Yeah, two books that will come out in the next two years.
Robert Bryce 1:10:27
You need a break, man.
Michael Shellenberger 1:10:28
When I was in Japan, I had no, I mean, this the nuclear book, it’s it’s writing itself. I mean, it’s it’s,
Robert Bryce 1:10:40
you know, done a lot of that work already. Right. Yeah. You’ve been writing? Yes, for a long time. I’m not saying I mean, nuclear. But you’ve been on this for many years now.
Michael Shellenberger 1:10:48
The nuclear book, it’s a straightforward book. It’s the war on nuclear, why it hurts us all to come out in the fall of next year. And then the third book in the trilogy that I’m working on. I said, I wasn’t going to say what the title was, but I actually feel comfortable now saying what it is, it’s called progressive nihilism. Why civilized people undermined civilization. And it will be the third book in the trilogy that started with apocalypse, never and went through San Francisco. So progressive nihilism. And that book is going to argue that these, the greatest source of civilization is coming from people struggling with purposelessness and the meaninglessness of the world. And this builds on Apocalypse never builds on San Francisco, it’s going to look at a broader set of issues. I won’t say all the issues because that’s where it’ll be really controversial, but a broader set of progressive issues where I think progressives progressivism has become a religion and that the religion is really destructive doesn’t have to be but is often the way it’s manifesting quite destructive, undermining the institutions necessary for civilization. electrical grids, policing, homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, education meritocracy,
Robert Bryce 1:12:03
so you’re calling you’re calling it progressivism. I had another guest on the podcast Bhatia Ongar Sargon has written a remarkably good book on called bad news but she calls it woke woke ism and I think that that’s another David David David French uses the same line woke ism replacing Christianity replacing the traditional religion that woke ism and this gender politics and all the you know and environment and or as in Jordan Peterson is great podcast with Lex Friedman recently said, Well, if it’s about the environment, the environment is everything. You can’t be about everything. If you’re about everything. You’re about nothing and devastating takedown of the whole business. But so that’s going to be four books then that you’ll publish in the span of what six years something like that is that is my math. Right?
Michael Shellenberger 1:12:49
Well, so a progressive nihilism comes out in 2024. So yeah, I guess it’ll be four books in four years. Yeah. That is that right? Wow.
Robert Bryce 1:13:01
I don’t know. I’m not the one right. And if it took everyone sicko
Michael Shellenberger 1:13:03
was brutal. I mean, I’m not going to do that again. That was that was a response to COVID. That was I was grounded bigger by COVID. And, and there was really I just needed something to really sink my teeth into, but it was too aggressive.
Robert Bryce 1:13:22
Right. So let’s step back. There were just a couple other things. My guest, you all, I’m sure you know, Michael Shellenberger. He’s been on the podcast twice before he’s the author of San Francisco. Why progressives ruin cities. Apocalypse never which came out 2020 Is that right over two years ago. And you can find him on substack substack. Dot Michael shellenberger.com. Has that have that right? Yeah. You were on Fox News just a day or two ago talking about energy policy. And you talked about China. The UN this really this this week released a new report on Jin Jiang. This supply chain issue is really one that’s really I mean, it’s scary to me because of the lack of recognition, particularly among the climate activists who are promoting solar with no discussion about Well, wait a minute, where are you getting your poly silicon and the State Department just last year at state trade, state commerce, labor issue this remarkable report calling what’s happening in Jin Jiang genocide. So you were the first I think to call them Chinese solar genocide solar panels. Were where are we today on this? And is the solar sector. climate activists going to acknowledge this? Are they purposely ignoring it? Because to me, it’s a it’s a very problematic issue, and it’s not going to be resolved anytime soon. Have you seen it?
Michael Shellenberger 1:14:47
It makes me sad and angry. Not just that it’s happening, but that the progressives and I have to say I’m just appalled that I hesitate about Whatever to say their names, people that I have worked with in the past have not denounced the solar panels, I think it’s a pretty cut and dry issue. There, you should not be importing the solar panels. I mean, the idea that we’re even that this is even a conversation, I find it very disturbing, that we know how the solar panels are being made in China, and there’s people that still are lobbying for them to be imported, and that that’s considered okay. I just I find it almost chilling, that this is happening, the evidence of the conditions are being made under are just unbelievable. You know, people will kind of point out things that go well, in the Congo, that, you know, kids are mining, cobalt. You know, I’ve been to the Congo and just brutal, but I do think there’s something qualitatively different about a state rounding up a whole group of people, putting them in concentration camps, and then having them built solar panels, then a place like the Congo, which has been a broken government, and frankly, those kids are working for money. You know, these are kids that are working on the farm. They’re now working in the mines. I’m not saying it’s great, but I think it’s not the same genocide is serious business. So what can i say i
Robert Bryce 1:16:14
in the State Department, I mean, I’ve written about it several times. We wrote about it in Newsweek a few weeks ago. I mean, it just is the state, the fact that you have six big federal agencies all putting their names on a report calling out genocide and Jin Jiang, and then in the same report, saying 45% of solar grade poly silicon comes from shinjang. I mean, it’s, it’s, I don’t recall anything in my recent experience that connects the dots. So clearly on a major part of the energy sector, I can only imagine what if the oil and gas industry were involved in something like this or the coal sector? I mean, it would be a whole different issue, but the solar sector doesn’t want to talk about it. And then the Biden administration just didn’t want it was it in June or July so Oh, never mind on these tariffs and on these import restrictions? I mean, to me, it’s just I have solar panels on the roof of my house. Do I know that there’s no Polly that the snow slave labor in the police? No, I don’t. I didn’t, it’s disturbing. But the lack of recognition of the issue to me is equally disturbing.
Michael Shellenberger 1:17:12
It’s very disturbing. I mean, I’ve heard people say things like, well, you have an iPhone, and it’s like, yeah, actually, the iPhones are not being made and shinjang you know, if this is very specific to solar, so no, I think it’s a stain on the climate community. I think it’s a stain on the left. In particular, the Democrats have been terrible on this there were some who were good and mostly Republicans have been the ones that have been leading on so I find shocking and disturbing and I’d like to find a way to do more about it. I’m not sure what else I can do because I’ve also written a fair amount of added I’m not sure what else I can add to it, but I’m just I’m I’m chilled by it and disturbed by I’m definitely going to be putting it in, in the nihilism book.
Robert Bryce 1:17:51
But it’s almost it’s weird as you’re saying this because I’m hearing you say that and I’m thinking oh, you know, he’s like the Jeremiah right. And he’s the moralist around these issues. And yet I think well wait a minute here. This is not old fashioned to say genocide is bad. It’s just but to even have the conversation is pretty remarkable that it but the solar sector doesn’t want to talk about it, you know, it doesn’t. The New York Times reported on the on the UN report, but there was nothing about the solar sector right and nothing nothing connecting the dots, which is I mean, that’s okay for this is what a large part of what I do try and connect the dots, what are the what’s the context here, but anyway, that’s, that’s maybe a longer discussion. So we’ve been talking for more than an hour. I don’t want to keep you much longer Michael. So I always ask my guests. A couple of questions. So what are you reading now? I know you’re writing two books. But you read a lot. You’re a voracious reader of wrote and prolific writer. Any books that are we talked about Peter Zion any other books that are catching your attention now? If so, what
Michael Shellenberger 1:18:48
definitely Zion superabundance. I went and reread all the Nietzsche on nihilism. It’s absolutely incredible. I really love to hard to recommend it to people, because I don’t think people would get it’s not just other people get a lot of pleasure from but for me, it’s super fascinating. You know, why do we feel guilty about things that we didn’t do? And we don’t take responsibility for the things that we did do? Yeah, and like I said, I’m really enjoying Bloomberg. You know, I’m enjoying their news coverage of the crisis. But I’m always looking for good books, man. You tell me what are you reading right now, Robert? Well,
Robert Bryce 1:19:21
Easterbrook book I wish I had it. On my hand, his it’s the blue water hits the blue water, navy. Well, have you read you’ve read Meredith Edwards book, shorting the grids? Of course, yeah. This is a book that I’m kind of pissed off about. Honestly, I’ve contacted John Doerr several times and the people that climate imperative. I wanted to come on and talk about his book, they won’t reply to my emails. I did just buy this. In fact, when I was in New Mexico, I bought the American Prometheus, the biography of Robert Oppenheimer, which I’m
Michael Shellenberger 1:19:55
interested in, have had no tastic Oh, absolutely.
Robert Bryce 1:19:59
Yeah. So that’s one that’s at the top of my list and unfortunately you can see it’s not even dented because I’ve been been reading too much well and I do have my my bird guide always have the bird and field guide to the birds at hand. So that’s last question then Michael, what we’ve talked about a lot of things, some of which are depressing, some of which are uplifting what gives you hope now?
Michael Shellenberger 1:20:22
I tell you, I get a lot of help out of the new pronuclear leaders. You know, the people we mentioned, Mark Nelson, Maddy, sir winsky, Paris wine, sound lights, they are out there doing things that are inspiring to me. Maddie had a tweet thread on nuclear waste that went like Mega viral the other week, she’s She did a thing on nuclear accidents, that put up these incredible photos of wildlife in Chernobyl. I’m totally inspired by her I’m inspired by Mark and the Center for nuclear fence. The Pro nuclear movement for me is really inspiring. I love what’s happening to the media. You know, I worry that the social media companies are aligning themselves to be bullied by the federal government. I have been censored myself by Facebook, and it still pisses me off. And I have to find a way to get and address it. But I mostly think that what’s going on with substack. And Twitter is really positive because it creates this new challenge to conventional media. Yeah, it gets away for those of us that are independent journalists to challenge those guys. I mean, I can beat up. You know, I used to be that you’d be scared to criticize the Washington Post, because you wanted to be quoted by them at some point, not anymore. Now you can beat up on those guys. And I don’t really I don’t care at all. And you know, there’s a big organization, so a lot of different people there. So for me, it’s nice. I’m really happy to on one hand, getting some invitations to talk into those publications, again, in a ways I haven’t had for a few years, but also not feeling the need anymore. Being able to have the independence to be able to say what I think is right and not be worried about what other people will think or right now, whether it fits into the Overton window or not, I just think it really changes. Even the Overton window itself, what’s considered acceptable discourse, I think has gotten a lot broader in many ways. I think in some ways, the some ways to go have gotten narrower. And that’s the trend that we worry about people wanting to reinforce their prior views in their media bubbles. But I also think that things like Twitter and substack open people up to voices that they don’t normally hear.
Robert Bryce 1:22:28
I tend to agree with you, I think it’s made the river mixing my metaphor and made the river wider. Right. Before you know there were only a few channels that were where you had discourse at all and now there are a lot more channels and there are a lot more people can navigate across those so it’s that that’s ability to select has been broadened significantly. So yeah, I tend to agree. But Michael, it’s been great to talk to you great to catch up. Robert, congratulations on your success with substack and you know attaboy for I can’t imagine running for for political office. The fact that you did you know good on you that we need leadership and we need people that are dedicated to it. I think it’s great that you did it.
Michael Shellenberger 1:23:07
Appreciate you brother. Always a pleasure to be with you can’t wait to see you next time in Austin man.
Robert Bryce 1:23:11
Yeah, and thanks to so that’s the end of this power hungry podcast all your podcast lands until next time, see