Todd Royal is the co-author (with Ron Stein) of the book, Clean Energy Exploitations: Helping Citizens Understand the Environmental and Humanity Abuses that Support “Clean” Energy. In this episode, Todd explains how China is “weaponizing” commodities like cobalt, polysilicon, and rare earth elements, why hydrocarbons are going to be needed for decades to come, and how ESG rules on investments are based on vague definitions of what is “good.”
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, and welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And my guest today is Todd Royal. He’s a co author of the recent book clean energy exploitations. Todd, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Todd Royal 0:20
Thanks for having me, Robert. Appreciate it.
Robert Bryce 0:22
So I think you know that I have my guests introduce themselves. So rather than belabor that point, I’m going to tell you introduce yourself, please.
Todd Royal 0:30
Okay. I’m Todd Royal. I live outside of Dallas, Texas, married have two children, one son who’s very active now in Texas football. So I feel like I’m rapidly getting close to Friday Night Lights, been working in energy since 2012. began in graduate school, when I did my master’s thesis on fracking, and the economic revitalization after the 2007 2008. Recession. I’ve written three books. First one is energy Made Easy. Second was just green electricity. And then this current one clean energy exploitations my writings, my work tend to really look at the the collision of energy, national security, foreign policy, and then really, the focus has started to shift to the energy transition. And then also clean energy, hence writing this book, clean energy exploitations.
Robert Bryce 1:23
And we should note your co author is Ron Stein. So let’s jump in. So why did you write this book, which I’m having a copy of right here, you got enough to send it to me? Clean Energy exploitations when the subtitle is helping citizens understand the environmental and humanity abuses that support, clean energy and quotes, yeah,
Todd Royal 1:46
wrote it, Ron really came to me with this, we had done two previous books, I didn’t think I wanted to write a book. And he started to just show me the evidence that we kind of dug up a little bit in the second book about how wind turbines, solar panels, battery storage systems, they all need fossil fuels. Basically, every component of them comes from fossil fuels. And then he had sent me the Amnesty International report about what goes on with cobalt with children. And that’s what struck a chord. I have two small children. And once I dug into it, it was children my age who are being forced to do mining, children, their children their age, yeah, children their age, pardon me. And it just, it struck a chord. And then the more and more research I did, the more horrified I became. And I said that we yeah, we have to write this book, it became very personal to me. It’s definitely the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to write. Because seemingly, every page was bringing up more and more human rights abuses, people not getting electricity, human flourishing, just being squashed over this. People attempting to leave fossil fuels for renewables in particular. So you know, PV, solar, and wind turbines?
Robert Bryce 3:05
Well, let’s take those in order. So what about solar? I’m have researched this a little bit myself. But what I’ll ask you first, first, before I get to that, so this book is obviously it’s what it’s some 300 pages now, three 355, although he put a ton of work into it. One of the things that you talked about in terms of this ideas of exploitation What, what’s what was the you mentioned cobalt already, is that the element or the issue that you think is the one that that got to you the most, or what have all of those issues that you’ve covered in this book, what really stands out to you
Todd Royal 3:45
two things in particular, number one, I know I’m touching on some of your own work, if you do not have energy and electricity, you do not have life. I’m a real big, not just human rights, but I like to take it a step further, human flourishing and human ingenuity, you cannot have those things at this time. If you’re relying on solar panels and wind turbines for electricity, then when you look at the components that make up these, what’s called these rare earth minerals, exotic minerals, lithium, cobalt, even copper 19, you know, 19 them. These are, especially in solar panels. They’re toxic. They are literally arsenic cocktails, that if you start to put in landfills, this is really going to affect people’s water and and I never get upset with people they go, Oh my god, fracking is gonna hurt my drinking water. That’s those are I understand that those concerns, I empathize with those concerns. But you actually have something that if you put this in a landfill, if the solar panel breaks, then you’re going to need to call in an environmental cleanup service, whether it’s our own EPA or something overseas. And what I’d found more and more in doing this is that when you are using solar panels when you are using wind turbines for just electricity grids or destabilized grids blackout. I’m in Texas now, I just lived through a six day grid blackout. And that was awfully scary. And then when you take that into global concerns, places like China, India, Africa, where people, you have 600 million people which don’t even have electricity, right and on Africa, to say that we’re going to give you these solar panels, you can only use solar panels and wind turbines that struck at my heart, and that that made me say, I need to begin, I need to write about this, I need to speak out about this. These people deserve a chance at life every bit as much as I have. And then when you look at a foreign policy, national security issue, China controls the complete supply chain at this time, for things such as lithium, cobalt, and what makes solar panels iPhones, wind turbines, you name it, work.
Robert Bryce 5:58
So I’m gonna I’m gonna push back, I asked you one thing, he covered a whole bunch of things there. I know. I know. I’m just making. I’m just joking with you here. But yeah, I mean, all of these things do collide together, start when you start to look at the interconnections in the global energy network, the global energy supply chains, or the supply chains globally, that feed the energy and power sectors. It’s remarkable how intertwined all of the countries of the world are. So talk about China, because you write about China quite a lot in the book. What, what sticks out there? Is it the rare earth element supplies, I know that the IEA released a report in May, which I guess would be after you publish your book, underscoring the supply chain issue on critical minerals. So talk about China. How does China figure into this? And how do you think the Chinese government and the Chinese military are looking at these issues in terms of overall strategy?
Todd Royal 6:59
Well, they they’re making very public statements on it. One of my favorite resources is real is real clear energy. I guess they’re their morning volt. They put up they put out some different articles just this week alone on how the Chinese government, in particular, the military, coalesce with the Communist Party is letting other nations know in particular, Australia, even the EU, and now the United States, we control 70 to 90% of all the rare earth minerals in the world. So if you do not do what we say meaning let’s take an issue, recognize Taiwan is the complete sole property of China, then we’re going to hold these back from you, or we’re gonna charge you more for these. So what they really do is they’re weaponizing. You I’ve I’ve written about the weaponization of energy, I focused on Russia. In that regard. Well, China has weaponizing, what I would say is the clean energy transition or clean energy resources. You also take in in regards their their human rights issues. We know their Muslim population, they’re being enslaved. I always mispronounce that cigars.
Robert Bryce 8:12
The weaker the weaker is a jail Jinjiang in the western part.
Todd Royal 8:18
And we now we know, it’s been it’s been highly documented that most of the solar panels go into the EU are coming out of there. So in many ways you could actually say, and then China also controls the overwhelming amount of mining that goes on for cobalt in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If you do not have cobalt, you do not have solar panels, wind turbines, iPhones, etc. And we know that some of the worst human atrocities are taking place their children mean, if you look at the cover of my book, that is a picture from the Congo. So when you look at China, this interconnection, they use it as a as a national security and foreign policy weapon, they weaponize it. And then on the human rights side, they’re using their own slave labor and other slave labor to produce these that the West says we have to have.
Robert Bryce 9:10
Well, and that’s one of the things I and I’ve only I haven’t written much about that I mentioned it in passing issue of Uighur labor in the production of poly silicon, which is of course one of the key ingredients and photovoltaic solar panels, something like 40 45% of the world’s poly silicon has been coming from Shin Jang. Now the US government I guess it was in may pass sanctions on that on that commodity. So where does that leave the global solar sector now? I mean, have you looked at that? Does that does that result of that those of that trade sanctions how does that how is that going to affect the ability of the global solar sector to then have enough poly silicon and make sure that the poly silicon isn’t blood poly silicon mix my blood diamond bud poly silicon phrasing here how what’s what’s up What effect will that have?
Todd Royal 10:01
Well, first off, you’re definitely correct to say blood minerals, because that’s what they are. In regards to poly silicon, what you’re already going to have to see is higher subsidies, you’ll have to see the investment tax credit, the production tax credit for wind and solar, let’s say in the United States, you will have to extend that because solar panels, we import the vast majority of all solar panels come from China or imported from China, we’re still bringing in solar panels, it’s just the cost will be given on to the consumer under the ratepayer whether business, whether at the rate at the individual rate payer level, because that the utilities generally will take that pass that cost on the US government, which you create this cycle of inflation, because I’m going to have to give a larger subsidy to make solar be somewhat affordable, the utility is going to have to have to pay that and they’re going to pass it on to the ratepayer.
Robert Bryce 10:56
So what you’re saying is that the reduction, potential reduction in the supply of poly silicon from Jin Jang will make the solar panels more expensive, and that ultimately will be paid back paid for that increased cost will be paid for by consumers. But I guess one of the questions I had is thinking about the supply chain issues, you know, it’s similar to the diamond issue or copper or, you know, oil being smuggled out of Venezuela or Iran. How do we even know I mean, these are very complex global supply chains. How could we be certain that the public silicone that might end up in Korea, they have solar panels on the roof of my house or from Korea? How do we know that Chinese poly silicon wouldn’t somehow go around the world and then somehow end up in Korea? I mean, it can even do Saturday, sure that
Todd Royal 11:39
we can’t be entirely sure of it. There’s some of the people that do great work on it. You mentioned the IAEA does very good work on it. I find Bloomberg to be a great resource up. They do great research on this, the Financial Times also does research, the Wall Street Journal tends to do some some pretty good work on this as well. One of the things you tend to find in this kind of weaponization of energy is that the US government highly gets involved in this, so does the EU and they’ll they’ll track it via satellite, they’ll, when you have global shipping firms, such as let’s say Maersk, or DSV. You they do those, those shipping lanes are tracked. And right now seeming that we’re seeing that the time you know, the Taiwan Strait, the South China Seas, we’re seeing those be weaponized more than ever, that you at the British Navy said, they’re parking a aircraft carrier, they’re brand new in there for the next five years. We know the Seventh Fleet is there from Japan, we we know the brand new nuclear submarine deal that was just announced between the United States, Australia and also the UK. So we know we have the ability to track where this is coming from, is it going to be 100%? Of course not. But we’re able to see that overwhelmingly we can, we can find this we can find. And this typically will even be open sourced where you’re able to find where this is coming from.
Robert Bryce 13:01
So let’s back up a little bit. Because in your book, you you and your co author Ron Stein, and my guest, again is Todd Royal. He’s the co author of a new book called Clean Energy exploitations. You write about the fact that in 1900 was really a key demarcation period that that year I think you said it changed changed everything for the world. How so?
Todd Royal 13:25
You really started to see petroleum take off basic facts on petroleum that a lot of people don’t know your audience likely does, but many others don’t. That over 6000 products come from a barrel of crude oil. We finally started to see
Robert Bryce 13:41
the so shoot shoe laces, plastics, the shopping bags,
Todd Royal 13:47
my are I glad I bought my eyeglasses, the our iPhones our computers. More importantly, like right now the COVID-19 vaccination. There’s a great article from The Wall Street Journal from about a year ago called Big Oil comes to the rescue. And they basically said that if you did not have the refineries, you would not have this vaccine right now. So what you started, I read something to just yesterday that said that we only started to begin to even contemplate being able to solve viruses, not until around the 18 at around 1880s. So this 1900 demarcation is when we finally began as human beings to be able to figure out how to have a better life, how to have toothpaste, oils in toothpaste, how to brush our teeth, how to have soap, how to have
Robert Bryce 14:37
you know, but it’s also your almost 20 years after Edison on Pearl Street, right. So you see the first big wave of electrification globally happening in the in the US and Europe and elsewhere. But you’re also seeing in the growth of refined oil products, the proliferation of vehicles, Henry Ford, I think the first model T is 1908. Was there something else in 1900 then that was that specific gear that comes to mind,
Todd Royal 15:02
specific years really you started to see more the I can’t nail it down specifically for you. But really, you started to see more consumer products is the beginning of real, you’re starting to see more consumer products, you can really make the argument as well that it’s what kind of led to the roaring 20s. To really look, you really look. And there’s a fantastic book that talks about this. Michael Novak had a book called The spirit of democratic capitalism speaks about how the world that we truly did live in the dark ages, up until about this industrial revolution, and then really until about the 1900s that we found, you know, that night, that kind of 1819 1910 really that 1900 that we finally started build to have consumer products, we finally did start to figure out Addison, we finally did start to figure out the automobile mass production, factories urbanization. And that’s when you see that that year is when things really start to begin to take off more towards the modern life that you and I are now living right. Now.
Robert Bryce 16:00
Let’s see what comes to mind when you say that it’s about Soft Skills book, which is the
Todd Royal 16:04
whatever it was gonna be in civilizations?
Robert Bryce 16:07
Well, no, it’s the one that he wrote about the era of innovation or something. It’s about the the period between the end of the American Civil War and the First World War, right? This, that that all of the inventions that occurred during that time, the haber bosch process, for synthetic ammonia, you know, dynamite, the telephone, the electricity, just the range of of inventions that occurred during that what 50 year period or so, really did then did set the stage for the for the decades that followed. You also talk a lot about the Green New Deal in your book. And there’s legislation as you know, that’s been pending in Congress that’s underway that includes a whole lot of new climate and energy policies, a lot of talk about the Green New Deal, I’ve written about it, give me the thumbnail, and I do as short as you can. What are the fundamental problems with this
Todd Royal 17:02
fundamental problems we see is that renewables are intermittent or variable, meaning when you put them on a grid, it tends to destabilize grids leading to blackouts and brand brownouts. The other big issue that we found this the most shocking thing, I swear that I found in writing all three of these books, was that it’s based on this premise that if we do not do something to lower emissions, that we’re going to burn up the Earth, we’re going to burn up the United States. But that’s actually not true. Because if the United States were to cease to exist, this is based off 2017 congressional testimony. This came from the Heritage Foundation, I called them because once I read about it, and looked at the regression analysis work on it, I didn’t believe them, and actually got the rider on the phone. If the United States shutdown cease to exist, global emissions are still going to rise because of China, India, and Africa. So it’s not that there isn’t good intentions towards the green New Deal. It’s that we’re not really looking at the bigger problem, which is the growth of coal fired power plants, no environmental controls, little pollution controls, or as Michael Shellenberger says, You better have really good landfills and trash pickup, coming out of China, India and Africa. The West only makes up in the west by mean the post world war two liberal lead order that the United States created, you’re only talking about a billion people, likely, which is the US, Europe, some Asian allies, such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, that’s about a billion people who are already advanced, environmentally clean, they’re extremely efficient. So if we don’t begin to do something with China, India and Africa, global emissions are going to rise no matter what we do, or even what the Europeans do. But again, the shocking part was the thumbnail part is the United States could literally shut down cease to exist, and global emissions are going to continue to rise this century. Well,
Robert Bryce 19:02
let’s follow up on that. Because you make I thought about that. I was just trying to do the math the other day, and I was just looking at China and India together. And India’s electricity use on a per capita basis, I think it’s something like 800 kilowatt hours per capita per year. In the US, it’s close to 12,000. China’s rising rapidly there 4000 5000 kilowatt hours per capita. But together, those two countries are something like, well, two and a half 2.6 billion people 2.8 billion people it’s just a staggering number and then you make that great point. Well then you add in another billion Africans well then you’re up to three and a half 4 billion people which by by own numbers three there are three three and a half billion people in the world today who use less electricity than an average kitchen refrigerator. So your your point here’s I guess I’ll to be contrarian. Well, you’re just saying, Oh, the US shouldn’t do anything, right. You’re You’re just saying you know, you’re saying we shouldn’t do you know, do any? Or is that your argument because I know where you’re going but uh, Are you saying the US shouldn’t do anything or what, but in a different way? What should the US be doing?
Todd Royal 20:05
The US what’s worked for the US what’s factually worked as our emissions have gone down, because we transition from coal to natural gas fired power plants, we still get roughly five, remember my numbers correctly off the top of my head, about 20% of our electricity from carbon free nucular. But what the US has also done so effectively as our cars, our transportation is so much more efficient than it than it ever used to be. We’re so much better at valves, regulators measurements, because we have such a capitalistic economy, it doesn’t make sense for a fracture in the Permian Basin to flare methane gas because they’re losing money doing it. So it’s not that the US
Robert Bryce 20:48
No, I mean, but they’re still flaring going on. And some, some very large flaring going
Todd Royal 20:53
Absolutely. Very, very large. But the United States also were already so highly efficient. And I will credit this, this transition to gas really began under President Barack Obama. He’s the fracking revolution began under the former president, because people think, oh, it’s only Republicans. No, President Obama was an incredibly effective. And I’d say innovative energy president.
Robert Bryce 21:18
How so? Follow up on that. Because, you know, I Well, I’m always criticizing politicians, right. ticular, the Democrats and what both parties are not doing enough to promote nuclear because in my view, the government just has to be far more involved if we’re going to advance nuclear in the US to to make it grow at scale, which is what we’re what we’re going to need to see happen. But Obama was a benign neglect under Obama that allowed fracking to occur, what you’re giving him some accolades here. Why?
Todd Royal 21:52
Absolutely. And if you look at this is from my, when I did my master’s thesis, in his in one of his State of the Union, he actually talked about fracking. He talked about natural gas. It was under President Obama, that fracking actually took off. There’s a great book called The boom by Russell gold. Yeah. Which highlights this, I think, I think Russell does great work for the Wall Street Journal, loved his book, it was one of my starting points for my master’s thesis. President Obama. He’s the one that yes, he said, You cannot drill on public lands, but other other areas. Him and Him in the Congress worked very well together to promote natural gas usage. Yes, he did things such as the Clean Power Plan, which was deemed unconstitutional. But while he was president, you saw high transition go from the dirtiest forms, the least efficient forms of coal fired power plants to natural gas plants. And that that occurred under Brock Obama also, too, if you look at what President Obama did, he was one of the first ones to even say that our nuclear arsenal had to be updated. And typically, while they’re not the same, if you’re moving on the nuclear arsenal, you’re probably going to be moving on nuclear power as well. President Obama did some pretty good work. He did some good work in that area. And it’s shocking for people because they think, Oh, my gosh, this is a very liberal Democrat. And, and I’m like, Yeah, sure, there were but when it came to those two parts of energy, he did some he did some excellent work.
Robert Bryce 23:20
Well, so then why? Well, you mentioned nuclear. Let me let me follow up on that. I don’t, I don’t recall you going deeply into the nuclear in your book, but we’re still seeing nuclear plants. Well, Byron in Dresden, and Illinois were saved. They were they did not close. They got a lifeline from the from the Illinois legislature. But we’re seeing a lot of nuclear plants in the US close. So where if we’re going to have more low carbon electricity, is there is there an or what path should we be seeing in the nuclear sector? What how should that be working?
Todd Royal 23:56
Whether it’s the new small modular reactors, or the advanced nucular or the one that’s being built in Georgia right now, Vogel, you know, the to vote to Vogel plants, what we’re going to need to see is, is better regulatory action, meaning, that’s such a broad statement, the ones I would say people should really look at. And we do have to do more nuclear. And we also need to do natural gas fired power plants, as well. But what we also need to do is we need to make it much easier and a shorter process to build a build these plants. The South Koreans, what I’ve read, do some of the best work when it comes to this. They pick a design under current plans. Let’s say for advanced Nikola, there’s six different ways six different types of reactors. Let’s pick one, let’s do that one. The South Koreans do it so efficiently, really, as the Chinese do as well because they pick one, and they go and build it. And they they’re not looking for their reactors to to burn up and cause radioactive damage. But what they’re able to do is say, here’s our regulatory front work, here’s how we’re going to construct these. Let’s go do that in the United States, one of the things we do, and they’re having such a hard time in Georgia is there was just an issue. They had laid wire against, I guess next to a unit. Well, the wire had already been laid, why wasn’t that inspected beforehand. So now you have to stop the plant, dig all that up and redo it. And that that’s just an inefficient if you’ve ever gone through a house renovation, that’s a horribly inefficient way to do something like that. So whether it’s a house renovation or nuclear plant, there needs to be very clear pathways and how we do this. And so far. That’s not what that’s not how the United States builds it. And also, we have a fear factor to get over and Michael Shellenberger has done fantastic work in this arena over, people still equate nuclear weapons with a nuclear plant. And it all began back, you know, the post, you know, post World War Two with the fear of when we dry nuclear weapons on Japan. Well, I’m
Robert Bryce 26:01
Robert Hargraves, who has been on the podcast, he’s with Thor Khan International, he did a great piece in The Wall Street Journal just the other day about excessive fear of radiation and how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should have issued new guidelines on radiation. And there was an effort to get them to relook at the linear no threshold and the as low as reasonable, reasonably achievable thresholds. And they refused to do it, which I think and Hargraves was right, that this is something that’s driving up the cost of nuclear energy, for no good reason, because radiation is not as dangerous as people think it is. But let’s talk about California because I know you live in Texas, and Ron lives in California. Is California in the model that US should the rest of the world should be following?
Todd Royal 26:48
Unfortunately, no. And I think we’re seeing it right now. Whether it’s California, whether it’s Germany, whether it’s all of Europe, whether it’s the UK, what we’re seeing is just this complete heavy rain, you’re not investing in resilient, reliable energy resources, which are typically going to be coal, natural gas for electricity, or obviously petroleum and oil. They’re going heavy nuclear, they’re going pardon me, they’re going heavy renewables. It’s it’s killing their grids, their grids are unstable. Now, you’re seeing horrible gas shortages, coal shortages. So no, I would expect I would expand it not to not answer your question. But I would expand it to not only do we not want to follow the model of California that that model, unfortunately, we have seen factually has caused the highest, the highest electricity prices in the country, the highest poverty rates in the country, the highest welfare, welfare rates in the country, needing at least over a trillion dollars of infrastructure improvements over anybody else in the country. And they have a greatest income inequality in the country. And most people, Joel Kotkin has done great work where he says, and a lot of this begins with energy, that you you have high gas prices, you have high electrical prices that completely reverberate throughout the entire economy, increased inflationary measures,
Robert Bryce 28:07
well, then you add him just to build on that high housing prices, right. And and those, those are not going to be addressed when that housing problem may be the one that is most difficult to address. And it looks like the state has taken some steps toward toward dealing with that, but it’s not going to be any kind of an immediate change in how they’re able to, you know, provide lower cost housing, which of course, is a critical part of the cost of living there.
Todd Royal 28:32
You want to add something to that? Because I want your audience here. There’s a gentleman out there named Edward ring. And he does his much as I love Joe Kotkin Edward ring or it goes by Ed ring does the absolute best work on why housing is so high. The issue with what you know, Joel Kotkin calls him the green zealots, the green clarity, clarity, the clarity, that clarity and clarity, you know, Ed takes it even further. And I mean, he’s called him some pretty tough names. And it’s these climate zealots, that as he’s called them, that keeps housing from being built, because it’s the worry you’re producing more carbon. People want bigger houses and bigger land. And he’s given just great examples to say, there’s plenty of land in California, there’s plenty of resources in California. There’s no reason that housing should not be being built right now.
Robert Bryce 29:24
Now, I’m not familiar with rings work, of course, I am familiar with with with Kotkin. So what about ESG? How does ESG fit into this? Because you write about that in the book as well. And from my conversations with people in the investment, you know, investors and investment bankers in Houston, they’re saying this is really constraining the flow of capital into hydrocarbon production. Talk about that,
Todd Royal 29:48
if you would, yeah. I mean, I’ve written about it also in the past. So just kind of full disclosure, the different funds it’s been, it’s been led by BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, right. And it just seems to be a way to stifle that Competition. These funds are not making money, renewable funds are down this year significantly. And all of them are yes, you’re constraining the flow of capital. Because what you’re really doing, Robert, as you’re doing this, and I really appreciate you’ve asked this question, you’re trying to measure good. You’re trying to say, what’s good? Well, is it you believe in Jesus Christ? You’re a Christian. So that’s good. You believe in Muhammad? That’s good. You’re an atheist or an agnostic, you’re you’re Catholic? What’s your definition of good? And then how are you going to measure good in the environment? I would probably say, if it was you, Will, people need electricity. You and I are gonna agree that’s a good, the social is gonna say, Well, I believe the family’s good, others are gonna go I don’t believe in families and single family homes, then it comes to governance. Are you a Republican or a Democrat? Are you Green Party? Are you an independent? So you’re taking this amalgamation of fuzzy topics that have no definitions and no meaning, but the undergirding of it all, is asking the question of what is good, it reminds me so much of if you read Plato’s the Republic, what is justice? So ask yourself, what is justice? That’s a broad statement. Now, I’m trying to say what’s good if I’m just talking about the United States in a $20 trillion a year economy, that you can’t define it? So you’re, you’re what you’re really doing. You’re you’re trying to define something? That’s undefinable.
Robert Bryce 31:33
So fine. So you’re saying that that idea that ESG it’s too fuzzy of a concept, and it can be, it can be twisted to fit whoever agenda is works. The best is that, but absolutely, but isn’t it but as I look at what’s going on in Europe now, I mean, you were seeing several of the countries are in crisis. And it’s because they don’t have enough hydrocarbons. As has the ESG push been a result as what’s is that resulted it? Is that partly to blame. There are a lot of things happening co post, etc. But is it can we hold ESG to account for what some of the damage we’re seeing in Europe today?
Todd Royal 32:10
Absolutely. You can because it’s, it’s telling banks that you no longer You are evil, the Bank of Robert Bryce, if you loan to a coalfire name of that bank, like that bank.
Robert Bryce 32:21
Oh, yeah, it’s I love that bank. It needs more money. Send me a Yeah.
Todd Royal 32:26
ROBERT BRYCE oil. Yeah, we are. We are evil. We’re based in Manhattan. You and I are evil. If we loan to a coal fired power plant in South Africa, you’re saying you are damaging the environment. So now your entire definition of the environment is emissions without taking into account? What Bjorn long Berg’s definition would be Michael Shellenberger would be Robert Bryce’s would be Todd Royal. You’re, you’re so what you all you’re doing is saying we’re going to restrict harbor hydrocarbons. Coal is the biggest evil, natural gas is number two, gasoline is three. So get rid of gasoline, and then we go to an Eevee. But what’s the solution? All the solution is wind turbines, solar panels, and EVS all backed up by utility scale storage systems. And that’s going to solve all the world’s the world’s problems, backed by he backed by ESG. And then what I’ve seen now, this whole, just covering under global warming climate change, so yeah, absolutely. ESG. I mean, you see coming out of the World Bank, you know, no more fossil fuels loaning coming out of the US government, there’s a pending bill that says, if a bank has more than $50 billion of assets, after 2030, if they loan to a fossil fuel company, they can be heavily penalized and even have their charter taken away from them.
Robert Bryce 33:50
Now, I’m not familiar with that, that that is remarkable. Because what we already see now, as I said, in Europe is that I mean, they’re short, they’re short of carbon dioxide because their fertilizer plants are shutting down. And the shortage of fertilizer is affecting the slaughterhouses affecting the beer makers. Now, when you start affecting my hamburgers and my beer now that says personal for me, but let’s get back to your book, your Tod your second your second chapter here. Your first chapter is on California we’ve talked about that. The second chapter is on Germany. And and you point out the issue of of high electricity prices. Give us a thumbnail sketch and your view on what’s happening in Germany and how they got there.
Todd Royal 34:33
They decided to energy transition my Germans horrible so corrected the anger you know, anger when anger widen in a spender. Yeah, thank you. One of my best friends is Swiss is German he would just kills them every time I try to speak German. They decided they were going to transition under Merkel do away with fossil fuels, close their nuclear plants after the Fukushima accident, and they’ve gone they get upwards of over 50% of their electricity from wind basically wind turbines, more than solar panels, it’s caused them to now have the highest electricity prices in Europe. Now, the UK just took them over this past about the past month. McKinsey and Company came in and called it, they did a big report on it and said it was an absolute disaster. Der Spiegel also has done big articles on it, where they said, This is a disaster, I would tell you now, and these are factual things is that you’ve now seen, they’re going to have to the Nord Stream two pipeline coming from Russia, they’re now going to be relying on 25% of their natural gas is coming from Russia, you’re now going to be answering to Vladimir Putin, for all of your energy needs. So it is a national security issue. It weakens NATO, since Germany’s the biggest leader within within Europe. And then you’re also just with German industry, you’re completely now at the behest of what the Russians want to do with natural gas. And if the wind doesn’t blow, as we’ve seen in the North Sea that just happened with with the Brits. And as with they’ve had low wind outputs this past summer, the Germans are now having to restart their coal fired power plants, and it just came out this past week. They put out their data that their their emissions have risen, as they’re restarting their dirtiest forms of coal fired power plants again.
Robert Bryce 36:22
So I you know, I’ve watched Germany as well, and I shake my head because it did seem to you know, it’s it’s, it’s a big country, but it’s not that big, and they’re also having big a major backlash in rural parts of the country against new wind projects against new large solar projects against high voltage transmission. It seems like all of the examples that you could provide, and you talked about Australia, of course, Ontario Canada’s Yep. I’ll be southern example California. Yep. But the place the province that seems to have the longest history of call it what it is crashed decarbonisation sure seems to be the I mean, a terrible example for where the, for how this might unfold. So what do they how do they back out of this? Who is it to restart their nuclear plants? What is what’s the way forward for Germany,
Todd Royal 37:17
they would need to restart their plants and unfortunately, I would tell them they need to go rebuild their their natural gas plants. They need to stop their decarbonisation plans and stabilize your electrical grid because it’s been on the verge of collapse. They import more energy than just about anyone in the EU and those you know, those figures can vary day to day but if it was not for France, you would have complete blackouts they they import French nuclear power your what you’re gonna see more than anything is an absolute national security nightmare based upon relying on the Russians for your gas. The New York Times has done a great has done great work on this that Gazprom basically reports directly to the Kremlin your whenever Vladimir Putin whenever he gets that money foreign foreign affairs has also detailed the the absolute corruption within the Kremlin, that money goes directly to the army and they directly go and invade countries as you can’t, as the crane continues to teeter. You’re just saying you’re seeing what not to do. And this is where this is where I feel like I feel like I’m on the 10 foot you know, I’m I put my tinfoil hat on and conspiracy theory guy, but I’m not because we detail it in the book. Because the real question you should you say is why are people doing this? And once you look up is that there are hundreds of billions now we’re going to breach trillions of taxpayer dollars that go to companies that do not have to compete and when you look at who owns those companies, it feels like a bad James Bond movie.
Robert Bryce 38:57
Oh, so name it. Well, then don’t let the let’s hear it. What’s your word? Tell me what?
Todd Royal 39:01
We see what we see right now as you have people what you have billionaires, guys like Tom Steyer from California who made his billions off coal fired power plants has become supposedly this big, renewable energy guy. You see Michael Bloomberg, you see George Soros, you see Bill Gates, then you see these multi national corporations saying I’m going net zero on decarbonizing, what, what you’re doing and we detail in the book is that it’s literally the transferring of taxpayer dollars into things that if they did not have subsidies, meaning solar farms for electricity, wind turbine farms for electricity, they would collapse. They’re not economically viable when you look at the subsidy structure that goes to these. The moment that they are generating that they are delivering power to the grid, solar farm and a wind turbine that what is happening is essentially within America. Keep it now in America, but it’s the European can do a lot of what we do as well, is that fossil fossil fuel companies coal fired natural gas even nucular. They’re Shut up. They’re not getting the subsidies. So that makes their electricity higher renewables, oh, the your costs are dropping, your costs are dropping No, get rid of the subsidies, the market would collapse for this, because they wouldn’t be able to they wouldn’t be able to afford. Isn’t that
Robert Bryce 40:23
the problem? And I, in fact, I just did a short power brief on the issue of the the three and a half trillion dollar reconciliation bill that through that we could see massive new subsidies for wind and solar. Yes, that would that would further distort the marketplace and wholesale electricity market. So it seems like despite the warnings that we’re seeing around the world, that this could be just ruinous in terms of reliability and affordability for the electric grid in the US.
Todd Royal 40:51
Well, not just that, but you’re going to look at resiliency.
Robert Bryce 40:55
Right? Well, that’s the i 140. Those are my those are my hobbyhorses affordability, reliability, resilience.
Todd Royal 41:00
And I had I had with it abundance and scalability. And also I had flexibility as well. So we really want to meet all those standards. The only one that meets It is natural gas, because it’s flexible, it can go up and down. Right.
Robert Bryce 41:13
But you have that problem of deliverability. Right. And just in time that just in time nature of the fuel, which Meredith Angwin has talked about it, it was one of the issues that was key here in Texas, in February, because we had such such high powered about such high power demand, the demand for power gas for power burn, and then also huge demand for home heating. But let’s let’s we’ve been talking for a while about you know that it kind of the broad scope about this. So what’s the way forward? Todd, what do you I mean, what? How do you see the climate debate? Or how should the US be thinking about climate change issues? And what’s the way forward?
Todd Royal 41:54
The way we should think about it is countries that are wealthier are environmentally cleaner. And the way the way that the energy vacuum, you talk about Vaclav Smil, you know, he’s given kind of this timeline. It’s usually about a 40 year timeline from somebody to go from coal to natural gas or oil, you kind of start like it, diesel fuel, petroleum, let’s say like the Puerto Ricans are at the moment, then you go to you know, then you go to coal, then you go to natural gas, then you you should go to nuclear. The way we need to think about it is look at and go How much are we actually warming? According to Richard Linzer, we’re at about 1.8 Fahrenheit about a degree Celsius, then we should look at what Bjorn Lomborg says, and even this has been backed up by the IP CC, that in 2100, my children hopefully are live is that global wealth and GDP, you know, GDP has gone up over 300%. And that if the Earth does warm four degrees, it’s going to take about two to 3% of global wealth. The point is stop talking about global warming and climate change. And let’s talk about is our grid stable? Is there energy for people? Let’s get the Chinese to be wealthier, let’s have the Indians be wealthier, and getting back to Africa. So the Indians are about to take over the Chinese with being the most populous country in the world in the next five to 10 years. The African continent is supposed to reach about 1.8 to 2.2 billion by around 2050 2060. We need to stop the climate debate. We need to stop talking about global warming climate change, because the Earth has warmed and it is cooled. Whether you believe in creationism.
Robert Bryce 43:40
Let me let me stop because I can I can already hear the you know the critics saying oh, there’s Royal. I know Bryce has given me a platform. It just doesn’t care. You know, he doesn’t understand an idiot. Yes, idiot. He’s a denier. Oh, he’s a denier. He’s a fool. Yeah, he’s a fool. He’s not that serious about these issues. So but what I hear you saying as you’re saying, there’s just too much focus on this one issue. And we Yes, and we need a broader focus. Is that a fair?
Todd Royal 44:05
Yes, yes, yes. Okay, the earth is warming. Well, let’s make it a cleaner earth then. And the only way to make it a cleaner Earth is for nations to prosper and become wealthier. If the Germans cannot figure out climate change the the beautifully technology, you know, the technology and the advancements that come out of Europe and particularly the Germans, and they are not figuring it out. They are turning back on their coal fired power plants. Then what we should be doing is talking about is going okay, first, we need resiliency in the winter. So let’s have a coal fired power plant. Let’s have coal stored on site. Then let’s use natural gas and then let’s mix in nucular. And then all of my critics, and no I’m not a denier is then be doing research that’s continuing to be done at the Department of Energy, and other wonderful research facilities around Around the world to make solar panels, wind turbines and stored systems more efficient, less costly, and not have to rely on as many rare earth minerals, which causes unbelievable amounts of environmental degradation. So I’m an all of the above approach person, because in the winter, you’re probably going to need coal. In the summers, the fall, when it’s not as cool. You can move to lower emitting natural gas, and zero carbon. And then also while you’re doing research, see if we can figure out how to bring electric vehicles lower down on the spectrum and stop making the whole thing on Todd’s a denier Robertson denier, you will not say the Earth’s warming uncontrollably when factually, that’s simply not true when you look at the whole course of human history, and even the history of this earth.
Robert Bryce 45:53
So a couple last questions, and my guest is Tom Royal. He’s the co author of a new book called Clean Energy exploitations. So what are you reading? Now, Todd? You’ve mentioned we’ve mentioned several you mentioned Plato, which I don’t can’t read for pleasure. We’ve talked about Vaclav Smil, and some others. So what’s on your bookshelf? What are you reading these days? Okay,
Todd Royal 46:11
my first one because I’ve asked my daughter, I’ve been reading a book my daughter recommended to me called Wish tree by Kate Applegate. And then this other book, my neighbor next door gave me which is really fascinating, called 30 days to understanding the Bible, by Mack Sanders. And so those are two, the wish tree book, it’s, these are such deep, hard topics, and you are going to get people that are gonna get mad at you get mad at me, right? He’s a denier. But these are hard topics. So honestly, there’s times I just want to go read a lovely book called Wish tree, about a book that gives shade and just gives your wishes and says that, you know, life is life is a beautiful, wonderful place. And then also, I am a Christian, I’m a church going guy believe in the Bible. So I bring more fodder to your to the critics. And so I’ve really enjoyed this understanding the Bible to see that it’s actually a beautifully constructed book. And I want to understand it outside of just the faith and the spiritual part of the faith in Christ. And God.
Robert Bryce 47:13
It’s interesting, you say what comes to mind was a big Jordan Peterson fan. And his podcast, of course, has some somewhat bigger number of listeners or downloaders than mine, but I’m getting there. Over 100,000 downloads so far for since we started. So that’s number. But he had a journalistic Barry Weiss on his program A while back, and here’s the I’ll get to the point here, she was the Wall Street Journal that she moved to the New York Times and had a very unpleasant experience of the New York Times, really around political correctness at the at the times. And she talked about her job, then at now she’s working, she has her own substack, and is doing an advocate through substack, apparently, quite successfully and good for her. But she said something that was interesting. And it comes to mind when you talk about being a Christian and a believer that she said that the people that she had encountered when dealing with these issues around political correctness, and canceled culture and so on, the ones that she found were the most formidable and the ones that were the most resolute and brought the most to the to the to the fight, were the people who had deep faith, which I thought was quite interesting, and that, that they’re not they work in the public sphere right there. They’re there. They’re out there in the fight their darkness, but they see the broader issue and they have a deeper purpose, I guess would be a way to think about it. And I just thought I’m just a it’s just a quick reaction because to what you said there because I think that that inner resilience is needed. If you’re going to take on some of these controversial issues.
Todd Royal 48:54
It isn’t really my faith and my belief in God. I mean, if you’re gonna have the Christian faith, you’re going to do take what Jesus said, which is go forth and make disciples and all the world. And what I’ve seen in my work and energies if people do not have energy and electricity, that’s everything. And so one of my life goals is the measurement show, whether it’s a billion people, or 4 billion people do not have either don’t have electricity, or don’t even have resilient, reliable electricity. I hope that one of my goals in life is to look on my head, you know, a tombstone one day and go, This guy tried to get 4 billion people electricity. And so faith, faith really helps me, gives me the backbone and guides me to say, call me a denier all you want. But there’s 600 million people in Africa that deserve a life every bit as much as I have.
Robert Bryce 49:40
Well, you may have already answered this question, but it’s a question I always end with. So what gives you hope Todd?
Todd Royal 49:48
gives me hope that we are talking about big issues these days. I know people think we’re divided. But whether it’s the Black Lives Matter movement, or whether it’s your climate change denier, we What gives me hope is that I find people are more open than ever to hear the gospel, I hear that people are more open than ever to even read books like this, which, and I find that people are more open than ever to listen to podcasts like yours, they want authenticity. That’s what I find more than anything. And what gives me hope is that people are looking around and going, be authentic, I may yell and scream and say I hate your guts. But if you’re authentic about it, I’m going to I’m going to give you respect for doing that. And I don’t think we’ve seen that in American life in quite a while. And so that gives me a lot of hope.
Robert Bryce 50:32
Well, good. Well, well in their job, Royal, many thanks for being on the power hungry podcast to get his new book. He’s the co author with Ron Stein have a new book called Clean Energy exploitations, which you can find at all find booksellers. So that’s it for this issue of the power hungry podcast. Thanks to all of you out there for tuning in and tune in for the next episode. Until then,
Todd Royal 50:53
Thanks, Robert. Thanks, Todd.