Stephen Lacey: From Greentech Media, this is The Energy Gang, a weekly digest on energy, cleantech and the environment, I'm Stephen Lacey. The scope of the Environmental Protection Agency expanded dramatically under President Obama. Now under President Trump and new administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency is likely to be scaled way back. Just how far back is unclear. There are a lot of clues including 7,500 pages of Scott Pruitt's emails. We've got a national reporter with us who's been covering the EPA and energy politics very closely. We'll discuss Pruitt's emails and his approach to running the EPA. Then, autonomy in the energy sector. Oil and gas jobs are the latest to come under threat. What is next?
Joining me as always is Katherine Hamilton, a partner with 38 North Solutions in Washington DC. Hey, Katherine.
Katherine Hamilton: Hi, it is just a beautiful April day here in Washington DC.
Stephen Lacey: Jigar Shah is the President of Generate Capital normally in New York City. He is in Savannah, Georgia this week, kind enough to join us on his vacation. Jigar, what's got you in Savannah.
Jigar Shah: Just a little family reunion.
Stephen Lacey: This week's guest joins us from Washington DC as well. Emily Holden is a reporter with E&E News' Climate Wire where she's been painstakingly reporting on the mechanics of the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Before that, she covered the Federal Budget, Taxes, and Energy Policy over the years. Emily, welcome.
Emily Holden: Thank you.
Stephen Lacey: You're actually joining us from the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference known as CPAC. This is an event that brings together the who's who in conservative politics and media. What kind of energy and climate stories are you following there?
Emily Holden: It's the first full day here. They started yesterday and had some training sessions. The first panel I went to this morning was about fake climate news. Basically, the panelists there were talking about how they really feel emboldened under the Trump administration that their views about climate science, they're skeptical or opposing those mainstream climate science will finally be heard under this administration.
Stephen Lacey: How representative of the conservative movement is this crowd?
Emily Holden: These are people who are really motivated, I think, to move the party to their right with some exceptions. Some of the people I talked to this morning just regular attendees included had like stay at home moms who were here because they feel that the country has been going in the wrong direction and they want to be more involved in politics. People like that, also, the state and party leaders and national political leaders.
Stephen Lacey: We appreciate you taking time out of your reporting day to talk with us about this very newsy week. As I've said, we're going to talk about the future of EPA under Scott Pruitt who thinks that that agency has been going in the wrong direction. First, if a court ordered you to release all your work emails, what do you think they'd find? For me, a lot of harried responses and interview requests along with abundant apologizes for taking so long to respond to people, the occasional gif, a lot of forwarded newsletters and links, and a healthy dose of acronyms.
Former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's emails contain a lot of similar content. Meeting requests, links to OP-EDs and articles and obscure legal jargon. There's one notable exception, a strong alliance with the fossil fuel industry. This week, as Pruitt started his job as America's top environmental cop, 7500 pages of his past emails were released on court order and they provide this window into how he'll manage the agency that he has spent a long time attacking. In fact he sued the EPA 14 times. Katherine, let's start with some background here. What can you tell us about Pruitt's career?
Katherine Hamilton: He's 49 years old. He served in the Oklahoma Senate for eight years, from 1998 to 2006. That was early on in his career. He ran for Attorney General and did not make it the first time and then in 2010, he became the Attorney General of Oklahoma. He's very conservative, a traditional conservative on social issues. He's very much of a Federalist so the new kind of Federalist which is really getting authority back into the states. He is a self-described, this is in quotes that he described himself this way, leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda.
That's what he's been focused on. As you said, he sued the EPA over a dozen times, unsuccessfully, I might add. He also, when he was at the Attorney General's office, he moved attorneys from environmental protection to the public protection unit. He changed a lot of their function from environmental protection just to public protection. When he sued the EPA, it was over the Clean Power Plan of course, and WOTUS, which is Waters of the United States that dictates which bodies of water the federal government has authorities over and what kind of authority they have. It's a big piece of rule-making that was completed the same year that the Clean Power Plan was in 2015. This was, for the most part, on behalf of utilities that were unwilling to comply with coal regulations that were governed by the statutes that produced these plans.
Stephen Lacey: Federalism is big piece of his philosophy. He gave a speech to the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency this week and he outlined the importance of his Federalist philosophy and how he'll run EPA. Emily, what do we know about how Pruitt may take that vision and apply it to the Environmental Protection Agency? What did we learn this week during that speech?
Emily Holden: I don't know how much in particular we learned from the speech except what his tone could be with agency employees. I think that he was trying to reassure them a bit. I don't know if that was successful. Most of the people that we have talked to who were leaving EPA that day said that they were still worried but they would give him a chance and they would see what is to come. I think the Clean Power Plan is a good example of what he might do instead. He has said that he thinks that that rule which would reduce power sector carbon emissions has stepped outside the boundaries of what EPA can do. He says frequently that he thinks those things should be left up to the states. I think what he would focus on if he had to replace that would be much more narrow, something that look just at coal plants in particular.
Katherine Hamilton: I would just jump in and say that, remember most of EPA, these are career people that have been working on regulation for a long time. Everything that they do is based on statute. It's not like they're creating statute. They're just executing on statute. I think part of what was a little disheartening to some of the people who were there, first of all, not everybody is a Democrat who works there, there are just all kind of people who work at the EPA. Also, he talked a lot about being open and transparent and objective in engaging stakeholders which is exactly what EPA did when they were developing the Clean Power Plan and WOTUS.
They were all of those things so I think part of this is a little bit of a disconnect of someone coming in who doesn't really know how the EPA functions. It's functioning the way it's supposed to do and it's designed to do. That disconnect, hopefully, that can be sealed up with the employees that are there. I think, their job is to execute on the mission of EPA and the statutes.
Jigar Shah: This seems like a reoccurring theme over and over again within Trump cabinet officials. Whether it was Rick Perry who said that he wanted to shut down Department of Energy and then realized it was really managing our nuclear assets and then Pruitt coming in at EPA saying that he really wants to minimize EPA to its smallest amount. How much do you think that these folks are all going to basically start to be humbled by the agencies they run? It seems like Rick Perry pretty quickly but Pruitt seems dedicated to the cause here.
Stephen Lacey: It's a really good question. It's pretty early to tell because Pruitt didn't make explicit statements like Rick Perry did. Rick Perry said, "I sat down with officials, I changed my mind." Pruitt hasn't said anything so explicit but he did take a different tone. Is this just a first week PR thing to reassure employees or do you get the sense that he's taking the job seriously?
Emily Holden: I think he is taking the job seriously and the agenda of the regulations that he has said repeatedly that he would want to rollback and that he has brought lawsuits against. He truly believes that those are illegal. I think if he's in charge of the EPA, he's going to do everything that he can to reverse some of those to make them legal in his eyes. As he is as a person, the people I've talked to who have worked with him whether it's other state Attorney Generals or people in industry, they say he's pretty likable. They think he will be a good boss. I think that's yet to be seen.
Jigar Shah: My sense is that the more I read about EPA and the way these things work is, the rules that are under contemplation like the Clean Power Act and others, can get thwarted but the stuff that's really been in place for a very long time, he really is going to be in charge of making sure that those get executed properly. Things like the Atomic Energy Act and the Clean Air Act that was passed, the Clean Water Act or the Endangered Species Act, some of these things, I don't know how he can proactively undermine them from his chair without significant lawsuits coming from environmental groups.
Stephen Lacey: That's a really good segue way into what will happen with the Clean Power Plan. Emily, I think you are one of the foremost expert journalist on the Clean Power Plan. You have been covering this beat very, very closely for the last couple of years. What is the pathway for starting to dismantle Obama's EPA climate regulations?
Emily Holden: I think that's a good point while Pruitt might want to take apart a lot of these regulations, for the Clean Power Plan, it's going to be pretty difficult. There are a couple of different things he could do but essentially, for the EPA itself to roll this back, they would have to come back with another rule-making, go through the whole formal process, and either say, "Here's why we think what we did was wrong previously", or replace it with something that Pruitt believes to be legal which would not have the same emissions reductions at all.
That will take a very long time. You'll have to take comment, review that comment, take a long time to develop a rule, there will be lawsuits from environmentalists and public interest groups, and that court process also could play out for a long time. Even if they do succeed in stalling this, which I think is very likely, is that this plays out over at least several years. At the end of the day, there are underlying laws that would be very difficult to gut that say that EPA has an obligation to work on this issue.
Katherine Hamilton: Also, Emily, doesn't it have to continue to work its way through the court system? Obviously EPA is going to decide not to continue to fight on behalf of their rule. Will others do that? Will it still go through the circuit court and then the Supreme Court process before a decision is made?
Emily Holden: That's one of the complicating factors here. I think some people in the industry expected that when President Trump took office, he would send a letter to the court essentially saying, "We don't believe that this rule is legal. We're re-evaluating it. If you would like to stop considering it for now, that would be great", something along those lines. He hasn't done that yet. He hasn't taken action on the Clean Power Plan at all or issued anything sort of Executive Order about what he wants Scott Pruitt to do. Most of the people I've talked to have said that's because he was waiting for Scott Pruitt to be confirmed. They didn't want to complicate that process or make it more difficult for him to get through Senate confirmation.
Basically, the US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit has been considering this case since they heard oral arguments in September and a decision is supposed to come down any day now. That could affect the calculus of what Scott Pruitt decides to do in response.
Jigar Shah: That sounds like you're giving President Trump the benefit of the doubt which I'm not sure I would do. I think he probably just has been surrounded by chaos and couldn't get around to it because he is not focused on it. I'm curious in the emails whether you actually feel like there's something unusual about the coziness that Scott Pruitt has with the fossil fuel industry.
Emily Holden: I think I would say it's not that often that we get to peer into emails of public officials with specific industries. I don't know that I in particular have a direct comparison. I think a lot of what we saw in these most recent emails, we already knew. The New York Times had a good piece in 2014 about Scott Pruitt and how he had worked with energy companies in his state. He essentially got language from them on a letter they wanted sent to EPA and without many changes, sent that and put it on a letterhead with his signature about how they were estimating the air pollution effects from gas wells.
I think this gave you a little more color, a little more background into how his staffers were talking to energy company employees, but I don't know that it necessarily told us something new.
Stephen Lacey: Yes, I agree, nor did it say that he was doing anything illegal but it suggests a very friendly relationship with many fossil fuel companies operating in Oklahoma and nationally. Were there any anecdotes out of these new emails that you or your team uncovered that were particularly interesting?
Emily Holden: I think one thing that we found interesting was how closely his staff was working not just with energy companies but with conservative foundations like AFP and also a local group called the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs which bills itself as a local version of the Heritage Foundation in setting up his appearances where he would speak in talking about what his message would be and how it compared to their own message and streamlining that.
Stephen Lacey: Katherine or Jigar, what is different here in your eyes? The cut and paste job happens a lot in lawmaking, in lobbying. It's known that you take the interests of the people you're representing, and a lot of cut and pasting happens when you're crafting a piece of legislation or something else that benefits their interests. Pruitt was basically doing what a lot of other interest groups do but he is, of course, Attorney General in Oklahoma and representing the people's interests. There is something different here. I'm wondering what in your eyes is different from how a lot of other lobbying and cozy relationships work in politics.
Katherine Hamilton: I've been a lobbyist for a long time. I'm considered a subject matter expert so I'll get called up by different offices to say, "Hey, do you have any idea? I'm interested in this subject about clean energy, let's talk about what that could look like." With lobbying, it's a constitutional right, you go and you can express your opinion but you can also convey information and expertise to someone to help them formulate what the policy is that they're interested in moving forward. There's nothing wrong with that.
The issue is when you then take it to be exactly, if that becomes the mouthpiece for someone else. One thing that I just have concern about is that the mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment, air, water, and land. His mission is going to be humans, the health and the environment. His mission is not create regulation that benefits business. That's not part of the mission of EPA. He's going to have to shift from really taking on the part of business to really looking at how do I protect human health and the environment. That's very clear in EPA's mission statement.
I know that there is some flexibility, certainly, EPA has to work with states, local tribal agencies, in the manner in which they execute the compliance of environmental laws. Maybe he will give more deference to states because he seems to be more of a Federalist. In the end, he still is mission-driven now that he's in the Federal government.
Jigar Shah: Yeah, that's what scares me about him. I actually don't have a problem with the cutting and pasting piece of it. The problem that I have is that he seems particularly dedicated to the cause over a very long period of time. Even when you look at Oklahoma where his predecessor, Drew Edmonson lodged the Tyson Foods and other poultry companies were dumping too much chicken manure into the river such that the river was choked with toxic algae. As soon as he became Attorney General he dropped the case, downgraded it to a voluntary investigation, and then amazingly, the poultry industry donated $40,000 to his re-election campaign. He just seems very focused on figuring out how to be business-friendly to the detriment of human health. He just thinks that we worry a little bit too much about human health which seems like an odd thing for an Attorney General to do.
The other piece here is the earthquakes. Oklahoma has been riddled with earthquakes because of fracking in the last decade. Oklahoma is not a place where you get a lot of earthquakes in general but in 2015 they endured 857 earthquakes with a magnitude above 3.0. A lot of property damage, a lot of other issues going on. Residents of the state of Oklahoma have taken to the courts to actually start suing oil and gas companies and Scott Pruitt's been siding with oil and gas companies over Oklahoma residents. It feels like he's very dedicated to figuring out how to bend the rules for corporations and not really susceptible to seeing it from the human side of things.
Emily Holden: I would just cut in. I think I wrote a story in January with a headline, "How Scott Pruitt rode a wave of Federalism to power". When he was coming into office, this was a time when state Republican Attorneys General around the country were really pushing this argument that the Federal government was out of control and that state should be in charge of many of the things that the government especially the executive branch was trying to legislate on its own. It's a little difficult to tell whether that is something that he has always felt versus whether it's something that he is doing on behalf of companies. I think a lot of people would say that is genuine, no, he this is how he thinks that the country should be run, he has a real view that what the executive branch has been doing is illegal.
Jigar Shah: I think the Bush administration actually shows probably that this isn't going to be that bad, that ultimately, he can slow off things, he can do stuff, but ultimately environmental laws are one of the unique places where outside groups can actually lead lawsuits to force the EPA to actually do its job. My sense is there's going to be hundreds of millions of dollars raised for NRDC and others to be able to do just that. My sense is that the lot of the populations that are impacted by the slow walking of regulations are going to have to get more vocal and they probably will get more vocal because this is the kind of stuff that's really great for television and really great for media to pickup on. There are stories that people love reading and images that people that breaks their heart. My sense is that he's going to have a lot less impact than even he thinks he could have just because EPA is just one of those places where-
Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, that's right. If Congress is also trying to rollback the Affordable Care Act so people are losing thief health care benefits and their in places where the environment is getting worse, often, those are in rural settings and in Trump country. This is going to get to see people a lot more engaged and as they engage on the health care side, they're also going to engage on the environmental side.
Jigar Shah: The other thing that you find with EPA is that when you slow off regulation and try to pro-actively repeal stuff, it takes five years. It's really hard to get something done in four years just because of all of the steps that you're required which Carol Browner learned during the Clinton administration which is why she ran out of time for half of the stuff she wanted to do and she got Lisa Jackson to start everything on day one. It's not clear to me whether Trump only serves one term that Pruitt's going to have any impact at all.
Emily Holden: I think a lot of that is true about how long it could take to reverse some of the Obama administration's efforts here. But I think it's also important to note that there are programs like think about the enforcement shop for example at EPA. We reported that from talking with sources familiar with the administration's thinking that they could potentially close that shop was which is actually pretty much what happened under the Reagan administration under EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch. I talked with someone who was working at EPA at that time who is no longer with EPA who essentially said she ended up moving to another office because they just couldn't bring environmental enforcement cases at all, they were told not to. They couldn't prosecute companies for pollution in the same way. That had a real impact for a few years.
Jigar Shah: I don't think it had an impact. This is what I'm saying is that, if EPA doesn't bring a lawsuit against a company, that doesn't mean the company can pollute with impunity because if they decided to, let's say, not follow the law and put a bunch of stuff in there that would pollute, as soon as another person came into office, they would literally have to shut down their plant. You're seeing a lot of companies just say that like a lot of the utilities CEO saying, "He might make the regulations a little bit easier to comply with but we're still going to comply with what we think is going to happen under a new administration because we can't take a 25 year coal plant and just shut it down four years from now because we've got a less friendly EPA administrator.
Emily Holden: I think that's absolutely true for the utility sector. I think that they're all looking to the next administration and expecting stricter carbon regulation than they might have seen otherwise. I think it might not necessarily be as true for other industries that the EPA keeps an eye on.
Stephen Lacey: You talked to many of the CEOs of top utilities and they will say, "This transition is happening anyway with or without the Clean Power Plan. We're making the investments for a variety of reasons, for local policy reasons, and for economic reasons." The US is already on track to hit the targets under the Clean Power Plan anyway with or without the policy.
Katherine Hamilton: Our economy is global and globally, everybody else is moving to lower carbon emissions, so in order for companies to be competitive, they have to do the same.
Stephen Lacey: Emily, you've cataloged how states are going to meet Obama's climate regulations crafted by the EPA for the last couple of years. Now, I guess you're going to catalog the demise of those regulations or at least the attempted battle against those regulations under Pruitt. You're a beat reporter, you've got this really specific focus, what is it like to suddenly find yourself covering this jarring shift in the story?
Emily Holden: It's been really interesting. I was writing the night of the election, late into the night, and I think a lot of the consultants even didn't really have their white papers ready to go on this and what this would mean for the energy sector. They had a backup version that they did not think they were going to need to use and so it tool a lot of quick shifting of gears to think out what this would mean. This beat in particular though, has seen so many different faces.
I've been following it, basically, since the draft rule came out several years ago. During that time, people were just trying to understand it, then the final came out, it was very different. Then you had states planning, you had some refusing to plan, and then a lot of them said, "Okay, we will because our utilities think it's a good idea and this is probably going to move forward." At one point, you had a lot of states looking at carbon trading, even behind the scenes, even Republican states because they thought that it would be the least cost and the simplest option if they did have to comply with this rule. Then everything changed. The Supreme Court stay came down, a lot of planning stopped. Then again, September, it looks like EPA had a really great day in court and I think people were starting to think that maybe they should look at their backup plans. Then, with the election it all flipped again. Really, nothing can surprise me on this beat. It keeps you on your toes.
Stephen Lacey: Emily Holden is a reporter with Climate Wire. You can read her articles at eenews.net and follow her on Twitter @emilyhholden. Thanks a lot for your time, really appreciate it. I know you're running around there so we'll let you go. Good luck reporting this ever evolving beat. We'll keep tuned to the stories that you drum up.
Emily Holden: Thank you.
Stephen Lacey: The New York Times this week published a thought provoking article on automation in the oil and gas sector. The piece featured some noteworthy stats. For example, today, there are 1/3 the drilling rigs operating in the US as there were in 2014 but production is down only around 10 percent from record highs. Even with 163,000 jobs lost before the 2014 oil price crash, production is near historic highs still and only a fraction of the jobs have returned.
Robots are going to take more and more of our jobs and the fossil fuel sector is in the throes of its own automation transition, a transition that is good for producers but bad for jobs. The question is, when is that transition coming for labor-intensive clean tech? Jigar, any thoughts on that New York Times article to start?
Jigar Shah: I thought it was a fascinating article. It doesn't surprise me. I thought the New York times really got this wrong on what the drivers were. This is really driven by, I think, safety. In general, a lot of these jobs are not safe jobs. A lot of these jobs are subject to repetitive stress injuries and a lot of other issues. The oil industry, for all of its evil characteristics that people like to put on them is a pretty outstanding industry that tries really hard to keep its workers safe. Some of these jobs are really difficult to do that and robots and automated drilling rigs and other things provide an ability to do that. I thought the story in the New York Times was fascinating by Clifford Krauss.
I also think that it is going to come to the clean energy industry. I think it comes to every industry whether it's agriculture, or auto manufacturing or whatever. As industries mature, they figure out how to make each of their jobs into more discrete things which require less flexibility and therefore can be done by a robot.
Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, there was a USA Today story too that really looked at across sector and across industries what could be automated and you can see jobs that combine a need for physical strength and precision and that are very predictable and repetitive are much easier and probably as Jigar says, safer to automate.
I've been to lots of plants recently that are robotics, Tesla, Bloom, Proterra. One of the most interesting ones I've visited was Voith Hydro. Ninety percent of what they do is rehab a hundred year old pieces of hydroelectric dams. They also have in their low-impact hydro segment of what they do, it requires really high precision so they use robotics and lasers to do that but it's really important to have humans there too.
The human impact, it takes five years to go through the welding program there because they need such a high level of skills in combination with the automation to make sure that everything is done in the highest quality way. I think this is just a matter of evolving so that our labor force changes its skill set or grows its skill set to match what we need in industry and what we expect from industry.
Jigar Shah: One of the only places where this hasn't happened is, frankly, in home building. We've had the technologies to make manufactured homes for years at much higher quality and we just have continue that stick built homes. I think this is just the way of things. I think we're certainly in an upswing in the renewable energy industry where we're hiring 3,000 to 5,000 a month which is great. At some point, 20, 25 years from now, we probably will see declines in that on those employment numbers due to automation.
Stephen Lacey: Probably faster than that. I want to address two points that you both made. The first one, Jigar is what kind of jobs are being replaced in oil and gas? You're absolutely right that many of them are the most dangerous jobs either because of acute danger or long term danger associated with their stress, they're repetitive, stress-related injuries. But these are jobs that people are really proud of. A lot of folks who work with their hands are proud of the fact that they may have a more dangerous job. These are the kind of gritty jobs that America was built on.
When you take a look at the jobs that are replacing them, they require a lot of education and many years of training. Inevitably, you're supporting the, for lack of a better phrase, the elite, the people who are coming out of Universities who are getting MBAs, who are going to engineering programs or maybe even getting their PhDs.
That feeds into your point Katherine. Yes, these offer a lot of really exciting opportunities but the government is not doing anything to prepare these people for the next generation workforce. They are just doing a terrible job at grappling with how you get the folks who are working with their hands into schools and preparing for these wildly different job opportunities. There is a major problem here that I don't think we've even begun to wrestle with.
Katherine Hamilton: Yes. I think two things. One is, we still do need people who knew how to work with their hands. We still need builders, for the grid, for roads, for pipelines, for bridges, for infrastructure. I still think you need those skills, you also quite often, in addition to those skills need some technical skills but that don't require a PhD, but this require technical training. I think you're right. We have to have a really intentional transition effort from jobs that are being lost to the new sectors that are really growing, and try to figure out what are those skill sets, how do we grown those skill sets. I know that I've mentioned this group before but the Coal Field Development Corporation in west Virginia has this quality jobs initiatives where they're teaching former coal workers, how to do other things using the skills that they have and whether that is building homes or putting solar on rooftops or operating wind plant which a lot of vets are going that people especially submarine operators that that skill transition really well to operating in a wind facility.
I think we have to have a much more intentional program, and I think it would be great if the department of labor could do that because because that's something that the President seems to want to really push, is making sure that we have jobs in manufacturing and to transition those skills.
Jigar Shah: There's two pieces here. One is, Stephen, I think to your point, look, I get the fact that people want to do dangerous jobs but as somebody who has employed a lot of people, I don't love seeing people get hurt on the job. It's sort of is what it is. There's going to be a national tension and I'm happy to side with employees safety over their desire to do risky stuff. I think on Katherine's point, I have pushed this a lot and I've come to the realization that the problem with worker re-training is that people just need to freaking movie. Nobody wants to move. Even Hillary Clinton is like big like coal re-training program.
It started off in the first paragraph saying, "we will not require you to move". That is what dooms is all of these free training programs. My son says that people really need to go into indeed.com, look for a job that needs their skills, and then, the Federal government should just pay that company to hire that person for an entire year and to train them into that new job. It's going to require them to move. As someone who is a first generation immigrant to the US, most of my family members in our family moved when we didn't have employment and. I think that's the biggest problem with unemployment in these areas because people won't freaking move.
Stephen Lacey: I think you've actually made that point before on the show. I think the most disheartening thing for me in the Trump era politics is that, in my opinion, a lot of pundits and analysts and people in the press are not really paying attention to the underlying economic factors that contributed to our very divisive explosive, vitriolic politics and the rise of Trump.
You have a lot of people that feel completely left behind in this country as we all know. That's clear but no one is talking about the actual solutions. Instead. We're talking about an immigration ban, and getting rid of people's health care and not actually the underlying economic factors across this country, and this feeds into government programs to prepare people for the next generation workforce. Energy is one of the most dramatically fast-changing industries there is. The government really hasn't even begun to grapple with this.
Jigar Shah: Look, I think the government deliberately, basically put their head in the sand on these issues. There's definitely a lot of us that hae talked about it. I lived it. I grew up in Sterling, Illinois, which had the seventh largest steel mill in the country that was dying when I was there and was dead by the time I left. None of the people that I graduated from high school with has ever really gotten a decent job since we graduate form High School. Probably all voted for Trump be 20 years went by and they're still making $12-$14 and hour. I think that this occurred because for a long time, we just believed so strongly in this trickle down economics.
Bill Clinton basically moved the entire Democratic Party that direction and sort of said, "Look, we'll retrain you. Don't worry about it. Never mind the fact that none of the data, actually all of the date already shows all of the data that the retraining didn't work compared to control group.
But they didn't change it under Obama , they didn't change the way that the trained workers. They basically said, "Yeah, well, whatever." "We're getting a lot of internet donors and a lot of other donors on the other side. Who cares about these people. Have people like Rick Santorum and people like Pat Buchanan before him. Others have really catered to these workers and these people and Trump basically just exploited an entire loophole here. We've known that this was a problem and we've deliberately put our head in the sand for a long time.
Stephen Lacey: It's a helpful exercise to think about the kinds of jobs in clean tech or the utility space that could be lost over the coming decade or decades. I was putting the other, really quick list as I thought about this before we started recording. Utility, line men or the line people who are out in the field actually doing many other repairs and Katherine, you can speak to that.
Phone operators and back office staff within utilities as more of those operations get automated. There's just hardware manufacturing in the Clean Tech space. I don't quite know, maybe Jigar, you can share some thoughts on how installation could become a little bit more automated. Site location, scouting for example is one way to cut down on resources. Then there's just this broad O&M space out in the field in terms of Power Plant management, cleaning, panels, inspecting equipment and so forth. There's a ton of different areas where automation could have a pretty significant impact.
Jigar Shah: For sure. I think there was that great article which, I can't remember off the top my head who wrote it but about exactly how automation's going to affect solar jobs. I agree with almost all of it. My sense is that what I believe is that solar is really the tip of the spear and that those jobs will remain by helping people get to net zero energy buildings.
To me, solar is just a sex appeal that gets you in the door at gets to sail. But then you got to go to the Smart home and you've got o get to smart appliances and you've got to get to all the other pieces that require someone to enter the home and do work in your home not unlike the cable company or the electric company or some of the other jobs that really haven't been lost to automation. I agree with you completely that the job characteristics are going to change but I don't know that they're going to be lost.
Katherine Hamilton: When I was at a utility back in the day, we used to use divining rods to find where underground lines were. There were guys that did this and we're fully committed to the fact that they could find anything underground and I believed them. Technology changes things. There are pieces of equipment that can do that now and that's fine. I think that is the way the world works is that we evolve, we learn new things, we become more productive. We've just also Democratize innovations so so many more people are innovating in all different parts especially the electric grid but everywhere else, too
I think society is changing. I think what we don't want to lose is I am not a dependent that we necessarily need everybody to move. I think we want to make sure that people can find what they need and what they want and what they can grow, where they are. West Virginia is of the most beautiful states in the country. People own their homes in a lot of cases, in other cases, they're building a more affordable housing there and using solar. I think it's important for people to find an ability to do what they want to do where they want to do it.
Stephen Lacey: Go, read this piece. It will be linked on our podcast page in the show notes there on your mobile device. You can click through the link or just go to GreenTechmedia.com and check it out. It is eyeopening. I was surprised to see that tens of thousands of jobs basically vanished overnight. From 2015 until now, tens of thousands of jobs in oil and gas that are never coming back. It has me thinking about at what point that happens in the utility sector or in Clean Tech whish is still very jobs intensive. Let's tell our listeners something they don't. Katherine, what is your story this week?
Katherine Hamilton: There was a couple of reports that came out of Michigan. One from the advanced energy economy institute, and the other report that was jointly done by Michigan agency for energy and Michigan public service commission. What they found is that demand response could completely eliminate the need for new Power Plants in Michigan. They get to avoid new natural gas plants. They could avoid having to prop up nuclear plants. 2,000 megawatts from summer demand through demand reduction through demand response. This is something that is tried and true. Utilities are on board and I feel like, if we can just keep moving with that's ove very simple way to reduce having to build more Power Plants.
Jigar Shah: What's interesting is that the economist who I've railed against for years published a piece this last week, making the exact same argument that renewable energy was completely disrupting our markets. We really should turn to demand response and load shifting as the way to accommodate renewables as opposed to more natural gas central generation.
Stephen Lacey: Jigar, what do you got for a story this week?
Jigar Shah: I wanted to highlight to all of our listeners that this week, there was the 2017 advanced nuclear summit by Third Way in DC. It was an interesting collection of people. A lot of senators, a lot of Congressmen, AFLCIO, then some of the other folks who've been there before from Carol Browner who's one the leadership council and nuclear matters and some of these other folks.
It does feel like the nuclear industry is finally getting out of their own way and trying to come together around a positive message of technology improvement and growth. I don't quite think that they've hit their stride yet but it was interesting to see the conference.
Katherine Hamilton: I feel bad that the Clean Power Plan is going to be dismantled because they really had the zero admission going for them federally. Now they got to use other arguments.
Stephen Lacey: Just a quick note on Tesla here. They had their shareholder call yesterday and the second half of this year is going to be a big one because Musks said that they're going roll out the solar roof in the second half of 2017. Also, expect too by the 4th quarter of this year, be making 5,000 model 3 cars per week. Possibly at the beginning of 2018, 10,000 model 3 cars per week.
Tesla is burning a lot of cash as it prepares to ramp up production and rework solar city. Investors have penalized the company. I think shares are down by about 5 percent upon this recording. The second half of this year is going to basically a big one for new products coming out of Tesla and we're going to keep our eyes on that.
Jigar Shah: One thing I have to say about Tesla is that they're really getting a lot of competition. It's really extraordinary to me how many electric vehicles are getting released this year as well as plugged in hybrids and cars that have autonomous driving features. Kudos to Tesla for pushing the marketplace to where it is today but I do think that the slow lumbering, traditional auto makers are catching up.
Stephen Lacey: It's something Elon Musk has called for. He said there's not enough competition in this space a couple of years when he initially unleashed many of Tesla's patents. He's getting his wish but nobody can money on these cars yet. I think general motors is losing nearly $10,000 for every bolt it sells. Musk said that their going to lose money on every model three, for the first batch of cars. The big question is when people are actually going to start making money on these more mainstream $30,000 range, EVAs?
Jigar Shah: That'll be all that demand response revenue that Katherine and I are trying to put together.
Katherine Hamilton: Here you go.
Stephen Lacey: That's it folks. Follow us on SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes, and anywhere else you might get your podcasts. Send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org or better yet, send us a tweet. We do love feedback from our listeners. Send us any comments you have about the show or any story ideas, we are at the Energy Gang. Jigar, Katherine and I are all on Twitter as well so we love to hear from you. Katherine, have a good week and weekend, we'll catch you next week.
Katherine Hamilton: Thanks, you too.
Stephen Lacey: Jigar enjoy Savannah.
Jigar Shah: I am and I will.
Stephen Lacey: With Katherine Hamilton and Jigar Shah, I'm Stephen Lacey and we are the Energy Gang, a production of Greentechmedia.com, catch you next week.