by Stephen Lacey
February 26, 2018

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Stephen Lacey: There are 60,000 large-scale wind turbines in America. That means over a million and half households are located five miles from a turbine, and they're actually inching closer to homes on average. So how do those machines impact our property values, our soundscapes and our quality of life? The Lawrence Berkeley lab has a bunch of research on the impact of wind turbines on our lives and we're going to dive into it.

Then we're going to talk about the president's state of the union address. Trump declared an end to the war on American energy, whatever that means. We'll talk about what he thinks he means by that and what it actually means.

And finally, Massachusetts chooses the Northern Pass project to supply 17 percent of its electricity with Canadian hydro. Of course there's controversy, we'll dig in. Here to dig alongside me are Katherine Hamilton and Jigar Shah. Katherine is a partner at 38 North Solutions. She's in Washington DC, fresh off her trip to Davos at the world economic forum. Katherine, how are you? I assume happy that you don't have to trudge around in six feet of snow?

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, definitely. It's so good to be stateside and just schlepping around for clients. Although it was really great to be there and I learned a ton and I was really, really busy. So it's always a really good experience.

Stephen Lacey: Jigar Shah is the president of Generate Capital. He is in Washington, D.C. as well, just outside Washington, D.C. Jigar, how are you? I understand that you're doing a little bit of politicking these days?

Jigar Shah: Yeah, we're hosting a fundraiser for Ben Jealous, who is the former president of NAACP. He's running for governor of Maryland. He's got a huge green jobs agenda, so looking to support my climate hawks.

Stephen Lacey: Great. Well just to be clear, I am a journalist and editor, so I make no endorsements of any candidates, but Jigar of course can endorse any candidate he wishes. I want to get that out of the way.

Let's talk wind development now. I'm sitting here in my house, my new house, tucked away in an east Boston residential neighborhood. It's super quiet. You know, around me sits an airport, a bunch of gas storage, a highway and port infrastructure. I'm literally surrounded by industrialization. Luckily I'm kind of tucked away, so it's not too loud, but I can definitely hear this din of activity around me.

So if a large scale multi-megawatt wind turbine were installed within a mile or two of my house, I wouldn't notice much. But if I were in a rural area or out in the suburbs, it would probably be a bigger deal. In fact, most wind projects are built in rural areas, places where there's greater sensitivity to how these machines impact quality of life. So now we have decades of experience with exactly that, how wind influences property values, soundscapes, view-sheds and community planning. We chose this subject this week because the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is releasing a series or reports over the coming months about the massive amount of data its cataloged on the subject, and it caught our eye. So we're going to explore that it tells us.

Katherine, you tuned into this first in a series of webinars this week on whether wind turbines make good neighbors, and the Berkeley lab researchers analyzed attitudes from 1,700 random people living near wind turbines around the country. What did they find?

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, super interesting, and I just want to give a shout out to Ben Hoen and Joe Rand for this, at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the electricity markets and policy group, for this analysis of 1,705 wind neighbors.

One thing is that because of the progress in wind energy, the distance in between homes and communities and wind turbines has been consistently decreasing. That said, what they found when they did their study was that support has been consistently high in North America, that the NIMB, the "not in my backyard" explanation for resistance really doesn't hold water. That socioeconomic impact, so whether you're paid yourself or your community is somehow compensated, is very much tied to acceptance. That sound and visual, you know, if you like whether it looks, if you think it makes too much noise. It's really tied to opposition but it does not have necessarily anything to do with distance from the turbines.

Interestingly, there were not statistical differences based on education, income, gender or race. They did not ask political party because they were worried that they would get hung up on during these calls because that's always contentious. But it was pretty interesting that there is not a correlation between how close a turbine is necessarily and whether someone is for or in opposition to wind. It's much more based on whether you've really done your homework, made sure that communities are compensated or benefit in some way, and that they're included in part of the planning process.

Jigar Shah: Or if you really just want to a payday.

Stephen Lacey: What do you mean by that?

Jigar Shah: Well, like, you had those two homeowners in Vermont that sued SunEdison First Wind for over two years because they wanted someone to pay above market for their house. I mean, the same thing is true for a lot of people who complain, right? This is sort of a way to get $100 million project to pay for buying them out.

Katherine Hamilton: I would say, honestly, First Wind did a really good job of building relationships with communities. They listened to folks. They made adjustments. Some of their projects are pretty interesting, you can't really see them from the road at all. So they did work really hard to make sure that they got community acceptance.

Stephen Lacey: I don't know that we can't pay everybody's motivations with that same paintbrush, Jigar. I mean, maybe some people are looking for a payout, but this is such a complicated matter, right? You know, people who may be traditional environmentalists or supporters of renewable energy are often the folks who oppose some of these projects, particularly when they're on sensitive lands. But what this data does show us is that the vast majority of people are often not opposed or are not unhappy with the project after it's built.

Katherine Hamilton: Also, what they found was that ... and they asked these residents who lived within a half a mile of the project and were there before the project was constructed, whether they would prefer to live near the project or solar, natural gas, coal, or a nuclear plant. Solar and wind came out about equal. People like to be near either of those but much preferred wind to natural gas, coal or nuclear, by far.

Jigar Shah: Yeah, because there's no negative emissions coming from a wind or a solar farm, right? I mean the thing that I find to be so striking about this is the reason why we have these results, which I think are very gratifying, is that we've spend a shit-ton of money on public relations and local communities.

When SunEdison built the very first multi-megawatt solar farm in the United States in Alamosa, Colorado, we sent somebody to the town a year before construction to talk to everybody. That person went to town meetings every night of the week. There were two people who hated the project and we've worked to educate them for nine months so that they would support the project. We wanted 100 percent support.

Stephen Lacey: Yeah, but this is still pretty new. I mean eight or nine years ago if you talked to a lot of developers, they were trying to figure this out and had a lot of negative experiences because they just assumed that developing a renewable energy project would gain a lot of acceptance. And this is just like any other type of industrial development, you have to engage the community from the get-go and make them feel like they have some kind of stake in it.

That wasn't always the case. I remember doing panel discussions with developers, roughly nine, 10 years ago, and many of them shared horror stories because they were learning on-the-fly about how to develop big projects in communities where there wasn't going to be acceptance outright. They have to act just like any other commercial or industrial developer.

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, and what was interesting was that the distance from the project made people less neutral but it didn't mean that it made them more negative. It really did depend on the outreach, how that was all handled and the perception of the project, not necessarily the distance from the project.

Jigar Shah: Yeah, no, that makes sense. I think that, I mean the reason I get so worked up about it is because in my entire career and even now, where we're buying anaerobic digesters and lots of other equipment that is not as easily accepted by the community, we spend a lot of time and money on community outreach. It's one of those things where, you know, recently Gatehouse Media which owns 130 newspapers, did a hatchet job on how much neighbors hate living near wind farms.

They basically just interviewed the people who were complaining about it. CleanTechnica did a good job of going through step by step what gatehouse media did wrong and how it didn't meet journalist standards. But that Gatehouse Media piece was replicated across right-wing blogs around the country, and I do think that it makes all of our jobs more difficult when you've got folks who've read something negative on their blog of choice and haven't read the facts for themselves.

Stephen Lacey: I do feel like this has changed though. These stories used to be a lot more common, and they are far fewer in between now. This seems to be an anomaly these days.

Jigar Shah: Well, we've just overwhelmed the issue. I think that we've done a pretty good job of trying to stay nonpartisan, and when you think about where these projects are going, they're generally in redder districts. The wind industry alone is paying like $800 million a year now in land lease payments every year to local residents. It's such a huge benefit to the communities that we serve. Because when you think about our investment in those communities as a percentage of total investment in those communities, we're very large percentages of the total investment in those communities every year.

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, and those payments and the increased tax base can go to schools and community centers and libraries that really make a difference in the community.

Stephen Lacey: I think it's worth revisiting what you outlined Katherine, and that is, there's really no clear demographic trend here. There's no class, or age, or race impact on how people feel about the impact of wind turbines near their houses. Although I would be interested to know the political influence here, but my guess, given what we know about where these projects are sited, is that there's probably not a major political influence. But it would be cool to understand that as well.

But there's really no demographic influence, it's just straight bread and butter stuff. It's, are you communicating this project from the get-go? Are you going to community forums and holding community forums? Are you giving people some kind of emotional or financial stake in the project? It's like really common sense stuff, and when people feel like a piece of the process any opposition goes way down.

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah. I would give an example of two projects that are fairly close to each other in Vermont. One is the Lowell project, that is on a ridge, that Green Mountain Power built. The folks that are in that Northeast Kingdom town just hate because they were not really part of the planning process. They didn't feel like they had buy-in, and it's very stark against the ridge. That's all they can see when they look outside in some of their minds.

Versus the Sheffield project, which First Wind developed, that is called like a birthday candle the way they've sited it, which is around a mountain, where you can't even see it from the road. They had tons of town hall meetings and got acceptance from the community over time. Those two projects are in stark comparison as to community acceptance, and my sense is it's based on the process of development.

Jigar Shah: It's also proof positive that our industry needs people with a lot of different backgrounds. I mean people that reflect the community and that look like that community, but also people that have these skills around public relations or other things. It's not just engineering. It just shows what it looks like to have a large vibrant industry with all sorts of skills and requirements needed for the industry to be successful.

Stephen Lacey: Let's go to the state of the union now. Oh Lord, what a state we're in. On Tuesday president Trump gave his first state of the union address, and we're going to compare the actual state of the union with his version of the state of the union, at least when it comes to energy. He had only one thing to say about energy explicitly.

Donald Trump: We have ended the war on American energy, and we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.

Stephen Lacey: As he delivered this line the camera quickly panned to energy secretary Rick Perry, who stood up with a proud smile on his face. The president spent more time on infrastructure during his speech. He called on Congress to pull together a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, and that would definitely involve energy in some way. He also spent some time on trade, reiterating his desire to renegotiate new deals with countries. Again, no specific energy mention here but certainly an allusion to his desire for trade penalties against countries like China, which he just imposed solar imports on countries around the world actually. Let's start with this supposed respite in the war on American energy and that beautiful clean coal. Katherine, the president is implying here that coal is going to flourish once again. What's the reality right now in America?

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, so he also seems to not understand that clean coal is a term that is separate from just coal. I think he thinks all coal is clean and beautiful, which that's his opinion. It's definitely not happening. He's not keeping plants open, in fact they continue to retire. But I think what you can take from the way this whole thing was setup and the lack of policy that he really discussed on energy is just by looking at the tenor of the whole speech, and the New York Times daily podcast did a really good analysis of this. Which is, that he told a bunch of stories. He had people there around which he told a lot of individual stories. He did not tell a story about energy. He did not have a coal worker there who was brought in to have a story told about him. He just really kind of skimmed over it.

So the things that he did not mention. He didn't say anything about offshore drilling, that's been a big policy push for them. There was nothing about the solar tariffs as you mentioned. There were no other mentions of any type of energy resource. There was no climate mention. So this was just part of his, neither part of his narrative, nor was it part of a policy push. He really did not talk much about policy. If you think about the infrastructure piece, he did say, "I want to have a one point five trillion investment in infrastructure." Which is half a trillion dollars more than he had been pushing before. He had been pushing a trillion dollars. That's really about 200 billion of federal funds. The rest he wants to come from state and private investment. So he did push on infrastructure, but he was really light on actual policy positions.

Stephen Lacey: Yeah. Two things there. One is this, the coal narrative or the lack of a coal narrative, and then the infrastructure plan. Let's got to infrastructure second. It is extraordinary to me that the president basically mentioned coal once. He spent so much time in coal country or talking about coal on the campaign trail, and has since then talked a lot about coal or had people in his administration talk about being advocates for the coal industry and bringing the industry. And what we saw, was a walk away from the narrative that he was going to bring coal jobs back. That's probably because there really isn't a good story to tell about coal jobs coming back in this country.

Jigar Shah: Well, and in point of fact, it feels like coal jobs are actually leaving faster under this president than the previous one. I mean, in the eight years that Obama was in office we retired about 55 gigawatts of coal. In 2017 alone there were 22 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants that were announced to be shutting down or converted. It's one of those weird things where...I guess it's very typical of this president, where he uses rhetorical flourishes but doesn't actually have any policies to back up those flourishes.

Stephen Lacey: This is the bigger question. The coal industry is representative of a lot of these struggling communities around the country that have seen manufacturing jobs shed over the last few decades. The president has said he's going to bring jobs back, and of course his claims for bringing hundreds or thousands of jobs back are both dubious and often wrong, but it creates a perception that things are getting better, and perception really matters in politics. So if you support the president, and even if around you things aren't getting better, you may overall believe that the country is improving and soon that that change will come to you. But eventually you do run into reality, and not much is changing right now in the coal industry, and it won't change, and it will get worse, and it will accelerate.

We're going to see tens of gigawatts of projects kicked offline here soon. We saw yet another dip in coal consumption last in the United States, and we only saw incremental increases in coal production from mines, all coal that's going overseas to Asia because there is an uptake in demand. so at some point, people are going to look around them and say, "Things are not getting better as this president claimed." Because his ideas, flimsy ideas, for bringing jobs back to these communities is just not going to meet the reality of this rapidly changing economy. And so for me, looking at what happens with how this president messages coal and how these communities react and respond and the importance in this political, is representative of a lot of the rural communities that have really suffered and how they react and respond to this president.

Katherine Hamilton: But Stephen, I wouldn't put too much stock in what he said or didn't say in the state of the union. He had different goals with that speech. Look at what they're doing in agencies. So, how they're rolling back on regulation at the EPA, and how they are continuing to push coal in the department of energy, and cutting research on clean energy.

So he is implementing policy in agencies and his cabinet is implementing policies that really do favor fuel, especially coal. So just because he didn't mention it in the state of the union I don't think we should lose sight of the ball here.

Jigar Shah: Right, but I mean Scott Pruitt's Oklahoma is moving into the number two position in the country behind Texas in wind power next year. It is going to be surpassing California next year. So at some point I don't know that any of this stuff matters for our clean energy issues. I think that the state of the union is really quite strong for our industries. I think solar has never looked better, battery storage, anaerobic digesters, electric vehicles, wind. Folks are really doing well out there.

Stephen Lacey: So let's talk about infrastructure. Jigar, you really zeroed in on infrastructure. We can talk about the politics of whether an infrastructure bill will actually pass this year or even get developed, but you think it's this really extraordinary opportunity. Explain.

Jigar Shah: Well, you know, Jay Faison has been lobbying pretty hard on the right side of the aisle. There's a group that he's funding called The Citizens For Responsible Energy Solutions, Charles Hernick who ran for Congress actually in the last cycle works there and penned an op-ed for Fox News. I think when you look at the data, if the federal government's only going to provide $2 billion and wants to support $1.8 trillion of infrastructure investment, the only group that really knows how to do that right now is the clean energy sector.

We're the only group that uses federal tax credits and federal bits of money, whether it's the new market tax credit or the clean renewable energy bonds or all sorts of esoteric things that the government likes to throw away, USDA loan guarantees, and convert them into projects. And so I think that I don't really know that the president knows that that's what's going to happen, but I think if an infrastructure bill passes the clean energy industry will be the one that is in the best position to utilize the federal support.

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, I totally agree. I think that investments in grid, whether it's smart grid, transmission, those are going to be far better returns for private investment and state dollars than roads and bridges, that it's just really hard to get private capital for that, I would think, Jigar.

Jigar Shah: Yeah, I mean unless you're going to build toll bridges everywhere, and I can't imagine that people are going to be happy if they have to pay $17.40 to go visit their neighbor on the other side of a bridge. I agree with you. I don't think he mentioned energy much at all in the state of the union. I think it was like two sentences. But my sense is this infrastructure bill will be converted into an energy bill.

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah. It seems like it would be a great opportunity to really help move things forward. And in fact, there was a group, The Problem Solving Caucus, I think I mentioned this before, that has put forward a paper on infrastructure that's totally bipartisan. There are in both chambers different efforts to move infrastructure forward.

Couple of issues. One is, it costs a lot of money and it's hard to know where they're going to get it because they just a bunch of it on a big tax cut. And the other thing is trying to get everybody at the table together, because the last thing Democrats certainly want to do is hand the president a huge victory in another way. So I think it's going to be really hard to get people to come to the table on something like this. Not that we're not going to still keep pushing it, because I think from a public policy standpoint it's a great idea. The issue is, how far apart are we on really coming together on getting something over the finish line.

Jigar Shah: I mean I'd say it differently. I think this Republican Congress has made it clear that they don't give a damn about budget deficit, so I'm not too worried about that. And the other piece of it is I'm more worried that the Republicans don't want to spend money on infrastructure. I mean, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have made it very clear that this is not a priority for them. I think the Democrats find that it's more of a priority for them than it is for the leaders of the two chambers of the Congress.

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, but Chairman Bill Shuster of Transportation and Infrastructure really does care about this and would like to have a legacy to leave behind, so he's going to be pushing it. He will push on his leadership. You're right, Ryan, McConnell are not super interested, and yet they want to also make sure that they keep their president happy. I think they would go along if they had their ground force and their committee chairs caring.

Stephen Lacey: Why don't we turn to some other more local politics. Actually, this is more than local politics, this is regional and international politics because it goes over to Canada. This is actually a pretty broad topic that we're going to be talking about, but it's local to me here in Massachusetts because my home state is set to get more than 9 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy all from one source. So why is that causing such a political stir? Well, that source is Canadian hydropower from northern Quebec, via the proposed Northern Pass transmission line.

If you recall, we talked with public radio reporter Sam Evans Brown about the mixed history of that power. A history filled with land conflicts, trampled indigenous communities, and a very controversial power line. Coincidentally David Roberts at Grist had a great piece this week on the difficult trade-offs that we need to make to address climate change, and he mentioned the Massachusetts deal because there are so many groups that you would assume might be for it against this deal. We published a piece this morning as well from Julian Spector, exploring these trade-offs and other political elements of the deal. Go access both of those in the show notes, we'll put them in our reading list. Mass law makers passed a bill a couple years back mandating the state's utility procure thousands of megawatts of renewables, that also included an offshore wind target and a storage target.

So to hit the goal set out in the bill a request was sent out to the industry for bids and there was a commission to evaluate those bids, which included the three major distribution utilities here in the state. Nearly 50 bids came in. This week the governor chose one project, the Northern Pass project. If built, if would send hydro down from northern Quebec through the mountains of New Hampshire to Massachusetts, accounting for 17 percent or our yearly consumption. So yay for that, but it really depends on where you stand, and that's also if the Northern Pass transmission line gets built. Jigar, what's the calculation that Massachusetts is making by selecting this bid?

Jigar Shah: Well, I think they're supporting President Trump, right? I mean, didn't he talk about the Northern Pass when he was running for office through the northeast?

Stephen Lacey: Did he? Gosh, I don't remember that.

Jigar Shah: I think he was talking about the transmission line that all the people in New Hampshire were against. Look, I think that this is where you draw a very clear distinction between climate hawks and environmentalists. I think environmentalists for a long time saw projects in front of them and basically opposed them or supported them. In this particular case, they're talking about a transmission line that they think is going to hurt the White Mountains, but also they think it's hydro that's come from indigenous populations, which we discussed earlier on this podcast.

For many climate hawks, we're looking at this saying, "When the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shut down, emissions in the northeast actually went up." And so I'm tired of us always sort of like, building more solar, building more wind, and then shutting down nuclear plants or other things and actually having emissions go up. These hydro projects are all incremental. They have a ton of excess water sitting behind the dams in these places in Canada, and so this is all incremental production that would not have been produced if Massachusetts doesn't support the line. I'm okay with that. I'm okay with more clean energy.

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, and the Pilgrim nuclear plant that's set to close is 690 megawatts, or 5.12 terawatt-hours a year. This Northern Pass project will provide 9.45 terawatt-hours a year, so just about double what Pilgrim did.

Stephen Lacey: So if we want to replace the Pilgrim plant with distributed renewables as some advocates have suggested, that's a lot of land use in Massachusetts. Clearly we want a diverse range of resources but what you're doing is making for existing generation and you're running in place. And this what many nuclear proponents have warned about as these plants start coming offline, these retiring nuclear plants. Yeah, you can replace them with renewables. There's definitely a feasible economic and technical way to start localizing renewable energy to make up for lost generation from nuclear power plants, but you're basically throwing all your money and energy into running in place.

So we are going to be far behind our short term commitments for the international climate agreement, our voluntary targets. Basically, you just can't do even the modest things that we want to do with plants retiring, unless you make hard decisions like this. It's a hard decision, right? There's a long history here that we grapple with on this podcast. I'm from New Hampshire and I understand why it's potentially so damaging for people to see a transmission line go through the White Mountains. This line of course has now evolved, and a lot of it's going to be under-grounded. I understand why people are opposed to it but there are some deep unsettling trade-offs that we need to make in order to make up for these nuclear retirements and to expand our renewable energy goals. I just think that this is the perfect encapsulation of that series of decisions that we're going to need to make over the coming years.

Katherine Hamilton: Well, and this was a statute that was passed in the Massachusetts legislature that really set it up this way. Where hydro was included, that it was a large RFP, that it was not meant for smaller resources. Which actually kind of leads you to think, "Why don't we make sure that all of our policies are much more integrated with larger and smaller facilities?" But this was the way the statute was written, so I don't think there was much of a choice in what kinds of projects were going to be proposed with this.

Jigar Shah: I also think your broader point, Stephen, is that I would go one step further and basically say that we had talked earlier about Bill McKibben's article, about how we need to be on a war footing around this switch over to clean energy. I think when you're on a war footing you look at everything that's available to you, right? You look at keeping the nuclear open. You look at putting a lot more small clean energy facilities in place on a distributed basis, and you look at bringing in large transmission lines from a place that is blessed with a lot of hydropower in Canada. I think you do all of it at the same time and you try the best you can to decarbonize.

I also would point out that the part that I enjoy the most is that we're not building gargantuan amounts of additional natural gas pipeline capacity, which will just become a stranded cost in the northeast, right? I mean with the most recent cold snap a lot of folks have been talking about how we need more natural gas capacity and that that would allow folks to produce more natural gas power and not use the oil fired power plants. But oil fired power plants are such a small percentage of the overall production, and that's not what we need to do. What we need to do is actually bring in hydro, keep the nuclear plant running and really decarbonize.

Katherine Hamilton: And I don't think this is going to slow down distributed resources there either. I think those will continue to flourish.

Stephen Lacey: For sure, because that's all localized policy that Massachusetts has embraced wholeheartedly. There's no way that that's going to slow down. This is in addition to that policy. They are certainly not mutually exclusive. I guess the big concern is how the contract was chosen, whether the Northern Pass project will get built, and if this takes other options off the table for Massachusets. So let's assume that they're waiting for the Northern Pass project to get built and it sort of extends this timeline and they're waiting, waiting, waiting, an all of a sudden it's clear that Northern Pass is not going to get constructed. All of a sudden Massachusetts has to reevaluate how it's going to get those thousands of megawatts of clean energy. That seems to be one of the bigger concerns from folks, not necessarily the impact, it's the risk, the political risk that this project doesn't get built.

Jigar Shah: Well look, that happens but again, this is about what we need to do as climate hawks, is we have to like actually figure out a way to get these projects built. I think I've been saying this ad nauseam on this podcast, around the fact that America needs to learn how to big things again, and one of the big things it needs to do is to build large transmission lines. We are not going to be at 90 percent-plus clean energy in this country unless we can power around the country. I think what this transmission line is doing is saying, "Actually let's increase the balancing area to include Canada." Which I think is fine. I mean I think that we do need to do that. We need to figure out how to actually approach this problem at scale and attack it at scale.

Stephen Lacey: All right listeners, what do you want to know? We've got some things that you may not know. Katherine, what is your story? Tell us something we may not know.

Katherine Hamilton: Yeah, so this is something that I picked when I was at the world economic forum. There's something called the Global Goals For Sustainable Development that's a public-private partnership with 17 goals. Not all of them have to do with energy, some of them are poverty, water, gender equality. There's also a goal on affordable and clean energy. And so this global goals group has been working hard to make sure that all of these different goal areas are improved.

There is also a Global GoalsCast which is a podcast. There is a podcast I would refer folks to. It's the first in what I think is going to be a series. I was able to have dinner with a group including the polar explorer Robert Swan. Robert Swan is the only person who's hiked to both the North and South Pole. He did the South Pole 30 years ago, and over time has tried to figure out how is climate impacting especially the South Pole because it is so critical to our fresh water and to the way our planet operates. So he took another trip, and this was the first renewable energy powered trip to the South Pole. He took his son Barney who's 23 and they taped it.

They had cameras with them in extremely harrowing circumstances. They also taped podcasts constantly. So the first podcast you'll see on Global GoalsCast is super interesting. They really explain how the climate has changed the conditions in the South Pole. I would recommend it as a really, really interesting and something that I'm interested in following because I think they will continue to do more on that topic. It was only about a 30-minute podcast and they didn't really tell the complete story, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Stephen Lacey: I will subscribe to that and add another podcast to my already very crowded feed, but it sounds super interesting. Thanks for sharing that. Jigar, what's your story?

Jigar Shah: After the state of the union address on Tuesday night Bernie Sanders and Bill McKibben and many others came together in D.C. to promote a fossil-free USA. It was a pretty amazing lineup of speakers and other people, the Howard University gospel choir. You know, all sorts of folks coming together to reconfirm their commitment to a fossil-fuel-free country. I do think that while I don't know that I'm as environmentalist I would say as many of the folks that spoke there. I am completely for figuring out how to solve climate change, and I think these guys took a bold stance to bring all these folks together and bring attention to this issue.

Stephen Lacey: I am reading a book that I wanted to share that is not directly related to energy but is quite an interesting look at the online subcultures that have gotten us to where we are today in politics. I thought it was appropriate given the state of the union conversation that we had.

The book that I'm reading now is called Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right. It is an exploration of the online subcultures that developed as a reaction to the perceived overly PC liberal culture and how those online subcultures mixed together to create what we commonly refer to as the alt-right, but that term just doesn't do it justice. It's this strange mix of subcultures. The book is a mix of history and media critique in what feels like a long form essay style. It is so compelling. It's a topic that I'm particularly interested in. It should kind of inform how we think about this moment. It's proof that many of us don't really understand the strange corners of the web that have had an extraordinary impact on our politics. So again, it's called Kill All Normies, and in my opinion it's required reading to understand this era. Go check it out. I've really enjoyed the book.

That's it folks. Thanks for joining us per usual. You can find us on any podcast platform of your choice and give us a rating and review on Apple Podcast. We do appreciate it. We do appreciate emails too if you have suggestions on what to cover on the show, [email protected]. I'm Stephen Lacey with Jigar Shah and Katherine Hamilton my co-hosts. This is The Energy Gang, a production of greentechmedia.com. We will catch you next week. Thanks folks.