Emmet Penney

Host

Nuclear Barbarians

December 7, 2021

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Ep 340: Emmet Penney - Host, Nuclear Barbarians
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Bret Kugelmass
We're here today on Titans of Nuclear with Emmet Penny, who is the Host of the Nuclear Barbarians podcast. Emmet, welcome to Titans.

Emmet Penney
Hey, happy to be here.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, you know, I heard you chatting with Chris Keefer on Decouple, my favorite podcast in the whole wide world, and just knew that I had to talk to you. I think your perspectives are just so refreshing. And I love challenging norms in general. So great to have you here. But before we get into your current work, I'd love to just kind of learn a little bit about you if that's okay.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, totally. Um, God, it's such a circuitous story, you know? I think, like many people in America, I grew up thinking nuclear was bad.

Bret Kugelmass
Where'd you grow up specifically?

Emmet Penney
Oh, I grew up in Illinois. Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
Well, that's actually a little surprising then, right?

Emmet Penney
I mean, it depends, right? Like what's more powerful: a quietest nuclear industry or the Simpsons?

Bret Kugelmass
Right, right.

Emmet Penney
I can tell you that I watched The Simpsons every single day after school.

Bret Kugelmass
It's funny, because a lot of people brought that up to me as like where they think a lot of the bad public information comes from. I have different opinions, but also I never watched The Simpsons growing up, so I don't really have that same lived experience.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, no, totally. And I actually didn't even know that it still really existed for a long time. Fukushima happens and stuff like that and I was just like, Oh, yeah, seems bad. Didn't really look into it. I mean, the sort of ambient accepted perspective is the pro renewables, strictly renewables, perspective. That's just dominant, right? I remember being a junior in high school and taking a day out of - I think it was like AP comparative politics or something, I don't even remember - a day out to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" and that is like strictly carbon tax and wind turbines and stuff. Those are the solutions he gets to. And there's something that seems intuitive about it. And I was on- I found my way on the political left. My radicalization- I mean, I came from a democratic household, so my parents were liberals and stuff like that. What really radicalized me was being really, really broke after college and working three jobs and making like $17k a year in Florida. And after getting sort of like mugged by reality, I developed a sort of working class populist - I still am very pro-union and stuff like that - and all that is available to you there is, except for like a few holdouts, the idea that you can Green New Deal your way into a better society, which is basically degrowth. People are like, No, no, we're not degrowth. And then you read stuff like a Verso book called "A Planet to Win" or something and they're like, We need one last stimulus to green the economy and then we just step away and let it stabilize. And it's like, Okay, this isn't even in touch with reality. That is definitely degrowth. But I didn't really know much about nuclear until I got a direct message from Michael Shellenberger in 2017. I had published an article in Paste Magazine called "Lectureporn: The Vulgar Art of Liberal Narcissism" where I took Aaron Sorkin, John Stewart, John Oliver, Samantha Bee, that whole iteration of liberal satire and comedy to task as sort of cognitive dissonance based on supplying their listeners with narcissistic supply.

Bret Kugelmass
It's so funny because Jon Stewart now- I'd liked The Daily Show - I seem to remember, I don't actually remember - but I kind of liked it in general, but I never like really knew too much about the issues. It just kind of seemed like a thing to like. But now that I know a lot more about these issues and Jon Stewart's got a new show out, I'm like, This is garbage. This is propaganda. What is going on here?

Emmet Penney
Yeah, I mean, Jon Stewart took over an ailing show, I think just at the right time, because the media locked down on critiquing anything Bush was doing in his first- especially first term in office was really intense. Like you really only had Janeane Garofalo from Air America willing to go on Fox and debate these people. Otherwise you were just called a commie and shunned from public life. That's how it was at the beginning of this century. But anyway, I sort of took them to task. Michael liked what I had to say. He DM'd me and he said, What are you doing right now? And what I was doing was being so broke that I couldn't replace my cell phone and I was working at a bookstore.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay, but something's wrong about this story, though, because- I mean, when I heard your interview - and even just now, you've used a couple phrases that are like- I think you speak in beautiful prose. And it's like a little too intellectual for me to believe that you had trouble making money. Do you understand where I'm coming from here?

Emmet Penney
Totally. Well, I mean, it depends, right? Condolences to me, I have two liberal arts degrees, so I think it's totally explicable that I can be eloquent without being able to make money.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay, I guess it makes sense. Point taken.

Emmet Penney
Yeah. So I remember being like, Yeah, I'm available, and then immediately got the guy who worked in the ordering desk to take the front counter where I was working so I could pretend to take an order from Penguin Random House while I talked to Michael for like 90 minutes. And I remember just writing, like every time my boss would walk by, I would just be like, Right, right, right, yeah, like five orders of Moby Dick. Like, whatever. Mute the phone real quick and say that or write something down. And he was like, Well look, you're a lefty, why don't you check out- like don't just believe me, right? Make up your own mind. Let me know what you think. Why don't check out this book by Lee Phillips called "Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts." He's a lefty, like you, you know, see what's up. So I read it and Lee's book really changed my mind on all of this. It was the first sort of look I got into the material realities of energy, agriculture, and all sorts of other things. And the first substantive critique I'd ever been shown of the hegemonic climate doomism, pro-renewables thing. At all. In my entire life. And I was like, Wow, this is super persuasive. And I looked into it a little bit more. And then I went- I was a delegate for the Democratic Socialists of America, 2017 National Convention, right. Like I was in the tank. I was also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World at the time. And I remember going to the DSA convention and sitting in the ecosocialist working group meeting, and everybody was just like, Well, we're just gonna have to close down nuclear. And I was like, So we're not even having a debate? Everybody has already decided that nuclear has to go, we have to do all renewables. That's what's up. And I was the - as far as I could tell - the only person in the room that like, looked around like, oh, what's going on? I was like, I assumed that it would just be in the conversation or might be in the conversation or there might be dissension. That was not the case. So right after that, I flew out to Berkeley to go meet up with Michael at Environmental Progress. And you know, I had to borrow money from my mom. And I spent a couple days crashing on a friend's couch in the Haight and going to EP. I met people who are my dear friends now - Madison Czerwinski, Mark Nelson, you know, all of them -and it totally blew me away. They walked me through some of the arguments-and you know, I'm a doubting Thomas, so I still wasn't totally completely convinced. But I was like, Okay, there's something really here and something important is happening. And I didn't end up working for EP, like a bunch of other stuff happened and my life went on. And then a couple years later, I was tutoring the teenage children of the power elite in LA - somehow I got that job - and that company I was working for fell apart. And I called Michael and I said, You should hire me. And he said, Yeah, actually, I'm working on a book, I should hire you. And that book was "Apocalypse Never."

Bret Kugelmass
You helped write that book?

Emmet Penney
Yeah. And that was a life changing experience.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Well, for me too, just even reading it.

Emmet Penney
Right, right. So to be in on that on the ground floor was amazing. It was hard work. I had never done anything like it before. My mom had written a couple business books on sponsorship and stuff like that and I had edited those in high school or done the due diligence on the bibliography or whatever. But I had never like stem to stern done any work on a whole book. And I'm not like a technical guy. I don't have a STEM background, so I had a huge knowledge gap that that book helped me shore up a little bit as we worked on it.

Bret Kugelmass
And how hard was it to go through the technical arguments as a non-technical person? Like, what's your strategy? Is it just like, you call someone say, Hey, can you help me understand this? Or do you pick out a textbook or just Google a lot?

Emmet Penney
It depends on what it is, right? There were times - there's this kid Jemin that worked at EP at the time - and there were times where like, I'd be reading something and I would almost, if I was - cuz I lived in LA and I'd fly up there every now and again, right? Otherwise, I worked from home. So I'd fly up there and I'd be reading through some science papers. And then as soon as I would realize Jemin wasn't doing anything, I'd walk over there and almost grabbed him by his lapels and go, Give me the dumb flat brim hat guy version of whatever this argument is. Break it down. But the other way I do it is I try to pay attention to principles. One of my side hustles is I teach the Great Books online.

Bret Kugelmass
Oh, cool.

Emmet Penney
And one of my it's become one of my like specialties for the company Online Great Books, is I offer the Euclid Book 1 intensive for six weeks. I'm actually doing one of those right now. I've done it several times. And what I learned from Euclid is that if you can start to break things down without discrete measurements or numbers and pay attention to the logical relations or proportion, it's way easier to understand what's going on.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, yeah, I think that makes a lot sense.

Emmet Penney
So that's what I try to do, right? If I'm looking at something, I'm thinking about relationships and proportions. If I'm looking at the grid, I'm like, What's the mix? What delivers when and for how long? I'm not going to be able to get into all of this, but I need to be able to break it down to- like when I used to read really high left philosophy, I remember reading everything and at the end of every chapter, I would say to myself, how would I explain this to the guys in the back office of the Gold's Gym in Tallahassee, Florida I used to work at. That was sort of my approach to stuff like this.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay, cool. All right. So you helped him put together that book. Can I ask - just because I actually haven't had a chance to ask Michael this yet - what has been the - again, I'm not on Twitter - so what is - and I don't think Twitter's actually that good a lens into real society. Like what is the adoption of the arguments that he's put forth in "Apocalypse Never?" What is the reception and is there a growing movement now of people who are more of like climate pragmatists? Is that a phrase?

Emmet Penney
Yeah, I think, or eco-pragmatists.

Bret Kugelmass
Well, I already knew about eco-pragmatism. This is the first time- like I always thought of myself as an eco-pragmatist, but I also thought of myself as a climate alarmist. And between Mike's book and Bjørn Lomborg's book, I actually changed my perspective. Totally changed my perspective on climate alarmism. And now the messages that I try to put forth are more about energy poverty, clean energy, that type of stuff, rather than focusing so much on the climate side of things.

Emmet Penney
Right. Again, it's hard to tell from my bubble, but I can tell you that Michael has a large footprint. I mean, he was just on Joe Rogan. And by the way, I've listened to Rogan for a while and 10 years ago, literally 10 years ago, I remember listening to one of his episodes about him not liking nuclear.

Bret Kugelmass
I was gonna ask me cuz I heard one of the episodes, I actually think it was like Kanye was on set listening religiously as well, and said like something pronuclear. And Joe Rogan didn't have anything bad to say about it. And then I, and I think it's come up a couple times where he hasn't said something bad, though. I also think the facts were misrepresented. But also, the Shellenberger podcast with him actually didn't touch upon the apocalypse never stuff very much. It's like a little bit at the end news.

Emmet Penney
Yes. Just a little bit. And that clip actually has, I think, over a million views now officially on YouTube. But I think what I've seen is that people who used to disagree with Michael - look, I'm not going to name names, I think that's catty - are basically saying, like, repeating Michael's positions as if they have been their positions all along.

Bret Kugelmass
Well, that's how everyone-

Emmet Penney
Which is where you want to be, right? That's what you want to have happen.

Bret Kugelmass
That's totally fine. Yeah.

Emmet Penney
I'm like, great. You don't need to put my name on it. So, yeah, I think I think that's where he is. I think it's gaining a lot of traction. I think the alarmism play is quickly getting stale and I think this winter is going to be supremely vindicating, almost tragically.

Bret Kugelmass
Tragically is the right-

Emmet Penney
We don't want to throw this like I told you so party. What we want to throw is a welcoming party. And say, This is hard. There are solutions. It doesn't have to be this way. You know, come on over.

Bret Kugelmass
Yep. So okay, let me ask though. Was that your first like deep dive into nuclear? Or had you been doing nuclear stuff outside of the relationship with Shellenberger?

Emmet Penney
I'd looked into it a little, but it was really hard to figure out where to start. I mean, to be honest, if we take a look at just where the nuclear scene is before Michael starts hitting critical mass and afterwards, it's like the amount of nuclear media that exists now is so much more than even a few years ago.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Oh, for sure.

Emmet Penney
Right. I mean, it was honestly hard to find good information. It got frustrating, so I stopped. Like I wasn't-

Bret Kugelmass
It's still hard. It's still hard because I constantly find things from reputable sources that are fully contradicted by other reputable sources.

Emmet Penney
Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
It's always- it's always been the direction to further disparage nuclear, even by so-called nuclear advocates.

Emmet Penney
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I mean, there's a whole like learned dependence or weakness thing that goes on in the nuclear world.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me more about that. Can you extrapolate on that?

Emmet Penney
All right. I don't think we should have to kiss the ring of renewables. I think renewables is a conversation that's over.

Bret Kugelmass
Thank you.

Emmet Penney
We don't need to build any more of it. I think we have more than we need. It's over. It's done. The experiment's done. It sucks. The ESG economy is going to fall apart, just like the subprime mortgage economy. Mark my words. Yeah. And it's going to destroy some college endowments, and they'll deserve it. Yeah. You know what I mean? Like, that's just the way it goes.

Bret Kugelmass
You're right, I don't think we have to kiss the ring either. And I've gone back and forth. I think I still do it in front of certain audiences. Even we rebuilt the Energy Impact Center website and we included a bunch of stuff about renewables there, essentially just not to scare away people and then to kind of like lure them in, but I'm of two minds on it. And in some audiences, it depends on the audience. Sometimes I'll kiss the ring, sometimes I don't.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, you can't always go hard in the paint, right? So if I were talking to a more renewables friendly person, I would say, Look, they should only ever be about 10 to 15% of the energy mix, so they should only be about 10 to 15% of the conversation.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Oh, that's so good. That's so good. But on the other hand, if I say something, like- I think of myself saying something like that, and then I think well, okay, but now I'm committing a logical fallacy. Because if you've been able to do 85% nuclear, why would you even do the 15% renewable? Where would that actually be helpful? I mean, I can't see it.

Emmet Penney
Look, if you could do nuclear, you shouldn't do renewables, but at some point, you have to lower the barrier for entry for people. Right, and the other thing is-

Bret Kugelmass
Rhetorically, you're saying like, in conversation you have to lower the barrier of entry.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, like emotionally.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

Emmet Penney
Not intellectual, but emotional.

Bret Kugelmass
Right, you're right.

Emmet Penney
So that's what I would say. I mean, look, unfortunately America doesn't have any politicians that are willing to say what Marine Le Pen would say which is, If you elect me, I will rip out every single wind turbine in France.

Bret Kugelmass
I haven't heard that one.

Emmet Penney
She was just like, oh Macron wants to do SMRs? Sorry, I want to do a national EPR build-out. I'm not endorsing the National Front or whatever. I'm just saying that the tenor isn't the same as it is in America everywhere, right?

Bret Kugelmass
I have a question. You were kind of alluding to the fact that you started off as this lefty or whatever. Like politically, how would you describe yourself now at this point?

Emmet Penney
I have no idea. I think it's pretty hard at this point. And I think a lot of people feel that way. You know, I wasn't even really good at being a lefty. I just like reading the ancient Greeks too much for that. That was always sort of an uncomfortable fit. I was Jesuit educated. I never really stopped being a virtue ethics guy. That's not a good fit over there. I was very, very skeptical of the politics of pity and resentment that happened there too, but I think that's a pervasive problem in our politics, honestly. I think people think that that might pass for humanism, but it doesn't. I'm actually working on a piece about this, how the Green Left isn't Malthusian, they're Schopenhauerian.

Bret Kugelmass
What's Schopenhauerian mean?

Emmet Penney
So Schopenhauer is the father of pessimism. He was a hardcore misanthrope. But all of his ethics are based in the pity and compassion of suffering.

Bret Kugelmass
I mean, it seems like - I've heard this from other people before, I'm not making this up - that it seems like the parties have kind of switched positions on a few topics like free speech and this one about pessimism. Do you think that's also a switch? Like it used to be the right that was more pessimistic and now the left is in a certain way more pessimistic?

Bret Kugelmass
Hmm.

Emmet Penney
I mean, there's a certain strain of the right that's always going to be pessimistic, because that is the reactionary creed. That's just straight up like Oswald Spangler decline of the West stuff. They're never going to be free of those guys, just like the left won't be free of some of its own crazies. I will say that there is a sort of becoming entrenched defeatism at the moment of supreme cultural victory for the broad left in America and I think that's interesting to watch. Like watching Biden's climate plans get kind of wrecked, in part just for lack of statesmanship, is pretty surprising. At the same time, it seems like there's open revolt against the last five years of what we call the Great Awokening. No normal people like that it turns out. They think it's- and the only thing that made it palatable was having Trump in office. Now, no one wants to live like that anymore. They didn't even want to live like it then. It's just too much. So I think they're running into their own problems. The right, I don't know what they're gonna do. Julius Krein had a great piece - he's the editor over at American Affairs - he had a great piece come out in American Beaumont called, I think, "Can Conservatism Be More Than a Grudge?" And it's great. And he talks about the need for an almost more social democratic right in America. That's a very surprising argument. So they have a lot of energy in their pro-American industry reshoring, like open to the populist thing. Those are the guys who like me the best over there - guys and gals. They really respond well to nuclear. They even respond well to the reality that you need sort of like a centralized, standardized national build-out.

Emmet Penney
Because they're not libertarians.

Bret Kugelmass
And is that your position? A centralized state build-out? Is that your-

Emmet Penney
Something like that. I mean, I'm trying to figure it out right now. I have a piece in mind. So I wrote a piece-

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Okay. I'll let you continue with your thought.

Emmet Penney
I wrote, co-authored a piece with my friend Adrián for The Bellows, a sort of left publication called, "We Need a Nuclear New Deal, Not a Green New Deal." And that's sort of our case for that sort of centralized build-out. And I think that that is theoretically correct. That is the way to do it. Mesmer is sort of a big part of that. Just the realities of an economy of repetition.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay, but can I tell you something - and this is a problem that I have even with some of my other-

Emmet Penney
Yeah, please.

Bret Kugelmass
-with that argument, even from some of the other more pro-nuclear people that I know - is that history shows us that the first 50 plants built in the US would out-compete anything, any energy source period built today. And they were all different. They were all non-standardized plants. And that's just because of how easy it is to design and build a nuclear plant without the NRC breathing down your neck.

Emmet Penney
Right, I mean, I do- okay, so my hot take is that- ah man. I think the NRC-

Bret Kugelmass
By the way, out of those 50 plants, 26 of them are still operating today under the existing NRC rules. It's just that they- somehow it's logically consistent to have grandfathered some things in, but you're not allowed to design things to the old standard.

Emmet Penney
Right, right, yeah. So look, it's not that- there's a whole conversation here - this is why I said I think it's theoretically broadly correct. There's a whole theory. I want to break this down into a few things. There's a whole conversation about what the US is even capable of doing right now. And we don't know. Right? The way I think about this in my head is the 1964 World's Fair in New York. So there are two major exhibits there. There's IBM's and there's GE's. Now, the IBM vision of the future is the future we're living in: cybernetic, completely connected, very lean, the closed system, totally globalized, very computer run. GE's was called Atomsville and it was all about as big productions of nuclear plants - which I call industrial cathedrals - and how those were going to bring prosperity to American life through our industrial might. We- it's not that we don't make anything here. That's incorrect. I think people who, like me, who are in the reshoring bring back American industry or oversell how much we lost. But we did lose enough to lose, I think, more competencies than we knew we were letting go of. I do think it was a bad deal.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, go ahead. Sorry.

Emmet Penney
Whatever we're going to do, we need to figure out what exactly it is we're capable of. Now, no matter what, we need to decriminalize nuclear. We have to go after the regulatory regime. That's something I totally support. It needs to be very deregulated to get this done. Maybe then you could say, Okay, we've deregulated enough that a lot of different players can come to the game and we can build a bunch of things.

Bret Kugelmass
I mean, I am certain that that is the only thing that you need to do is just roll back the regulatory creep, which, by the way, was driven by nuclear incumbents themselves.

Emmet Penney
Oh, of course.

Bret Kugelmass
If you see what comes out of Houston in terms of big pressure vessels, engineering pumps, like for the oil and gas industry, and their equipment is better than the nuclear equipment. It's like this nuclear safety standard makes equipment less safe. Like if you look at the capabilities of N stamped equipment - because they make so few of it and no one's designing it, no one's improving on it, no one's working on it - that is worse equipment than what is produced for oil and gas. Let oil and gas build a bunch of nuclear plants. All the physics that needs to be figured out was figured out by Fermi when he was doing it, like all in his head. Okay. It's not that fucking hard to build a nuclear plant. It's hard to comply with regulations.

Emmet Penney
No, I think that's- yeah, I'm with you on that. I've got a hotter take coming down the pike right after this. What I'll say is that, my dad lives three hours outside of Midland, Texas. So I went to see him and I landed in Midland and that was my first time seeing really- because that three hours is just the first hour out getting out of Midland, you're seeing nothing but well pads. You land at the airport and there are just really, they almost look like clip art advertisements for well pad components. I was just like, this is a real industrial town. And I was like, also, none of this is going anywhere for a really long time, by the way. There's a reason why Texas is like an island grid and has almost its own form of energy sovereignty. And you are not going to pry that from their hands. Not for a while. That's just the reality. Anyway, so I have great respect for what they do. And perhaps you're right. I'm interested in that argument. I would love to look into it more, because I'm interested in American prosperity and lowering the hurdles to it. Right. Okay. So if we want to go after the regulatory regime, what are we going to have to do? Obviously - aside from policy, right, we all know that that needs to be a policy win - what do we need to do? Who loves that regulatory regime more than anybody?

Bret Kugelmass
I think the nuclear incumbents, right?

Emmet Penney
Some of the nuclear incumbents, but not just them.

Bret Kugelmass
Who else?

Emmet Penney
The biggest opponents, both in the media and in the political bodies, will be the major green NGOs. And if you think that they're going to be persuaded by the fact that nuclear is low carbon, let me tell you got another thing coming. I think - and this is what I'm working on now, I've just started - we need to start trying to crush the major green NGOs in America.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. I mean, I agree. You're not gonna find resistance from me on that. But it's like, I still don't understand, even with it- it's like, we have Fukushima, which no safety systems and no one died. It's like, if anything, one could make the credible claim that the nuclear regulator in Japan killed 1,000 people by mandating unnecessary evacuation.

Emmet Penney
That is basically what I say when people ask.

Bret Kugelmass
They yelled, fire in a crowded theater. And so if you're going to attribute any deaths due to that incident - other than the drowning deaths, of course-

Emmet Penney
Sure.

Bret Kugelmass
-it's going to be because their regulator yelled fire in a crowded theater, not because of anything to do with radiation. And so how is that not the only argument that is necessary - other than all these other kind of underlying forces - to convince anyone that the whole idea of having an independent nuclear regulator is totally unnecessary?

Emmet Penney
Look, I mean, I'm persuaded by that. But it doesn't really matter, because people hate nuclear for different reasons. They hate nuclear because they're scared. They hate nuclear because they feel bad. Some people don't want to believe a better tomorrow is possible for very interesting psychological reasons. One of them is that it makes them less special. That's important, right? If you're sort of the last or one of the last generations, that's really, really special, even if it's dark. So there's that. And the other thing is, there's just path dependency, man. All of these people cross their Rubicon. It's a whole patronage network-

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, exactly.

Emmet Penney
-that's dug in deep to the global economy. None of them are going to walk back and say, Oh, yeah, actually, we made a big misstep here. We should all get behind the one competing technology that makes everything we've done irrelevant. That's not going to happen. So what I want to do is - and you can reach out to me at nukebarbarian@protonmail.com if you have any tips for me - is that I want to start looking at dirty personnel and I want to start looking at ways in which they've been funny with sharing polling data and stuff like that illegally between their 501c-3s and 501c-4s and stuff like that. So one of the things that I do when I teach the Classics is I end up having to teach Thucydides's "The Peloponnesian War." I'm about to do that next month, so I'm starting to read it already. I've read it a couple times. And one of the things that Thucydides brings up is that, towards the end of- or the end of his book, not the end of the war, but at a certain point, they fall into such infighting that they lose the leadership class capable of commanding the Navy due to exile executions. My first thought was, how do I create that type of churn at the NRDC? I want everything from workplace violations, to bent Congressmen, to family members on the boards of companies they should not be on. I want it all. I want them all gone.

Bret Kugelmass
But the question is like, okay, well what's your war chest? If you're going to go up against- and they've got hundreds of millions of dollars, what's your war chest if you want to go up against them?

Emmet Penney
My war chest is zero. I would also say that the people of Buchanan, New York and maybe the state of New York or whoever might be able to file a class action lawsuit against NRDC, Riverkeeper, maybe even State of New York for preemptively shutting down Indian Point.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, I think all of that's legit. I'm just worried about like- so the problem is, if you're going to dig up dirt, it's because they're dirty people. And those dirty people also know how to attack, how to fight back. Right. So it's like, what's to stop them then from falsifying some criminal claim on who's ever attacking them. So even if it's not you, but it's like through a proxy or something. What's to stop them from just hiring someone to, I don't know, throw a bunch of drugs in their car and then call the cops or something. It's like, they could do that. They could do that for like 100,000 bucks, probably, and they've got hundreds of millions.

Emmet Penney
Look, I mean, what other option do we have? Do we think that they're ever going to let a nuclear build-out happened in America?

Bret Kugelmass
I don't know. I think no, but I do think- I don't have a really good solution. But I do think kind of ridiculing them, making- just kind of going after them in the public sphere as being- as being everything that the- as them being the conservative ones, them being the ones that are- I don't know, I don't know.

Emmet Penney
Sure. I mean, the discourse wars are important, but discourse doesn't build a plant. And it can only kind of save one.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, I know, I'm just like, I guess my whole strategy is that - what our organization tends to do right now is - help show development in an area that isn't so captured by the US Green NGOs. Show that cost effective build-out works in another country and then do it in another country, and then do it in another country. And then 10 years from now, it's a lot easier to kind of look at the proof is in the pudding situation type thing.

Emmet Penney
Sure, I think that's important work. But I also think that- your organization doesn't have anybody who's the first ever in history Climate Advisor to the White House, but the NRDC does. You know what I'm saying?

Bret Kugelmass
And the question is like, how much does that cost? Because in theory, what I want to see is a new, powerful nuclear industry that is just so successful at building plants economically abroad, that they've got billions of dollars to throw around here. And then they could, hell, they could buy a whole election. Forget about just a climate advisor. Like why not, why not go after - why not just start funding political candidates everywhere?

Emmet Penney
Yeah, sure. I think that's important, too. I'm not saying that my way is the only way.

Bret Kugelmass
No, no, I'm not pushing back on that, either. I'm just trying to spit ball with you.

Emmet Penney
Yeah. Yeah. Cuz I think, you know, great. I love that idea. I mean, I'm happy to see us building more AP-1ks in Ukraine. I'm happy if more people are building abroad in America. I think that's- American companies are, that's going to be to the benefit. It'll bring more revenue. It's good for the world. It's good for our allies. I love that. I'm huge in the export game, because China and Russia are eating our lunch with that right now. And also, we need to start having a conversation about nuclear as the national security standard for energy.

Emmet Penney
I actually think that's probably the stronger, better argument domestically, to build.

Emmet Penney
Totally. Look, I'm going to be totally honest with you. I think climate change is real. I'm not into nuclear because of climate. That's a solvable problem. We're solving it right now. Some projections just came out from Carbon Brief. It looks like we're on trend. Great. I'm in it for human flourishing and I'm in it for a strong, prosperous America. That's why I want nuclear. And that argument is durable. And you don't have to scare anyone to get it.

Bret Kugelmass
I agree.

Emmet Penney
So I think that that is what I would like to see more of our messaging. Happy to have the people who are worried about climate - because I think it's a real issue - on board talking about it, because they'll hopefully bring some people from that end. I mean, look, I'm like talking to Bitcoiners and stuff. I'm talking to anybody who will listen to me about nuclear. I was just on an internationalist left wing podcast like yesterday talking about this, explaining to them what's going on with the European energy crisis? And why all their grids are really privatized, shitty wholesale markets? The disadvantage good baseload.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, it's pretty crazy.

Emmet Penney
The other thing I'm interested in is, I was talking to my buddy Isaac Orr over at Center of the American Experiment. Now, Isaac's like one of the top three most capitalist people I know, so I love picking his brain because we don't have a lot of the same assumptions, but he's smart as hell. And I respect him. And I think I even talked to him about this on the episode of my podcast I had with him on it where we looked at what CEP would have done to Arizona.

Bret Kugelmass
What's CEPP?

Emmet Penney
That was the Clean Energy Performance Program, or whatever it's called. They've changed what the acronym stands for several times, but it would have been bad is the answer. But I asked him, I was just like, Look, I want sort of like maybe a more centralized thing, or what could you get on board with as somebody who's like very capitalist, very libertarian? And he was like, Look, you can't just replace a bunch of brand new coal, because it's built into the base rate. No one's going to like watching that bill go up. And I thought about that. And one of the things I would like to suggest to Republicans, if they want to have a - maybe we need to call it a climate plan - rebuttal to the Democrats, having incentives, first deregulating - they already love to do that, so that's a great sign and getting nuke bans lifted. And there seems to be support on the other side of the aisle for that. Manchin this morning was talking about lifting the nuke ban in West Virginia.

Bret Kugelmass
Oh, I didn't hear that.

Emmet Penney
He's very pro-nuclear, so that's great. But he's creating a plan where coal plants that are going to retire can be swapped out for nuclear. Like, as they go off, you keep the workforce there, you probably actually grow the workforce, right? You get to keep the base load there, it's great.

Bret Kugelmass
But you can't the problem is you can't build a nuclear plant in the US cost effectively and you can't get a new one through regulations. Like you just can't until you deal with the regulatory issue. The thing, it always comes back to me. If you've dealt with the regulatory issue, we wouldn't have to make an argument for replacing these coal plants. The market forces, we wouldn't have to say anything. Market forces would just make it happen. It's like the infrastructure, the transmission infrastructure is already there. They're about the same size. It's like it would just happen if you could cost effectively deploy in the US.

Emmet Penney
Right. Sure. I mean, that's why I'm saying their agenda would be in part deregulation. And then whatever,

Bret Kugelmass
Right, okay, sorry, I didn't hear that part. You're starting off with a presupposition of dereg. Got it. Okay.

Emmet Penney
Right. And then whatever, maybe you need extra incentives or whatever. And that looks way more cost effective and easier than whatever insane fragilizing shit the Democrats are churning out right now. Like all of their Amory Lovins like transmissionophilia stuff is just- no one likes it. No one likes it. And it's a bad deal.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, it's not gonna happen. It's not gonna happen. I mean, anyone you talk to you, I mean, I've been going across Europe, meeting with energy ministers and asking what are some of their challenges towards clean energy transition. And one of the things that gets brought up over and over and over again is transmission lines, how expensive, how difficult it is. The same people who will bend over backwards with an environmental agenda will use that exact same amount of force to prevent transmission lines from going up. They will sue them to death. I mean, they talk about like decade timeframes to build a single transmission cord.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, I mean, just take a look at offshore. If anybody wants to hear an amazing offshore deep dive, Robert Bryce over at Power Hungry just had a fantastic interview.

Bret Kugelmass
I know, I connected with him recently. I got to start getting into his stuff. I hear great things.

Emmet Penney
Robert's a good friend. He's the best. Love Robert. That is an eye popping interview. The guy talks about how offshore wind is basically a pipe dream and the costs are just going up higher and higher and higher.

Bret Kugelmass
I was kind of- I thought it would be fine with offshore stuff. I didn't realize there was a problem with it. What's the big problem?

Emmet Penney
Well, first of all, the ocean floor is very crowded with stuff that's already there. There are like shipwrecks down there. There's like all sorts of stuff. It is the same open land fallacy for putting it- just like scraping the Mojave and putting in solar panels there. Like there's nothing there, it's the desert. Yeah, but there's a whole ecosystem. It's bad for the fishing industry. There are tons and tons of transmission lines from turbine to turbine and then back to the land.

Bret Kugelmass
I knew that was gonna be a problem. I knew that's a huge problem.

Emmet Penney
And the other thing is, you're putting them near salt water. They corrode really, really fast. It's not like faster- because all anybody does in the renewables world is they just look at an industry pamphlet that has a warranty on it and they're like, Yeah, it'll last 40 years. That's their due diligence over there, which is like total BS.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. And they say $20 PPA or whatever. And they just, it's so crazy.

Emmet Penney
It's total nonsense, man. Like, it's all- I'm more and more convinced that this is like-

Bret Kugelmass
But people are able to delude themselves, I think quite for a while. I don't know if there's actually going to be reckoning coming or people just delude themselves until it's too late and then blame the other side and say, Well, you didn't take aggressive action enough quickly, my plan was always gonna work.

Emmet Penney
There's definitely going to be some of that. I mean, like I said, there's a lot of money in this and money walks. Too many people are gonna do that. And the other thing is, their favorite thing to do - I talked about this, I think, in a piece I wrote for the Claremont Institute called "Power Trip for American Mind" and I said that their plan, their strategy, let's say, is to make us more vulnerable to weather. And so when basic bad weather happens, they can say, See, this is why you need to listen to us more, because this is the climate kicking our asses. And then they go ahead and continue to make us more vulnerable to weather.

Bret Kugelmass
It's so- right? Because that's what happened in Texas. That's like literally exactly what happened.

Emmet Penney
Due, I live in California. Right now, the diesel generator fleet to back up everybody because of how crappy the grid is here now is 24 times the amount of battery storage we have in the state. That's going to keep going because California is like, well, let's do micro grids. And it's like, yeah, what do you think is going to back those up? Diesel.

Bret Kugelmass
I never understood the carbon argument for renewables plus storage, because at some point- I mean, storage is not without a carbon footprint. Renewables were never without a carbon footprint. Overbuilding the two has additional carbon footprint implications. If you were just looking at the baseline carbon footprint of solar, let's say 40 grams per kilowatt hour, and then you were to look at the baseline of combined cycle natural gas -I don't know, what is it like 250 grams. It's not like you're in such a different ballpark that if you had to over build a bunch of solar, you couldn't n plus add storage that you couldn't see those numbers approaching combined cycle natural gas anyway.

Emmet Penney
Yeah. No, not at all. Okay, by the way, do you want to know what their new cope is? Because they're realizing they're in really hot water. This is their new cope. Just rolled out. Madison Czerwinski and I started noticing it when we wrote a piece for Real Clear Energy on the solar futures plan that came out of the DOE which we called "Empire of the Setting Sun." And they were like, Well, we're gonna do a- I think it was like renewable energy or something like that carbon turbines, or something. I forget what phrase, it was like RECT, right? R-E-C-T, I forget exactly what they used. And they were just like, We're gonna do green natural gas. That's their new thing. They're like, it'll be hydrogen or something else. But that's what we're going to do. Because they understand now that they need the dispatchability that comes from natural gas and there's no way out of that. So what are they going to do? They're going to try to figure out how to do the green alternative to that.

Bret Kugelmass
And that means you build a normal natural gas and you sequester it on site or something?

Emmet Penney
Yeah, one of the things. They're just like, We'll use our new plants to create green hydrogen or whatever. I mean, it's all cockamamie. It's so much conference bullshit. But it's like not even clear. When I was reading something on like Energy Wire or something where the guy was just like, Yeah, like renewable natural gas, that's what we'll use. And they were sort of like, what is that? He was like, I don't know, but we'll figure out well,

Bret Kugelmass
I mean, I think even just when they started calling it natural gas instead of methane, I thought that was just so genius. I'm like, Oh these guys are so good. They applied the word- put the word natural in front of it. Like they took the industry started, because people didn't have any problems natural gas earlier on I don't think. The methane I think it would have had a problem with. And I'm like, it doesn't take much to rebrand. Oh, yeah,

Emmet Penney
No, no, no. I mean, I have huge respect for those guys. You know I used to be like super anti fossil fuels or whatever. And now, because I do it, like pay attention to the realities of energy, I'm supremely grateful.

Bret Kugelmass
Oh I know, me too.

Emmet Penney
So I have a thing coming out on Monday at my Subset called "Why It Was Fire." And it is the beginning of a series of trying to understand why the green left is the way it is, and also what an alternative vision of a robust energy dense society would look like. So it's going to have several installments. This first installment is a look at why the Promethean gift was fire. Because it's energy. And that allows us to do the work. There is no human flourishing, but with energy.

Bret Kugelmass
I know. I know. I know. Yeah, I know. I'm grateful for it, too. I've totally shifted my perspective, after I've gotten into- You know, I went into the energy space as a climate alarmist and just the more and more that I learned more, I realized how important energy was to every part of life. And now I find myself at the point where, if I had to choose one, preventing climate change and everyone living in energy poverty, or ramping climate change and energy prosperity, I'd choose the latter. So it is, it's interesting.

Emmet Penney
I mean, the way I think about it now, I think that- I don't really think the fourth Industrial Revolution - or whatever we're calling this like AI stuff. Again, this is all just stuff from 1964. This was just repackaged, we're still in that same future. And I think that right now, the great escalation of modernity is starting to level off. I don't think that's good. I don't think that's bad. I think it's just what's happening. So I'm taking a look at America's society. I'm taking a look at the grid - which is also something that we should use as way more part of our arsenal for arguing for nuclear - and I'm taking a look at how, what role I want to play in America's future, however small, and I'm thinking it's my duty to conserve modernity.

Bret Kugelmass
To make sure we don't fall back into some sort of?

Emmet Penney
Because this could easily become- I don't want to be a Cassandra. But like, let's say a bunch more RTOs get created.

Bret Kugelmass
What's RTOs?

Emmet Penney
That's the Regional Transmission Organization. That's sort of like what ERCOT is. That's California. That's New England. Meredith Angwin's book, "Shorting the Grid" is a great primer on how these things hurt nuclear, but also hurt our resilience as a country, because they leave us vulnerable to the federal trifecta of overbuilding of renewables, over reliance on natural gas, and over dependence on imports from out of state. That's exactly what happened in Texas. That's what happens in California all the time now. FERC, there's a big fight in FERC about whether to build more of these, because former heads of FERC are like, You should build more, because 80% of new renewables get put out there. 80% of our renewables exist in RTOs, because RTOs are auction houses where you basically bid to provide the generation for the grid. And it's a big day trader secondary market thing. And what do traders love? Volatility. Well, intermittent renewables and dispatchable natural gas are great for that. Not so good for just like straight up baseload. So that is, to me, a huge part of what we're up against. That's part of the national security argument, I also think, by the way.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, I love that. I love the national security argument. I love it.

Emmet Penney
Because it's also air gapped, technologically. That's something that I was listening to when Manchin when mansion was talking to people from the TVA, in other words, elsewhere, there's a clip of it online, and the woman says, Look, this is our safest from cyber attacks.

Bret Kugelmass
Which?

Emmet Penney
Nuclear.

Bret Kugelmass
Nuclear specifically. And why is that?

Emmet Penney
Yeah, I don't know all the technical details, to be honest. But she was just like, she basically said, Look, it's air gapped from other systems, right. It's like, it's hard-

Emmet Penney
Literally, she's not just making an analogy. She's saying the way that they've set up the systems. I mean, part of it is because they don't allow digital controls, but that's another.

Emmet Penney
Right. Exactly. That's part of it, too. You know, so. Yeah. So I think that that's a that's a huge thing in our favor. But that's what I'm thinking about: conserving modernity to be handed down, because human flourishing is still going to be possible. I just don't think it will be like the rapid 5% compound growth of thermo economic ability that it was in the 19th century to the 1950s. And it might not be that way. It could, and the only way it could be is if we continue to do stuff like nuclear. And we can have that at all.

Bret Kugelmass
Right, so that was my mindset and I was gonna ask you next is, Well, why shouldn't we aim for that? And then the way to do that, obviously, is build a bunch more nuclear at ever decreasing costs?

Emmet Penney
Yeah, exactly, because I don't really know if I buy like the progressive idea of history, where it's just like, things just get better. I think history is just history. It's like what humans do and just totally possible for society to fall apart. I think you can fall into sort of a passive optimism. That's a little bit serious and I think that passive optimism is what helps create the sort of reactionary nostalgia that people in the environmental movement feel. I have some buddies over- there are some lefties over at Space Commune. It's a podcast and YouTube channel. They do great long videos on degrowth and stuff like that, critiquing it, because they live in Kingston, New York, which Warren Buffett's son is now terraforming with all sorts of Green NGOs that are hardcore degrowth and stuff like that.

Bret Kugelmass
I didn't know that I didn't know that the Buffett camp was degrowth.

Emmet Penney
His son, Peter, yeah. And they live in Kingston. It's a small town. And so they're watching it literally change the shape of their entire town. There's a great piece in Tablet by a guy named Sean Cooper that's called, "When a Buffett Buys Your Town" that takes a look at it. But they call that sort of degrowth, like return to the Earth spirit thing, they've called it "Return to monkey." Return to monkey. Like that's the go backwards to it. Right. And there are some people who actually want that and they're willing to pony up tons of money to do it.

Bret Kugelmass
I don't think they want to. I don't think I know what it is. I don't think they know what they're asking for. I think they've got some sort of fantasy in their head of that time they walked through the safe National Park paved path. And they're like, this is what degrowth is? My one afternoon hiking through Yosemit? That's all they- like they don't know.

Emmet Penney
Well, that's what I'm saying. It's nostalgia. It's not like memory, right?

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, exactly. Not memory. Nostalgia, right, like a false memory.

Emmet Penney
Exact. Yeah, it's like a false memory of that. That's what I mean. They want whatever that idea that they have is. They don't understand what the realities of that will be. I was listening to some philosopher who I otherwise like the other day being like, Well, maybe we should just return to talking about like justice in a field or whatever. And I was just like, Look, I get why that's romantic for you. I too, like reading ancient shit. But you have to understand that that's gonna be like five people and you'll be a slave. Like, that's the way that's gonna work, man. If you want to do that. Doesn't mean like exploitation and brutalities don't exist today. It just means that more is possible if you have more energy.

Bret Kugelmass
Oh, I know. I know. I mean - and I don't want to draw too many conclusions - but the world that I imagine where everyone has this unlimited energy prosperity and how much it just kind of turns down the temperature on how desperate people are in all sorts of situations, like economically, in some socio economic classes, even in the rich world, versus literally just their ability to acquire materials or safety and other parts of the world. I just - I don't know, this is my fantasy, I've got nothing to back it up - but I just imagine a world with so much more abundant energy just being a happier, safer place overall.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, I mean, I think about it in terms of like, this is- what did the Greeks call it, thumos, the spiritedness of humanity being able to be expressed more fully, more dynamically, that sort of a vitalist greatness is possible with more energy. That's what I want. I want- just give me some big beautiful art deco shit again. I want big, impressive monuments to our ability to create. I want a national culture that respects the working person who gets their hands dirty and makes this possible. I think about in Cleveland, they changed the name of the team to the Guardians, from the Cleveland Indians. And people were like, but the Guardians, what? The guardians of transit are actually these big art deco models they have and they look like gods holding like a taxi, or like holding a carriage or a train car and stuff like that on one of their bridges. They're amazing. And I was like, that's what I want.

Bret Kugelmass
Very Lord of the Rings-esqe when they go down the river into the-

Emmet Penney
Exactly, just like that. I'm like, that's what I want, you know? I'm more Gene Wolfe than I am Isaac Asimov, I think fantasy wise or sci fi wise. I've always been attracted - I mean it's no surprise, I grew up Catholic, so of course I have this affinity for Gene Wolfe and that there are these huge things out there that are these big artistic monuments that have this old school vibe to them.

Bret Kugelmass
I mean, the Foundation series had this like Empire base like on-

Emmet Penney
Tons of stuff of Foundation that's awesome. I think, anytime a show comes out based on something, I'm like worried. I haven't seen the-

Bret Kugelmass
Oh, no, well, actually, so what's funny is I reread the books recently anticipating and I actually can't follow the-

Emmet Penney
Yeah, typical.

Bret Kugelmass
But it's also the case with Dune. I'm like, really upset. Did you see Dune, yet?

Emmet Penney
I did. Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
I reread Dune, also anticipating, and I was like kind of disappointed. I mean, I think the artistic nature of the movie is amazing. But I actually think that, had I not read the books, I would have no idea what's going on. I just put myself in the shoes of someone who hadn't read the book.

Emmet Penney
I thought that too and then I talked to a friend of mine who saw it and he was just like, No, it was great. I got it.

Bret Kugelmass
He did get it. Okay.

Emmet Penney
I was like, You know that big tube in space is the warp, right? He's like, I didn't know what was called, but I knew what it was doing. And I was like, Oh, okay. I think- however you say his name, I do like him as director. He does a good job with visual storytelling. But it was amazing to see sort of the production design of Dune on this theme of like, what type of beauty do we want for our future? That's why we're talking about this, is that it was a combination of like Art Deco and brutalism, two of - people hate brutalism, that's fine - but it was an incredibly optimistic architectural form, because of the amount of concrete they used. They're just like, Yeah, we're just gonna have this cheap ass energy forever.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Well, I mean, the world that I imagine for the future- the other thing that disappoints me when I walk through like any city, even a modern city, things kind of still seem a little dirty. It's like, I don't know what it is, maybe just like-

Emmet Penney
Dude, I live in California. You don't have to tell me twice. And I work- I helped Michael work on San Fransicko. I know.

Bret Kugelmass
That's a whole nother level. But it's just like, Yeah, we have this ability- if we had unlimited energy, we'd have the ability to not cut corners when it came to the aesthetics of our environment. And so that's something else I wish for someday. I can imagine the world where it makes sense from an energy perspective that we 3D print cities. And then the level of attention to detail and creativity and design can just be like, you can just be swimming in it, you know?

Emmet Penney
Yeah, I mean I don't know what the potentials of 3D printing are. You would know more than me about that. But yeah, I think that there is a different story of the future that we can tell. I'm very interested in like Aristotelian ideas of the polis, the society is a place for beautiful action. That that is what we can come together to do, politically. I'm interested in that vision of nuclear. Because whatever happens with nuclear, let's say we deregulate everything and the market stuff just flows. No matter what, in order to maintain and to keep it, we need a broad societal consensus that nuclear is the way to go.

Bret Kugelmass
What do you think about movies? I've always wondered like, why doesn't the next Star Trek, or Star Trek-esque thing, why is it powered by warp core? Why is it not powered by a fission reactor? I would love to see a new Sci Fi series that really captures the imagination where the heart of the infrastructure foundation are nuclear reactors. And just subtly embed it in every part of this cool vision for the future.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, I mean, I don't know. I think that's because, at some point after the end of history, the vision of the future became incredibly dim and apocalyptic. And I think when a lot of very popular sci fi things - the stuff that gets turned into major IP now - was churned out was sort of in the post energy crisis, post Vietnam era. I think one thing that we don't totally have a handle on is the way in which, culturally, we understand. Legally, we understand, but the 64 Civil Rights Act, and just musically, we've sort of never left those two decades in a lot of ways. But we haven't really appreciated what that did to the American energy industry and our own relationship to expectations of energy. Especially because that's also when lots of like offshoring starts to happen. The '65 interconnect blackout happens. Then that's a huge setback. That's a setback for utilities everywhere. And it is also when guys like Amory Lovins and stuff really start to gain their ground and tell a different story, a less abundant story of the future. And that is the one that we have stuck with, because all of those people have been integrated into the major institutions that decide these things. So I think there needs to be a reappraisal of the 70s energy crisis and the story we tell about it. And I do actually think that's important and it is something I'm working on right now.

Bret Kugelmass
Oh, that's super cool. I love that. I love that.

Emmet Penney
Because we need to, we need to have a total reckoning of what that is. And I think now is a great time to do it, going into what is another global energy crisis. What we don't want to do is play the game of lowering our expectations to meet our assumed reality. That is the worst lesson that we as Americans could take from what's going to happen this winter. And I think that is one that people are very, very primed to take.

Bret Kugelmass
I agree. I agree. I mean, I think that's the way it's been going for a while. But I mean, that's one of the reasons that I'm like such a big fan of Elon Musk, just because he is able to inspire in a different way. Like he built big physical real world shit that everyone says is impossible and then he just goes off and does it. And I feel like that, just him being around I think, if we are going to see a real transformation across industries in terms of doing big things and people taking the opposite perspective of the one you just laid out, I think he's gonna have done a lot of the path carving for that.

Emmet Penney
I think culturally that's very true. I think it's obvious that he's come round on nuclear, but he's still a solar panels and batteries guy.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Oh, no, I wasn't- yeah, I'm not complimenting his position on nuclear. I think he'll- actually, kind of I'm like watching his language over time. And I do think he's on the right track. I think first, okay. We can do it all with 80 square miles of solar. That's where I started with, too.

Emmet Penney
Sure. Totally. Right. We want to have an open door policy. We don't want to be like, We're the cool kids. And we were right all along. That sucks. No one fucking likes those people.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. And so now I see him kind of marching towards- I mean, I'm sure he has people in his sphere who are praising nuclear. The problem is, I think a lot of those people have bad information, too. And so now I see him on the, okay, the new nuclear path. Like, oh, you know, the next generation nuclear is safer, I hear him saying, so I'm for it, right? But I think that is the next step on the way to realizing, no, no, no. The old- safer? What do you mean safer? How can you be safer that when three cores meltdown in Fukushima, nobody dies? There's no such thing as safer than that. So it's like, once you realize that, once you're able to cognitively do some pattern matching there, then eventually you come around to the point that like, Oh, we had it all along. And then you got to be like, Okay, well, what's changed? What stopped us what slowed us down?

Bret Kugelmass
That's the real nuke pill. That's the- yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
That's the real nuke pill. I like that.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, totally. So I grew up as like a punk and heavy metal kid. There is sort of the trajectory you go on - you used to, it's totally different now because of the internet. But back in my day, this was true. I think, for the generation before me, as you'd get into like a major mainstream band, like Green Day or blink-182 or something, you'd be like, Oh, this is like kind of cool. And then you start like looking around like rock encyclopedias or your friend with a cool older brother or sister that knows somebody at the college radio station is home for Christmas, or like, whatever. You go to the local Battle of the Bands and there's like one other kid with like a weird t-shirt and long hair. And that show you get into the Dead Kennedys after that and then you're listening to Black Flag. And then, 10 years later, you're listening to nothing but like, true Norwegian black metal or something. And to me, it's like a similar trajectory with getting people into nuclear.

Bret Kugelmass
That's so funny. I love that.

Emmet Penney
It's like the same thing.

Bret Kugelmass
I love that. Yeah, I almost wonder if we can then kind of fester something has to happen on its own or if there's some way that we can speed up the process.

Emmet Penney
I think the more people we have out there- look, I was thinking about this. I was talking to Chris about this when I was on his show. I said, I'm so glad I can't be Isabelle Boemeke, because-

Bret Kugelmass
Different strategies.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, different strategy. And I don't want to say that there can only be one nuclear advocate. That's obviously not true. But there's probably only like- it's good that it's not like the Highlander. There can only be one. But you want people in different domains. And the way that I think about this is very much like, I want the disaffected dudes I used to write for when I was covering heavy metal publications, covering stuff for heavy metal publications to get into nuclear.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Well, that's what I'm wondering if that can be done more strategically. I mean, I love that there are people and people are taking different tacks. It seems a little random to me. Obviously, to become more strategic, you need to actually kind of fund institutions, have people full time thinking it out. But I would love to carve up society by demographic and then for each demographic find the guy who's credible with that community, get them on the train. And then- you know what I'm saying? How many carvings could there be? 1,000? Okay, so you got to hire- it's like, I think it's doable.

Emmet Penney
I think it's certainly doable, too. I mean, I'm hoping to eventually find sponsors and stuff to start thinking some of this stuff out. Because I know that there are a lot of people who want to hear something different than anything that they've been told before about this. So the time is ripe and we want nuclear to be something that all everyone in America who's willing to accept it right can see their destiny in. That's what we want. Wow. We want people to see their destiny in a nuclear build out. The national destiny. And America has a lot of different people in it. And that's great, because energy is in everything. So everyone can figure out a way to see their destiny. And figuring out what that is what I'm interested in, because I can't be the science guy. I'm not an economist. I can't really be the white paper guy either. What can I be? Well, I can be what there are so few of for nuclear, which is some sort of philosophical cultural ambassador to energy in nuclear. Like that is I think - I mean, it's not the most important thing, I wouldn't fluff myself up like that and I don't think that's true - but it's an important element that's missing. Because one thing that I have heard from other people, is that it's not accessible enough or it seems like stuff that only happens at conferences or there's just too much lanyard stuff going on.

Bret Kugelmass
To me. Listen, I mean, when I tried to break into the nuclear industry. It was rough. Like the first three months, nobody would talk to me. I start showing up at random nuclear conferences. It was awkward, uncomfortable. Even the podcast, it took me three months to get the first five episodes when I was like, that's all I was doing was trying to hustle down episodes. Man, it is tough to break into. Now I think it's a little bit easier. I mean, I think it's because of folks like you and Chris and Mark, a lot of people communicating in a more open and broad way.

Emmet Penney
Absolutely. And I think we need nuclear aesthetics. That's one thing that I really have to commend the renewables people for doing. I mean, it's like suffocating how pervasive their aesthetic is.

Bret Kugelmass
Can we double click on this for nuclear? What is the nuclear aesthetic?

Emmet Penney
Right. I think that that's what's opened. I think we need to think about- well, I should say there won't be just one capital aesthetic. There will be several, based on what we're talking about. This is a pluralistic endeavor, because America's a pluralistic country. But I swear to God, if I see one more logo with like green and brown flat design that's about the environment, I'm going to lose my goddamn mind.

Bret Kugelmass
I know. I know.

Emmet Penney
I can't do any of this new Corporate Memphis Highlights for Kids stuff. It's too much. I don't like it. It's bad. It feels belittling to engage it. It's like, I'm a grown ass man. Give me something that feels alive. Don't give me something that feels like it'll play in a focus group. I want something that feels alive, because like I said, we want to be able to see our own destiny in it. I think that's what's so important to me. There's a store- I think of the image, I can't remember the scientist's name. It's one of my favorite images in American history. It's him standing with all of the burners of the rocket ships, just behind him in the background, and they're huge in comparison to him. And I was like, it's so dignified and cool. And I'm just like, yeah, give me some that has some of that energy. You know what I mean? Make me feel like more is possible, not like we're gonna shrink to the size that we become acceptable for the world to have us continue to exist on it. I want that. Give me something and give me some of the marrow of life.

Bret Kugelmass
Where do we-- I mean, my mind just always goes- this is like the entrepreneur in me, Okay, let's make that actionable. What are the next steps to running with that idea of this new nuclear aesthetic? What do we need to put together?

Emmet Penney
Yeah, I mean, because that's sort of why I started Nuclear Barbarians, because I was just like, I don't know, but I've sort of put together this weird idea of the nuclear barbarians where I use a lot of Conan imagery. And people seem to really like that. That's exciting. There's some sort of like vitalism to that that's important. And I was like, I'm just gonna roll with it and see what happens. So I don't know. I'm thinking through it, too. You know what I mean? I was just kind of like, I'll build it and they will come. I'll see what happens.

Bret Kugelmass
Wait, can you move your head over to the side for a second? I just want to see the full graphic behind you.

Emmet Penney
Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
So can you explain that?

Emmet Penney
Yeah. So earlier this year, I put out a tweet where I was just like, I realized, because I'm a heavy metal guy that a lot of the photos of Palo Verde had the same color template as the - because it's in Arizona - of the Iron Maiden Powerslave album cover. And I was like, it'd be cool if somebody could-

Bret Kugelmass
Oh you are a heavy metal guy.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, figure out how to merge those. And the tweet did really well and I was just like, Okay, but no one's gotten back to me about making this vision a reality. And then my buddy Sterling Bartlett, who's a great graphic designer and comic book artist DM'd me and he was just like, Hey, I just finished a bunch of deadlines and I don't have anything coming up for a while. Did anybody do - because he's a heavy metal guy, too - he was like, did anybody do that for you? And I was like, No. He was just like, Alright, give me a couple weeks ago. And so he built it for me. I sing his praises, because I think he's a really sharp guy. His comic, "How Did We Get Here?" is really good, so if you want to find him on Twitter and Instagram, I always gotta, because he did it for free. It was very kind of him to do that. I mean, that's part of it. I was basically just like, Okay, I don't know who will like this, but I know what I like. And so I'm going to figure out how to make that. And I'm going to assume that there are other people like me. Now, there could be more formal way to do this. With more funding, we could think about things or source people who are already primed and doing something real that we want to do. Because I don't necessarily like, I said, this sort of top down focus group stuff. I just, it doesn't work for me. I can tell, I can smell it. And I'm like, I feel like I'm being sold. I want somebody who already has an interesting idea of- they have a good eye for something, you know what I mean? I want that. And then however your eye has this vision of what could be, just do that, but nuclear.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, no. I think that yeah, the focus group stuff doesn't work. This is one of those things that maybe you can't be so strategic about it. Just got to try a bunch of stuff and see what resonates. That strategy, throw stuff on the wall and see.

Emmet Penney
Exactly, because when I go see most movies nowadays or whatever, I live in LA. LA is like the Death Star of oversold, over invested in, immortal intellectual property. And that stuff is so put through focus group after focus group to become completely unobjective actionable, but also absolutely visionless. And most of it doesn't even involve watching real people interact on screen. It's like Chris Pratt talking to a tennis ball on a PVC pipe. And they put Josh Brolin in there, eight months later. I don't want that anymore. That's what everything feels like. Yeah, yeah. It's the slow cancellation of the future.

Bret Kugelmass
You blow my mind, man. I mean, this is some like heavy stuff, but it's important. And no, it's just great to talk to you about it.

Emmet Penney
Yeah, likewise. I mean, I'm just figuring this out too, you know, so I'm hoping, you know, I'd love for you to send me more of your stuff on deregulation, if you have any. And what your vision is that's less centralized and stuff like that, because I want to learn from you. And I want to pick up on some of those talking points, so I can get sharper in bringing this to my audience. You know what I mean? The more all of us collaborate and figure out how to do this, I just think the stronger, more authentic and real is going to be as we start to persuade the public and it's- we got to make hay while the sun is shining, because it's gonna shine real bright going into this winter for us, as I said, for some tragic reasons. But we just got to keep pushing. I used to be a power lifter. And there's this guy, Louie Simmons, he runs the strongest gym in the world, it is just out of a out of a tiny strip mall in Ohio. His major book work is called "The Westside Book of Methods." Louie has been around forever. And in the preface, he lists every great power lifter that he saw come up in his day. And he's in like his 60s or 70s now. No one remembers these guys but Louie. And he says, I never outlifted any of them, but I outlasted them all. I want nuclear not to just be strong today. I want it to be strong today. And tomorrow. That's the mentality we want to have.

Bret Kugelmass
Dude, you give me the shivers? All right. On that note, we should wrap it up. Emmet Penney, thank you so much for taking the time today. I hope this is the start of many conversations between us.

Emmet Penney
Oh, please. I would love that. I would love that. Thank you so much for having me on. By the way, for your audience, if you want to see any of my stuff, nuclearbarbarians.substack.com. You can find me at nukebarbarian on Twitter. My DMs are open. Just give me a shout if you're into any of this or you have anything that might be helpful. I'd love to hear from you.

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