Episode 53 Transcript
CLARICE: Hello, everybody. Thank you for tuning in to this week’s episode of Environmentally Speaking.
MARISA: Hi, everyone. I’m Marisa Desautel. I do the environmental law thing here in Rhode Island.
CLARICE: And I just like to be the other body, somebody for you to talk to.
MARISA: Do you have a name?
CLARICE: I do. It’s Clarice. Good morning, everyone. We are so excited to talk about renewables this week.
MARISA: We are. And the genesis of this particular topic came from our social media people telling us that the episode we put together for solar energy was the most popular episode that we’ve done. So it is a hot topic in Rhode Island, but I think folks are interested because they’re hearing about it in news headlines and it’s a topic that people are talk about generally, but there’s not a lot of information available about how, why, and what. So I thought it would be a good idea to provide some background on the history of energy on the planet and then talk about some of the more popular renewable energy sources and projects.
CLARICE: Yeah. I love this. I love the idea of talking about the renewable energies because I feel like it’s something that is more relatable, at least for myself and I’m hoping for all of you listeners. I mean, sure, when we talk about wetlands or sort of water rights and things like that it’s interesting, but it may not directly affect you. So this is kind of a way to be a little bit more personal on it.
MARISA: Yeah. And it’s a statewide issue for sure, but it’s also a national issue. We’ve got a couple of episodes behind us that dealt with strain on the grid and rolling blackouts and those are some of the more drastic impacts that we can see currently from a lack of enough of a portfolio in our energy sources.
CLARICE: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m excited. Okay. Where do you want to start? Let’s get into it.
MARISA: Would you say that you’re electrified?
MARISA: See what I did?
CLARICE: That’s a bad joke. That is a bad joke but I like it.
[0:02:43] MARISA: I got tons of them. All right. So I figured it would be kind of neat to talk about how and why energy is such a huge issue on the planet right now. And I think bottom line is, as you can imagine, the energy sources that we have been reliant upon are finite. What am I talking about? In developed countries there is a demand for more energy because folks are not relying on the hunter-gatherer policy anymore where with agrarian economies people’s basic needs for food is provided through simple forms of agriculture so hunting, gathering. You’re not moving around as much. Your food intake – you follow the food source, that kind of thing. But now 2022 here in Rhode Island people are not hunting and gathering as a main source of calories for the most part. So that means we’re traveling to grocery stores to get our food. We’re ordering food online. We’re going to restaurants. More energy, more power is needed to keep those practices going. Does that make sense?
CLARICE: Yeah. Yeah. It absolutely does. I always think about it as sure in a way the work for us to get food is reduced drastically, but the amount of energy expended is almost double. If you think back to even early farming, your food was on your land.
CLARICE: And you were walking to it or maybe taking a horse, wagon situation to get to that part of your land.
CLARICE: You’re not expending any energy outside of the human and maybe animal energy. I’m not doing any work for the salad, but I am getting in my car, burning gasoline to go to the grocery store which needs refrigerators to keep the salad cold and lights to keep it running. Way more energy involved.
MARISA: Yeah. Agreed. Especially when you consider – I don’t want to say how lazy we’ve become because I don’t know that that’s the case, but we are definitely creatures of following the path of least resistance. I know some folks that drive to their mailbox to get their mail. They won’t walk to the mailbox. So it’s that kind of culture that we’re in that demands more energy. And historically speaking, with each phase of economic development in a country the energy transitions from a minor source of energy to moderate source to major source. So we’re in the major fuel source period right now in this country and I’m talking about fossil fuels so coal, oil, and natural gas. That’s really what we’ve been reliant upon for the past – since the 21st century.
[0:06:21] CLARICE: Uh-huh.
MARISA: Or excuse me, the 20th century. But now we’re seeing a massive transition to renewable energy sources. And our office’s experience is with solar, the major solar developments, offshore wind. Those are very, very, very hot topics right now. And by offshore I mean both right off the coast of Rhode Island in state waters and also in federal waters.
CLARICE: Yeah. Absolutely. There’s been a huge shift. And I think in – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, but I feel like we’re now finally at a point where we’re experimenting with all of these alternative energy sources more in earnest than we have in the past. I think specifically of the 50s and 60s and those like sci-fi cartoons about what the future will be like –
CLARICE: — and those sort of cheesy things. But now we’re at a point where we’re like, no, actually we can figure out how to use solar energy in a useful way in our homes and it’s now giving these alternatives a real go versus just that Jetsons style cartoon.
MARISA: Yes. And there is some debate about whether these sources of renewable energy are cost effective because of the amount of infrastructure they require especially with offshore wind projects in federal waters. You’re not only building a 400-foot tall turbine that has a footprint that’s jammed into the seafloor, but you’re also now running cable from the wind project area through federal water, through state water, eventually making landfall and connecting to the grid. So there is a high cost associated with getting these projects going. And the other source of energy that I am very fond of for some reason, probably because there’s a lot of drama associated with it, is nuclear.
MARISA: Nuclear power. It was a hot ticket item I think in the ‘50s and ‘60s. And then hopefully folks are familiar with Chernobyl. And what was the other plant in Japan.
[0:09:05] CLARICE: I will look it up. I can see the word, but I’m afraid I’m going to mispronounce it.
MARISA: Not the recent one. Anyway, let’s go with Chernobyl. The reason that I’m so interested in nuclear energy is because in theory when you read scientific papers about nuclear energy and why it’s such a great source of power it sounds fantastic. You’re like, there’s no emissions. Yeah. Not Fukushima. It was another one. Thank you, though.
MARISA: It sounds great. There’s no emissions. It’s an ongoing source of power. You know, it’s massive the amount of energy that nuclear power plant can generate. The interesting part to me is the human error. So you’ve got this giant infrastructure that emits radiation and we’re messing it up. I mean, I’m laughing. It’s not funny. It’s funny to me because I’m fascinated by humanity. But how is it that we can – scientists can come up with a way to wrangle this type of power, but we can’t get the people working in these plants that are not negligent.
And then there’s been a historical political coverup when there’s a meltdown. The country that is experiencing literally the meltdown tries to keep it under wraps because they don’t want the global theater to know. It’s almost like an ego type of thing. So nuclear power — Love Canal was the one in the U.S. most recently – it’s such a disaster that public opinion is, shut it down, no more. We’re not going to radiate our kids. We’re not going to cause harm to existing populations. And there’s been no real push to try to bring that back online because they’re such a disaster. And, again, I don’t mean to laugh, but I’m fascinated by that entire dynamic and the drama that goes along with it.
CLARICE: Yeah. Absolutely. I think when thinking of nuclear it’s the perfect example in my mind of high risk, high reward. If it’s working well it’s working really well. It’s got a lot of great benefits. For lack of a better word, it’s really powerful. When it’s not working well, it’s not like we’re having a bad day. We have ruined the month.
[0:12:13] MARISA: Oh, yeah. The month, years, decades.
MARISA: That radiation doesn’t go away.
CLARICE: Yeah. It is. It’s such a high risk. And I’m wondering in the future if – I’m hoping that the negative impact of when it fails doesn’t dissuade people from researching and looking into ways to make it more efficient. I’m wondering if maybe having more aspects automated or learning from these mistakes like what pieces exactly failed, what are things we can do to put in extra safeguards. Essentially I’m just hoping that people aren’t necessarily so scared away that we don’t keep researching into it.
MARISA: Well, Love Canal happened in the ‘70s, so people still remember it.
CLARICE: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I think hope is the strong word out of that.
MARISA: Yeah. But offshore wind is moving forward, so that’s going to be the next wave of renewable energy that we see in this area.
CLARICE: Yeah. Absolutely. And I’m sensing from – do you think there’s going to be any slowdown? Do you think there’s any shift, or do you think we’re just going to keep sort of increasing and moving forward with the offshore wind?
MARISA: Yeah. We’re going to keep moving forward with that. The political machine behind it is in motion. Good luck stopping that.
CLARICE: We’ve already talked about in another episode, so many pros and cons to that.
CLARICE: It’s not all bad, but.
MARISA: Bottom line is we are seeing a very big transition from fossil fuel dependence to renewable energy. It’s happening too fast. It should have happened years ago. I won’t get on my soapbox about that, but it is happening. It’s happening.
CLARICE: And I think we’ve talked about it, too, on the podcast, this push, too, with electric cars and there’s been more incentives and there’s been more laws promoting and sort of pushing that, as well.
CLARICE: So the shift is definitely happening, I guess for better or worse.
CLARICE: Look at that. Renewable energy, we’ve made it a bummer.
MARISA: My work here is done.
CLARICE: So if you guys have any thoughts about renewable energy, if there’s one specific type of energy you want us to talk about more – I know we talked a little bit about nuclear energy. We’ve talked about wind, solar. What else? What else do you want us to chat about? What do you want to see an episode about? I do want to give a shout-out. We did have a listener write in. John, I’m not going to say your last name because you didn’t tell me that that was okay. He wrote in talking about our episode for the Woodstock cleanup project, the ZAP project. He said he actually participated in project ZAP back in 1972 as a Boy Scout, so he thought it was – he gave us a little shout-out for talking about it again. So thanks, John. I loved that.
[0:15:36] MARISA: Hey, John.
CLARICE: So, again, comments, topics, things you want to hear us rant about, things you want to hear me to try to say positively and Marisa say negatively, hit us up on the social medias. We are Desautel Law. You can also reach out to us at Help@DesautelESQ.com. And next week we are going to be featuring a follow-up episode. We are very excited. We have an expert on ballast water.
CLARICE: I’m excited.
MARISA: I mean, who would have thought that ballast water would garner such subject matter expertise interest.
CLARICE: I had no idea.
MARISA: I’m down.
MARISA: I’m going to learn more.
CLARICE: This is going to be great. So we will see you guys next week. Thanks.