The Power Hungry Podcast

Scott Tinker: Switch Energy Alliance on Energy Poverty and the Transition

September 01, 2020 Robert Bryce & Scott Tinker Season 1 Episode 11
The Power Hungry Podcast
Scott Tinker: Switch Energy Alliance on Energy Poverty and the Transition
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The Power Hungry Podcast
Scott Tinker: Switch Energy Alliance on Energy Poverty and the Transition
Sep 01, 2020 Season 1 Episode 11
Robert Bryce & Scott Tinker

The Switch Energy Alliance is an Austin-based non-profit that’s “dedicated to inspiring an energy-educated future that is objective, nonpartisan, and sensible.” In this episode, Robert talks with SEA chairman and Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, Scott Tinker, about the alliance’s new energy-focused curriculum, and his compelling new documentary, Switch On, which takes viewers to Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Vietnam, and Nepal, to show how people all over the world are struggling to overcome energy poverty.    

Show Notes Transcript

The Switch Energy Alliance is an Austin-based non-profit that’s “dedicated to inspiring an energy-educated future that is objective, nonpartisan, and sensible.” In this episode, Robert talks with SEA chairman and Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, Scott Tinker, about the alliance’s new energy-focused curriculum, and his compelling new documentary, Switch On, which takes viewers to Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Vietnam, and Nepal, to show how people all over the world are struggling to overcome energy poverty.    

Robert Bryce :

Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I'm Robert Bryce. I'm the host of the podcast, where we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. My guest today is Scott Tinker, the chairman of the switch on Alliance. Hi, Scott. Thanks for being with us. Hey, Robert, good to be here. So, Scott, you have a long resume. You also have an affiliation with University of Texas, I could introduce you but as our custom on this podcast is to have guests introduce themselves. So if you don't mind, please. Who are you and why are you on this podcast?

Scott Tinker :

Well, I'm a dad.

Robert Bryce :

There you go.

Unknown Speaker :

And, and a husband. So those are my big jobs. Email expert, Robert these days and I do pretty well in PowerPoint. A lot of practice there. So done a little bit on energy, but I'm a professor at UT Austin and start a little 501 c three A few years back called the switch energy Alliance, and we make energy educational films and film based material. So that's my night job. I find it to be a lot of fun.

Robert Bryce :

So and today we're going to talk about your new film is the switch on which came out earlier this year. That's one of the one of the things we want to talk about. But this is your second documentary. So you've you've been working at this. The first one came out switch came out in 2012. Is that right? Yeah, that's it. So you've been working at this for eight years as an educational project? Is that a fair way to to categorize it?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, yeah. So Harry Lynch's the filmmaker, he's my partner in all things switch and we made the film switch released in 12. But we started filming in 910 11 countries and ash 20 site visits and 50 interviews and you know, you've made a film on energy. It's a big deal. It was in post production for a year when we finally got it down to switch and released it in 2012. It was a lot more popular than we thought. You know, it's been 50 countries, we think we've passed about 15 million viewers now on that, and mostly colleges and high schools and that kind of thing. So I went off and continue to babble about Angie. And Harry was doing important things. He was making another series on mental health. And I realized we'd kind of left off Robert about a third of the world in our first film that that part of the world that doesn't have much energy, or much access to energy. So we got back together, I formed a 501 c three switch energy Alliance, and we made the film switch on again three years in filming and producing it when we released that right at the time of COVID. So Timing is everything. Always a good moment, right? It is. But we filmed that in Ethiopia and Kenya, Nepal, Vietnam, and Colombia. So five countries across the developing world in the undeveloped world and it's very different style, very different approach than switch but pretty powerful.

Robert Bryce :

So, now I've watched film, I've seen it a couple times I've reviewed it. Do so what's the what's the what's your primary takeaway? And what do you want people to learn from the film? What what is the what is what was your objective with the second second documentary?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, you know, there are a lot of takeaways Some are more apparent, and some are, I think, a bit more subtle. It's like anything in energy. I think the biggest thing is how much energy affects modern societies. Most of us take it for granted, you and I aren't doing this if we don't have access to energy, affordable available energy. You know, when you have a billion people in the world without electricity still today, and another couple billion or more cooking with dirty fuels, and it just it's a playing field that disadvantages about a third of the world. And you say well, okay, so homes and food and, and education and clothing and that kind of thing to be sure, but It affects everyone. You know, there's so many big issues in the world today when people don't have that kind of access. So you, you look at the rights and freedom of women who are going for water and cooking indoors with biomass and don't get to go to schools when the male counterparts do or things like, you know, fertility rates, to be completely candid, are directly tied education. I mean, tightly tied education, education depends on modern energy in schools that have lights in them, and homes that have lights in them and access to books. And

Robert Bryce :

so you talked about in one of your lectures, you talked about the difference between clean energy and dirty energy, and that's one of the things that is that phrase, especially clean energy is thrown around a lot in the United States and talking about policy. Is that is that distinction in your mind? Is that a very clear one is Is there something can we definitively say, Well, this is clean what how do you see that?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, well I've given 800 lectures in 60 countries. And I've probably said and almost all of them, I don't know what clean means or dirty, you know are good or bad or he's kind of faults choices that are presented renewables or fossil fuels if we were painted a picture often in the public that there's this black and white set of choices, which really don't exist. So clean, I don't use it. I try not to use it. I probably said it many times. But I try my best to talk about the actual impacts of things. So if we're talking about atmospheric emissions, co2 and methane and other greenhouse gases, we talk about what kind of things we do with energy that produce those. Talk about local air emissions as we do in switch on that's a whole different set of things, cooking with biomass or our water gun. We talk about the land use that's a completely different environmental impact, whether it's mining or manufacturing or landfill disposal, impact of water systems, etc. so clean environmental pillar Are atmosphere, air, land and water, those are the four pillars in the environment. And no form of energy is perfect by any means they all have impacts on the environment. They're just different. And that's one of the great challenges, I think, with education and energy today is we seem to have this objective function of, of climate only at least in the United States, in Western Europe, when in fact, there's so much more to the environment than that. And we have to try to minimize impacts on all forms of environment. So clean to me means minimizing impacts on all forms in the environment. And we have to have the right balance of of energy, the portfolio of energy, do that.

Robert Bryce :

Sure. So you in going you talked about the different places that you went and I've done a little little travel as well. Why do you think that the public especially we talked to you following up on this clean energy, why is the in the US and in Europe, the captivation of India doable, so strong. Why is that idea? Do you think so strong in the public's imagination that that allows the, you know, poll showing 70% of people like wind 80% want more solar versus coal and nuclear, coal and oil, etc? Why? Why do you think that idea of renewables is so powerful?

Unknown Speaker :

Well, it's been linked closely to clean. So the thought of renewable energy, something that when you say the word, it means it can happen over and over again. And the sun is there for a long time. I'm a geoscientist when it's not we have a different set of problems. But But you know, with an wind blows, and it blows in places that are reasonably predictable and steady, so the sun and the wind are renewable, at least in terms we talk about this stuff to capture them. You know, you have to have wind turbines and solar panels. And because it's intermittent, not sunny or windy all the time, you have to have backup, whether it's a power plant or a battery. Those aren't renewable either. So all the materials that we mined, and manufacture, and backup intermittent energy with none of that's renewable. So this concept of renewable energy has been linked to clean. But we need to unlink that we need to actually look at it and say, Hey, you know, it has impacts to their different atmospherically at the source better. land in nature, not so good. And that's one of the great challenges I think of education is just thinking beyond that every but every time I say those exact words to anyone, they say, Well, wait a minute, I haven't thought about it that way. Why haven't some point and somebody said that to me, I feel a little duped. But, you know, but but that's okay. Just a little bit. A little bit more complex and a to see, there's actually a B in there that you have to think about and, and we could take it, you know, on a broader scale. If you think about the environment. Where's the cleanest air in the world where it's rich, you know, where the soil is the least polluted Where it's rich? Where can I drink the water out of the tap, where there's wealth. So you see this over and over again, it's healthy economies can afford to invest in the environment and the environmental cleanup and the regulation to enforce that.

Robert Bryce :

They need but they need energy to get rich.

Unknown Speaker :

They need energy. So there's the triangle energy, the economy, the environment, that little waltz that goes on, as you well know, and I've talked about forever is very real. You can't circumvent or leave one of those parts out. It just doesn't work. So the 65 countries I've been in, without exception, the worst environments are where it's poor. They just, they can't afford to think about even much less to do the kinds of environmental things that wealthy countries do. So energy, the economy, the environment, that's a very powerful waltz. And you can start to you see them, it's a virtuous cycle. You start to see the cleanup going on. As you get energy and wealth. It's really powerful.

Robert Bryce :

So let me ask them about oil because I've said, you know, why is why are renewables so attractive in terms of the public's mind? But oil and that mean the oil industry has been demonized. Now for decades I've followed, you know, I've written about this going back to the 40s. Right to the, and inevitably, the oil companies are painted as big and bad. And oh, they knew about climate change. They stopped all this. It seems a little facile. Have you been working in geosciences? Your, your PhD geologists, right? You worked in the oil industry before you you were at UT? What? Why is that? That idea of the oil business as bad, as powerful as the idea that renewables are good?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah. Well, the oil industry hasn't done itself any favors through the years. Let's be candid. It it didn't exactly try to paint a good social image of itself necessarily and when it did, people didn't respond to it. Well, so it said it was the largest industry through the years. I There, there are philosophies that just don't like big industry. Now, there are some really remarkable interactive graphs now that show Exxon Mobil floating around as a representative of, quote, big oil. And it's been its high market cap for decades. And all of a sudden, as you come into this decade, it just goes off the map. And you see, you know, Amazon and Microsoft and Google and Facebook, just go Whoa, I just read an article yesterday, Jeff Bezos, personal personal wealth has grown $40 billion since April grown 40 billion personally since April, from 110 to 100, and 50 billion, the richest guy around and guess what Bill Gates is in there, and Larry Ellison and a lot of other folks as well. So big industry is no longer oil. And interestingly enough, Big Oil isn't really Exxon Mobil. You know, when you start to think about the Aramco is and the Petro China's and the state oil companies in the world who are still actively developing oil and gas resources buying them around the world. And that's who is going to produce and develop oil and gas if the if the capitalist societies, oil and gas companies go under. so careful, ask for you might just get it.

Robert Bryce :

So those stayed on it's right so that's that's the one obvious thing that's happened is this the the the majors the super majors in the US have been decreasing in value because of this, as I put it the the oil and gas industry has been incredibly good over the last decade at reducing the cost of oil and gas to consumers but terrible at making money for itself. So there's that and I've read something just this morning Oh, well, this is the end of fossil fuels is at hand What? They'll meet what you will come back to switch on in just a minute. But your view on this so what's your outlook for the oil and gas sector and it broadly, but more specifically in the United States?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, and let me just treat it fossil fuels this way. fossil fuels are coal and oil and natural gas. And then there's some other things in there as well. But coal is just all carbon. It's been around a long time. Now it post dates. It turns out when we've we've had windmills pumping up water, and it postdates solar which grew, you know, hay for horses in our vehicles prior to coal coming along, which is a denser form of energy and you write about that. Density matters. Along comes coal without carbon, it's fossil fuel, then oil complex hydrocarbon chains and, and that was great because it's liquid. You could put it into not just lamps as kerosene but into vehicles now and combust it and that's really dense. And that changed our transportation systems. And then natural gas which methane is carbon, one carbon for hydrogen ch for propane, butane, ethane, whatever, pick your favorite natural gases, mostly hydrogen. These are hydrogen fuels. So all fossil fuels aren't in the same carbon, hydrocarbon as hydrogen in the methane side of the world. And in so you say oil and gas, but they're really different industries now, in fact, natural gas is being discovered and produced in places without oil. And that's changing the landscape. So you start to see a whole suite of resource opportunities in methane globally, that broaden the distribution of power and who has access to it and it's a remarkably diverse fuel. I can make electricity with it by combusting it in boiling water making steam turn Torben I can cook with it directly. Most of us do unless you've been regulated and taught you can't put natural gas in your home anymore. Go figure. Um, you know, I use it for products of all kinds. It's a very versatile for that, you know, etc. It's just it's a remarkable fuel and many ways, and it's one of the best fuels to backup wind and solar, which have their place to be sure to talk about that in a minute. But how do you follow that intermittency, the best way is have something you can light quickly and follow that load. So I don't like charcoal in my kitchen for a reason other than the smoke, it takes forever to get it going. But I can fire up a gas burner and half feet like that faster than electricity. Sure, and I can turn it off. So natural gas has this remarkable use as a fossil fuel that the world recognizes some of us.

Robert Bryce :

Supplies are abundant and distributed all over the world

Unknown Speaker :

there. And so yes, and if you start to think about vehicles now, we have the internal combustion engine, we have a battery electric vehicle, which is being heavily pushed. Where are we going to get all the materials for those batteries. And just math matters. If you like to count, I like to count, electrify half of them like Bloomberg forecasts as we're going to do Let's say 600 million by 2040. Which is that forecast 600 million. Now what? Well, how many batteries? Is that? Not vehicles batteries. So a Tesla is the big beautiful sedan has 7000 cell phones in a car equivalent. Now, do some math 600 million times, whatever. 5000 per cars 3 trillion new batteries, Robert and trillion new batteries. That's orders of magnitude more than we produce today. Where are we going to get all that stuff? It turns out, we're going to get it from China. And not just China itself, but from the resource that China has purchased around the world, who are buying up a lot of the mining and rare earth elements and metals and other kinds of things that it takes to make batteries. So our transportation system, which was dependent on liquids, and OPEC for a while less so now will be dependent on a different part of the world. And that's why hydrogen is so fascinating because it's broadly the distributed. And you get it in different ways, doesn't float around. It's not it's, it's, it's element number one floating around out there, you know, it's very light, but you get it from splitting a water molecule or splitting the methane molecule. Energetically a little better to split methane and water takes less energy. So that's pretty cool. When you think about a fuel cell await maybe we can have zero emissions vehicles, that function like our combustion engines do from hydrogen. And that's powerful. So,

Robert Bryce :

yeah, we get around the battery problem some of the battery balls won't get around with fuel cells have have rare minerals in them as well. But that that idea of natural gas going beyond combustion, combustion systems and into a fuel cell system has it as an as as, as a future possibility, but

Unknown Speaker :

that's it and your only product is water. You know, the only combustion product so to speak combustion the only product from that fuel cell is water, charge it at night don't drive that far smaller quiet. No emissions, hydrogen fuel cells, and then combustion engines as well. And I like that I like the idea of, of optionality or portfolio choices. That makes good sense. So I think what's happening and energy education is we're kind of focusing on one thing, and calling it good or clean or right. And in fact, it isn't. It has components that are those things, but it's that portfolio that matters.

Robert Bryce :

Is it fair to say that one of your objectives in the film and in what you're doing educationally is to make people appreciate the complexity of the systems that we that are energy and power systems is that fair?

Unknown Speaker :

It is it's the simplify the complexity though, because although it's there technologically, what we need to understand is people isn't that complex it I mean, it's it's difficult But we can do it. It's it's we can simplify it to a point we say, Oh, sure. That makes sense. It's not black and white. But it's certainly solvable. And that's what we're trying to do with our films is show people, those different choices. And they're all rigorously reviewed, peer reviewed by technical people. So you can, you can fact check anything we produce, unlike many documentaries out there, as you know, that don't stand up very well to fact checking. Rather, they're shocking, but, but they are necessarily true. So you go through our materials, and that's what we're trying to do is just get students and educators and and then the broad policymakers and public, some materials they can look at and understand and say, Oh, that makes sense. Oh, it's a little bit more complex, but certainly solvable. And that's our whole mission is to inspire an energy educated future. That's the mission of the switch energy Alliance just inspire an energy educated future. So we can do things differently.

Robert Bryce :

Sure. So bringing more rigor to the, to the thinking about about energy, I guess you'd say, an energy educated future that is objective, nonpartisan and sensible. That's your. That's your slogan. So let's get back to the film because this is one of the reasons why I wanted to bring you on the podcast. What was the hardest part of this project?

Unknown Speaker :

For switch on, it was really thinking about what we wanted to show in film and then getting access to it in a way that didn't go kind of open. Look at all the poor people. And here's all the rich people because that's not the reality. Hans Rosling his beautiful book called fact fulness shows this, there's not this and that we in them, it's this great ation. And that's what we are trying to show and as you know, in a film, you only have so many minutes and so many choices that you can make in the edit suite. Everything just comes out. Have it. So it's really reducing it to a story that would highlight the three big components. Indigenous off the grid, let's call it rural. So lack of access to energy, no pipelines, no road, no wires. You got to have distributed something to start solar makes a lot of sense. Pico hydro, micro wind turbines, etc. So there's that part. That's about a billion people. And then under the grid, so slums we filmed in Kibera, outside of Nairobi, one of the largest slums in Africa and, and showing wires over there, but we can't get them here. We can't afford it here. When they come here. There's cartels that take it and steal it and that electrocutes people and kids and cats and other things. And so just the whole challenge of corruption that goes on getting access to energy and other billion people,

Robert Bryce :

and then finally cooking, but just to bring you back so that the hardest part was just deciding what you were going to how you were going to focus the film. Is that is that was that capturing

Unknown Speaker :

it in a way? Yeah, what things to focus and then capturing it in a way that was both human and also showed the scale and the magnitude of this challenge. It's not. It's not just a few poor people over there that live in Africa, and we see him in National Geographic every day. It's everywhere, Robert. We have it here in the United States of America, where you and I both live, some of the reservations and even parts of Texas that don't have reliable electricity in their homes still today. Now it's concentrated in parts. So it's really trying to to show the scale of those numbers in a very digestible human way. And we I think we did it we accomplish it boy took iteration after iteration. Thank you for participating in one of those screenings and Q and A's and the things you do and you go back to the drawing board and in don't overwhelm with numbers but show enough To show the scale of that challenge, and then why it affects all of us. So just it's telling a story. Anytime you with a film, it's telling a story that is interesting, human, but also rigorous enough to show why this matters to the world. And this challenge when you have 3 million people every single year dying of breathing smoke in their own homes, 3 million people Robert COVID so far has killed about 750,000 people globally. So a quarter of what die every year from bring breathing smoke in their own home. That's more than alerion aids combined. And and that is so solvable.

Robert Bryce :

And yet it's in that and that number is yet little known. And so it's not a number that that most people know or even the idea of indoor air pollution is just foreign to them.

Unknown Speaker :

Yes, it it is for us. Who knew yet? It's like breathe smoking a pack or two of cigarettes every day for these kids. We went to the see Memorial Hospital in Nepal. And

Robert Bryce :

so you beat me to one of the most effective parts of your film was that that visit to the to the CD Memorial Hospital and in my inbox to pour in Nepal. And seeing this child I guess a young girl, maybe two, three years old that that looked like she had pneumonia was coughing the whole time. That was a very powerful moment because it was a very human moment and brought home that idea of indoor air pollution. I assume that still sticks with you that that that scene?

Unknown Speaker :

It does. We were doing we were shooting two cameras in that little checkup room but in the lobby right outside where we'd spent time there were like 50 kids like that. And I'd spent time all week with Sana Khan she and her five kids so I was coming in pretty raw. I thought we were doing a two camera shoot on the doctor and the infant and the mother. And it was it was tough. For me, I just, you know, it's so easy to solve. And to watch this going on I didn't know what camera was on me but it was pretty emotional moment and, and we went up then to the to follow her into the ward where the kids were in, you know they're losing kids every week there from, from pneumonia from respiratory and the mother's from cancer and cataracts and other things. We have some that are solvable right now today and without that much investment from governments and communities.

Robert Bryce :

So that that problem that you saw though, in Nepal, this this problem of indoor air pollution, good, just a few butane, a few a lot of butane stoves, propane stoves, how easily could this be solved?

Unknown Speaker :

It's getting solved. That was one of the coolest things there is most most of the homes now are getting a you know, an LPG canister in there and cooking with gas on their car. Top. And then we featured by a gas which you can make locally, the the the induction cooktops are electric in the home as well. So it's all very solvable. You can't have centralized power everywhere. But that's why you get your LPG in or your biogas systems, or, you know, in some cases, supplemented with lights from solar and diari and other kinds of things. So, it's a, it's a very solvable system, it would have an immediate effect, and it's global. And that's part of the challenge of shining a light on these things. So we can act on those things that will have an immediate and major impact today.

Robert Bryce :

But when you say that one of the things that in my own experience and thinking about these global issues is that, well, what can I do? I mean, we can we can be educated about problems in Nepal, in Kenya and Ethiopia, Colombia, all around the world. But I hesitate to use the word power less but what is it beyond being an educated about this that we can do. I mean, how how, how much capability is there for us to affect those kinds of energy shortages in these other countries?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah. So a couple approaches that have been taken. One is the aid based approach. And there are lots of organizations bringing first electricity to places in the world. We did it. We did it in Colombia and goon Chico, he brought First Solar, that's what they asked for three and a half kilowatt array, powered up a few mud huts, ceiling fans, and one of them in a refrigerator freezer. It helps. But it's aid based, we paid for all of it isn't lasting, can be but they have to have mechanisms. They have to grow with that energy, their own economies to generate some revenue above what they have to maintain that system. not always easy. And then there's the approaches where investments are made in the request the community in the ways they want them, not the way I want. way they want it. Um and and you put investments into whatever systems it is, it's going to begin to change their local economic systems. So that becomes a self sustaining cycle, then I'm growing from seeds of cultural and socio economic power points in those communities. That's the kind of investments I think that governments and industries and aid based organizations can make, that are different from puree. So it's not necessarily instant or fast. But but with cell phone technology goes a lot faster than you and I might think, certainly faster than I thought it could in many places. Once it takes off, it really starts to launch.

Robert Bryce :

So the developing world can, as you say, put the seeds out there, but the local communities, local governments, that the national governments, they're going to have to be the ones that make this happen. We can't impose that right and that's the isn't that One of the difficult things I mean, you wrote about this in Kenya, the corruption is a key problem. Is that fair?

Unknown Speaker :

It's corruption everywhere ever. That is probably the largest problem inhibiting this globally. It's autocracies using an impoverished heart countries or parts of countries. And so how do you get the corruption at all levels out in Ethiopia? We, you know, they took a different approach. It wasn't distributed renewables, it was a big dam. A grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam. You know, this is a this is 16 400 megawatt generators. 6.4 gigs. Yeah, it's it's, it's 10 to 12,002 megawatt wind turbines after capacity factor. This is a crazy amount of electricity to light up. Half of Ethiopia. 50 million people initially. Now, it was soul sourced. It went to an Italian dam maker, there was no competitive bid. You go well, you think a little graft is going on there, of course it is. And you've got to digest this and say but here's electricity. And then the politics kicking in, that was on the Blue Nile flowing North meets the white now becomes the Nile River into eventually, you know, flowing out of Egypt. And and you see in Cairo the reaction to that continues to be negative. Initially they threatened to bomb it. The balance of power in North Africa has been disrupted because Ethiopia has leaned in and said, we're going to use our water for our people. So this is creating conversations that didn't exist before. So yeah, corruption autocracies. You start to get power, you start to get educated. People have opinions, they want to vote. And and, and so yeah, it's not that popular in places when you've had it pretty good if you're the autocrat, right. It changes the balance of power.

Robert Bryce :

Sure. So I want to remind the people listening and watching. So your switch ally switch energy Alliance switch on.org is your website? Yes. So people can go there and they can watch your new film for free, right if they register and sign up for a time don't tell us how to do that.

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, you just go on to the website and you don't even have to sign up you just streaming login and streaming and switch on you can see switch as well. And we have over 300 other short format films and different kinds expert interviews and site visits and and premieres and one on ones we have the switch Energy Lab, which is the goofy white lab coat me doing experiments. We're about to put up seven episodes from switch on 20 to 30 minutes each deeper in the stories. They're finished. I was just like finalizing the voiceover for those last touches. They're really cool. Take a deep into Vietnam and look at the coal story. Why coal in Vietnam and everyplace else, we go deeper into keeper and look at the corruption I go bought in views that we couldn't put in the film. I go back to Kenya power and interview the head of security, what's going on there and interview the guy that's fixing the illegal connections to parts and going to quote What's it really take to bring solar three and a half kilowatts, probably half of what you have on your house?

Robert Bryce :

It is I was just gonna interrupt me that I have eight and a half kilowatts on the on the roof of my house here. And yeah, half kilowatts is not very much.

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, so these episodes are great. And then we've got something I want to mention called switch classroom. We've been working on this for two years now. There's a class taught in United States called AP environmental sciences, apes, for sure. In apes about 5000 teachers teach over 200,000 kids every year, very popular AP science class, about one month of that year long courses energy. And those teachers have been using switch materials, our Energy Lab and our short format stuff, our premiere stuff and you've been watching the film switch. So we developed the Platinum form to serve videos and curriculum questions, multiple choice and short answer with the teachers. And now instead of an energy textbook that candidly has been quite terrible in the past, they can serve this online. And these students will be exposed to objective, nonpartisan pros and cons of all forms of energy. So we we finished, it's it's rolling out now it's live. We've had 500 teachers already sign up to use it in classrooms across the country. We're very excited about it just trying to get non partisan energy materials into the hands of teachers and their students for years to come.

Robert Bryce :

Switch classroom. And is that available on through switch on.org as well?

Unknown Speaker :

It is Robert right there and it's free. Like everything we do.

Robert Bryce :

Great. So just a few more questions and Scott so and how did you get all this paid for? How did you make this work?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, I'm, I'm the I raised the money. That battery In going to court, my wife and I paid for when we were down there filming. So it's individuals, its foundations, its corporations, it's, it's just a suite of people who don't have any creative control. They don't have any editorial control. They don't see the things till they go public. But they've just want to invest in Objective energy education is a whole suite of different sources of funds that weigh in

Robert Bryce :

about how much money have you raised?

Unknown Speaker :

Oh, boy, um, for all of the things I've talked about, I haven't finished I have one more, I want to tell you about about four to $5 million for the last four years. So you know, it's it's expensive to make high quality stuff but remarkably affordable when you think about the impact. The last thing I mentioned quickly as a film we made for museums. It's just five minutes long. And it just it shows without voice at all. Why energy matters in our lives it follows to middle school kids get off a school bus. I'm the cameo bus driver. And they, they walk home and they're going to their house and everything's disappearing behind them and they get in the kitchen, grab a sandwich glass of water on their phone, watching TV and everything's disappearing. And then it disappears from them in their home disappears and they're there and they're skivvies in a field. They were actors, their parents were there it was, it was okay. So, then we go through the, the full cycle chain, that it takes globally to bring clothing. We see cotton being grown and combine and transported and woven into fabric and then into clothes and moved to clothing stores and we go by and it comes to your house just what it takes to get close to you and energy all along the way. And the same person To build your home, and the same for clean water, and the same for the electronics that we all use and listen to, and it goes quickly, all over the world international languages and at the end of five minutes, it loops right back. And things reappear on them. The house reappears and TV and in the cell phone in the water glass in the sandwich. And you're going, Oh, wow. There's energy in everything in our modern lives, everything. So that's going to be in big energy halls and museums, and hopefully on the front end of IMAX Houston Museum of Natural Science, Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We're visiting with Smithsonian now. But any museum who wants to show that film, and again, free

Robert Bryce :

Well, it's ambitious, Scott. It's a it's a remarkable project. So congratulations to you. So two last things, the questions I like that so what books are you reading? I know you're in Michigan now you're somehow able to avoid the Texas heat you which makes me a little envious but what are you reading these days? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker :

Well, I mean, I don't know if I'm embarrassed to say this. I just finished reading Zen and the Art of motorcycle maintenance. And I think it was again, I'll say again, but I don't remember it. So, you know, I wondered my way through that and, and I guess I was glad that I did it. But you know, it was rubber perfect. It was interesting set of philosophies there. But I kind of trade back and forth between fiction and nonfiction. I, you know, I finished fact fulness, which is a great read, I would encourage lots of people to, to take a look at that Han rosings book. I like it so much, because it's 10 big trends in the world that are better than you think. And it goes back to what we were talking about Robert come. We think things are so bad. But when you look at the data, not the models, the data, the actual empirical data, the trends are good on so many things in the world. there's still work to be done to be sure, but it's much better than we think from Natural Disasters were way better off than we, then we think we are on that and, and poverty, reduction of poverty. He speaks strongly to that and, and many other things it just, I think fascinating he passed away near the end of it and his son and daughter in law finished writing that Hans Rosling book. Now I go back and forth, lots of stuff.

Robert Bryce :

Well, so maybe that ties in then to the last question I want to ask so and and maybe you've already answered it. So what gives you hope? I mean, you've been looking at these issues for a long, energy focused issues for a long time, but I'm not necessarily asking for you to focus on the energy part of this, but what you look around you've been doing, you've been involved in public policy and these kinds of issues. What gives you hope as you look at the at the future?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, boy, when I've traveled around the world, it's the young people and I'm not talking about the young people necessarily in the US or Western Europe that make the news a lot. You know, whatever forms of social media I'm talking about young people in Kibera in Chuka in Nairobi, in Nepal, and Kathmandu and other places that they're seeing their future, and they're optimistic about it, they have very little, but they can they see a future in which education is going to matter to them. They're immersed in it. They want to learn and grow, and then bring what we call the American dream the next generation better than themselves, to their families, as that happens, and it is, that's gonna be very powerful. That lifts the world up right now, we've just been pulling it farther and farther apart with a group stuck that lifts the world along in a way that never has happened before, at least in modern time. So I'm really hopeful about that happening, and I hope it encourages us in the developed world then to continue to invent and look to the future and, and work on building things, positive things. And so that's what gives me hope, is just a broader cross section of people. Coming up to, to the, you know the life that you and I've been privileged to be born into.

Robert Bryce :

Well, that's a great, that's a great ending to this to this discussion, Scott. So, my my guest Scott Tinker. Dr. Scott Tinker, the chairman of the switch energy Alliance, the head of the Bureau of Economic geology at UT Austin. Is switch energy Alliance. You can find it at switch energy.us sorry, switch on.org and thanks for listening to the power hungry podcast if you like what we've been talking about go to rate this podcast.com slash power hungry and give us five 612 stars, whatever you feel like and tune in for the subscribe to the podcast. But we'll be back next week with another edition of the power hungry podcast. Thank you, Scott, for being with us. And thanks to all of you for listening.

Unknown Speaker :

Thank you, Robert.