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Green New Deal!

Ralph welcomes two energy experts who span the far ends of the age spectrum, first 29 year old, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, one of the chief architects of the Green New Deal, and then 93 year old David Freeman, former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority. They both talk about the Green New Deal and the bright future of renewable energy.

Rhiana Gunn-Wright is the policy director for New Consensus, a think tank based in Chicago. A Rhodes Scholar, Ms. Gunn-Wright has also worked as a policy analyst for a number of organizations, including the Detroit Health Department and as a policy intern for First Lady Michelle Obama.  At New Consensus, she recently co-authored the research paper The Green New Deal: Mobilizing for a Just, Prosperous, and Sustainable Economy,” which was published in January of this year.

“A lot of people think that the Green New Deal – particularly the second half where we talk about a jobs guarantee and universal health care, education and training – as just sort of this progressive boondoggle. But the truth is those things were chosen because we were trying to think about: what are the labor conditions now? How are families set up? How will that change if ideally you end up with full employment? What is necessary for people to thrive, and how do you structure that equitably? And how can you be thinking about the social safety net in terms of re-investing in communities that have been disinvested in? So, basically, policy has been used to disempower people. How do you use it to empower them?” Rhiana Gunn-Wright, one of the architects of the Green New Deal

David Freeman is an engineer, an attorney, and an author, who has been called an “ecopioneer” for his environmentally conscious leadership of both the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. He is also a noted anti-nuclear activist and the author of a number of books on energy policy, including Winning Our Energy Independence and his latest All Electric America.

“I divide the world into two categories… There are the dumb deniers of climate and then there are the intelligent deniers. They’re the folks that can make a good speech about how horrible the climate crisis is and then propose absolutely nothing that Mother Nature will notice. All of these things that we’ve been doing in the past that seem so brave are just not enough now.” S. David Freeman, author of All Electric America

RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR EPO 279 TRANSCRIPT  (Right click to download)


  1. C Ambrosio says:

    Could you please add the link to download the podcast? Thanks!

  2. Mark Hughes says:

    Ralph mentioned 3 great ways for paying for the GND. All of which I support. But there is a major fourth one: End all these wars. Not only are our countless military misadventures a massive direct drain on our economy but they also consume obscene amounts of fossil fuels which enable climate collapse. Not to mention that many of these wars are about oil, something S. David Freeman touched on.

    Can’t agree more with Freeman re Memphis’ expensive utility costs. I lived there for about a decade and its utility company, MLGW, is horribly run.

  3. Ernest H Wittenbreder says:

    The lin to the podcast is missing. I would like to have a listen. PLEASE, FIX THIS.

  4. Tommi Gi says:

    Where is the MP3 download link?

  5. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    The fourth or fifth nuclear power expert on in several months, and this one actually mentioned Alvin Weinberg! Alvin Weinberg, the overseer of the molten salt reactor experiments at Oak Ridge National Laboratories… Still, not a single attempt to discuss molten salt reactors. Amazing, Ralph, just amazing. You do the nuclear advocates a massive service by ignoring this topic. There are other arguments for or against nuclear energy than the cost and safety of heavy water reactors, they deserve addressing, and I haven’t heard them broached even a single time on your show so far. Stop using your guests as a little more than a 30-minute look-what-they-did exercise and field them some probing questions!

    P.S. “Corporate socialism” is still infantile nonsense and the more you double down on it the dumber it makes you look. It’s not some amazing zinger to stupify right-wingers, it’s allowing them to frame the debate by their own Orwellian rules and you’re playing right into it.

      • Skro35 says:


        While I am very glad you a loyal listener, sometimes I find your attitude quite condescending. We have not talked specifically about molten salt reactors, because if they were a viable alternative, they would be here by now. The economic opportunities for all of this new improved nuclear technology couldn’t be more friendly with the Price Anderson Act and the Atomic Energy Act and all the nuclear “renaissances” that have taken place in the last seventy years. Our program with Peter Bradford outlined the latest one that occurred at the beginning of Bush 43. This is Ralph asking the question about the new technology that’s been promised for decades from that interview::

        Ralph Nader: Well, the argument also in this column is that we got new nuclear plants coming
        online. They’re standardized, they’re smaller, they’re more efficient. I’ve been hearing this for 30
        years. Is there anything new coming compared to what is already on the ground in terms of nuclear
        reactor designs?
        Peter Bradford: Well, technology they are, to some extent, new. Well, I mean the idea of building
        small reactors of course isn’t new; it’s where the industry began. And for many years, their
        argument was always we have to get bigger; we have to get bigger so we can spread the high costs
        over more kilowatt hours. Now they’ve reversed themselves because the big plants just haven’t met
        expectations and they’ve gone back to arguing for smaller ones, granted the smaller ones have
        some design improvements to them. But what’s missing is any proof that the smaller ones will in
        fact be less expensive or operate more efficiently than the big ones. All we’re dealing with right
        now are vendor-cost estimates. That is the promise is made by the people who are desperate to
        build the reactors to convince the Congress and others to subsidize them. And vendor cost
        estimates have a terrible history in the nuclear industry. They are never met and they’re usually
        under-statements by a factor of two, three, even four times what the plants would actually cost in
        the end.

        I had occasion to ask David Freeman in person about how every time we do a show about nuclear, we get comments from people excoriating us for not talking about molten salt reactors and the like: He said to me, “Bring it on. where is it?” I think you need to ask yourself why this hasn’t happened, despite how pro nuclear Congress, the White House, influencers like Bill Gates, and the NRC are toward nuclear. over so many of these decades.

        • Afdal Shahanshah says:

          Thanks for replying Steve. I just don’t think “it hasn’t been developed yet so it must not work” is a very good argument. That kind of argument could be used to justify a whole slew of things, including erroneously dismissing solar or wind power in the ’80s and ’90s. There are a number of political reasons why Weinberg’s molten salt reactor designs were left to languish by the atomic energy commission, one of which is that they are vastly inferior for producing nuclear weapons materials. I don’t think the cost argument is great either, for two reasons. One thing I’m aware about molten salt reactors is that they require nowhere near the kind of costly pellet refinement required by hard water reactors. This is why that exchange with Peter Bradford with no specific mention of molten salt reactor costs wasn’t satisfying to me. The other reason is that cost shouldn’t really be a serious obstacle in the quest to save the planet and human civilization from environmental catastrophe. The stakes are simply too high to be intimidated by Freedman-esque ideology about equating unprofitability or cost sinks with “bad”.

          I actually think there may be more legitimate reasons for dismissing nuclear power than those (such as the possible fact that there just isn’t enough fissile material energetically-efficiently-accessible in the Earth’s crust to fully replace fossil fuel infrastructure for more than a few decades), but it’s so disappointing and frustrating that Ralph relies on the former arguments so much. I’m not anywhere near what one could consider a nuclear expert, yet I’ve taken it upon myself to learn about this stuff. If we want to be serious about saving the planet then we should educate ourselves on ALL the possibilities. If you really want to give a platform for an amazing idea you could have Dave Criswell on some time to talk about solar power!

          • Afdal Shahanshah says:

            *Lunar solar power, that is.

          • Andy Schmidt says:

            Those are good points, Afdal. I’ve also tried to broaden the scope of the energy conversation with my comments. But I think we may be fighting a lost cause here. It must be so easy if “no nukes” is your whole argument, because then you don’t have to listen seriously to anybody with a different perspective!

          • Andy Schmidt says:

            Some history about why we don’t have those molten salt reactors…


    • Delightful to hear the genius of Rhiana Gunn Wright, especially in the midst of Ralph’s external light for conservation, like his focus on the prevention that keeps each of us healthy. Hope you will include Rhiana in your future climate summits, which ought to be at least bimonthly. Our energy waste as based on draconian inefficiect policies and practices are killing us sooner rather than later. Awesome also to hear S. David Freeman announce his upcoming conference with Rhiana and green new deal team.

  6. Tommi Gi says:

    Where is the MP3 download?

  7. Hello, Was hoping to listen to the Pod cast but couldn’t locate the little band to press to listen. Perhaps I have forgotten how to use this RN Radio hour. I surely miss hearing it. Could you direct me to where I could hear these sensitive issues? Perhaps you have been monitzed and I need to pay now. Well, I am a poor woman and would have to decline. Either way I miss the information you present. How unfortunate for me and others.

  8. Terence says:

    I can’t see the link for the show??

  9. Donald Klepack says:

    I feel the green new deal which is sensible, now is a losing issue because of the horrible start by AOC and why was these questions not asked to your guests

    (1) We only have 12 years left before the earth is destroyed?

    (2) No more Planes?

    (3) Every house in America must be retrofitted for energy?

    (4) This is our World War 2

    People over 30 will react negatively to these claims, even if they are true. The Green New Deal must be explained better.

  10. Andy says:

    I’ve heard this show before. A rabidly anti-nuclear guest spouting misinformation and self-serving rhetoric. Totally missing, again, is any informed discussion about the scale of the energy problem and the importance of embracing an “all of the above” strategy. Nuclear energy is an essential part of the solution, and this show is incredibly irresponsible to continue claiming otherwise!

    Watch these and learn something:

    Why renewables can’t save the planet:

    Energy myths: climate, poverty and a reason to Hope: Rachel Pritzker

    Meeting the renewable energy challenge: Robert Bryce keynote

    LIE: All nuclear power plants everywhere are just like Chernobyl, they will result in the death of us all, and they must all be shut down yesterday.

    LIE: Wind turbines generate electricity that is then stored by batteries!

    (And here I thought wind had to be backed up 24/7 by coal or natural gas-fired power plants.)

    And some choice quotes from the guest…

    “The road to a nuclear bomb is through a nuclear power plant.” A gross distortion that equates nuclear energy with nuclear weaponry.

    “Nuclear is carbon-free, supposedly.” Nuclear IS carbon free. There’s no supposedly about it.

    He also stated that nuclear plants are poisoning everyone with radioactivity, without citing any evidence.

    As for the “Green New Deal!,” it is doomed to failure. All renewables! Net-zero emissions! All in ten years! No problem!

    Maybe focus on the New Deal part, but leave out the Green. More FDR and less AOC.

    • Skro35 says:

      Andy, I’m curious about your expertise in this area and why you are so enthusiastic about nuclear.

      • Andy Schmidt says:

        My expertise is I’m a librarian and a piano teacher with far too much time on his hands!! There, I said it.

        (I apologize for rude remarks in previous comments.)

        I’m enthusiastic about nuclear because I see it as the only practical solution to meeting increasing energy demand while also significantly mitigating climate change. It’s that simple.  

        In 2002 I read Robert Bryce’s book about Enron called Pipe Dreams. His next book was called Cronies, about the Bush family’s oil company connections. His subsequent books have delved into energy. I thought the Enron book was really good, so I kept reading. He’s called himself a “recovering liberal” on this issue, and while I wouldn’t claim that for title myself, I would say that my views have changed within the past few years, based on new information from him and other researchers. I’m pushing 50 and have different views now than 10 years ago.

        I see other progressives who have evolved on this issue, and I’ve posted links to their work. I keep writing responses to these shows because I think someone has to present the “pro” side, which you folks don’t seem interested in doing. You have this “anti” agenda which I find frustrating and baffling, and I’d like to know where that comes from. So you’re curious about my expertise, and I’m curious about yours! I keep making discoveries and want to share them with this audience because I think this audience needs to hear about them.

        For example, are these people crazy, or do they have a point?  

        And they work at a nuclear power plant!!

        If the “anti” attitude truly comes from the fear of nuclear stuff, then do a show about nuclear weapons. That’s something to really get scared about. Bring on Eric Schlosser, who wrote Command and Control a few years ago. A frightening book. 

        But nuclear power has been proven for decades to be the safest of all the big energy sources. That’s according to reputable sources like the World Health Organization. Shutting down nuclear plants means replacing them with coal or natural gas, which are more toxic and will result in thousands of deaths from air pollution and will make climate change worse, not better. It also means thousands of people losing their jobs (many of which are high paying union jobs) and making their communities worse off economically. China and Russia are surpassing us scientifically by building advanced nuclear plants, and we’re way behind because we can’t seem to get our act together.

        If the Green New Deal embraced nuclear energy, I’d be on board. But it’s curiously missing. So, a frustrated progressive here trying to reach out and find a way forward.

      • Bruce K. says:

        A really good ( I think ) resource is a book called “Energy For Future Presidents” by Richard Muller. It comes at the energy issue ( previous Physics For Future Presidents” ) as an executive summary as if to a President who would have to make decisions of major global import.

        Muller is just every so slightly over the pro-technology and pro-nuclear line, but the information and point of view of the book is very valuable because it is based on science.

        Muller began looking at Climate Change which he talks about in these books and was a skeptic. A lot of his skepticism arose from the exaggerations in the arguments of the Climate Change fanatics, which he knew to be incorrect. He ended up getting together with some renowned scientists and doing a validation of the data and science on Climate change … funded by the Koch Brothers no less.

        What he found was that there is indeed global warming and that it tracked completely with CO2 in the atmosphere which paralleled the CO2 that humanity was putting into the air. But he talks about other things, but mitigating factors and problems. One major problem is that the US is pretty much on track to cut CO2 emissions, but even if we, the US cut all of our emissions, it would not make that much of a difference because China and India are coming online in a big way and are overcoming the lessening of the US.

        That implied to me that unless there are global standards, and the Kyoto Accord is insufficient and voluntary, how can it be helpful for the US to invent all this new technology and transform our economy at huge cost, when these other countries can either not do anything, or demand that we given them our technology for free or they will not help?

        He goes into depth on nuclear and the repercussion of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, as well as how a nuclear chain reaction works and why a nuclear power plant cannot blow up like a nuclear bomb. His language is layman’s level and understandable.

        He is a bit too bright on cheery on the side of nuclear power, but enough to realize that the many arguments I have heard against nuclear have been exaggerated and are dishonest, and some of the good statistics have been left out, such as that nuclear power in the US today is the cheapest and cleanest way to generate electricity – by far.

        The plants are expensive because they have never reached mass-production levels where the prices would come down, but even so, once you build them they are very low cost to operate and maintain. You do not need a steady stream of fossil fuels, either coal or oil or natural gas, and the fuel is very cheap. The wastes storage has not been a problem, and it would not be a problem if we would open up and use Yucca Mountain.

        Finally, all the problem we have been talking about relative to nuclear energy are about plants almost 50 years old. There have been major advance in plant design, and now there are plants that are almost self-tending and need no cooling water to shut down. People need to know this. Muller says that Global Warming is not as bad as it is made out to be, but that it is here and the problems are real and we need to do something about them, but we still have time. Hiw arguments were logical to me, and it would be good if conversstions would be started about this issue. He would be an interesting guest on the show, but I imagine too controversial for Ralph and your guys?

        Everything these days seems like a war of propaganda, and even a war of lies and exaggeration, so this book at least teaches you something, and lets you make up your own mind, or at least ask intelligent questions about nuclear instead of being told what to think by emotionally dishonest arguments on both sides.

      • He’s got some very good points, and he doesn’t have to be a specialist to make them accurately. Many well-meaning environmentalists seem clueless about the necessary SCALE of low-density vs. high-density energy. It’s not just a matter of swapping in one wind turbine or dozens of solar panels for each oil well at an even ratio. And the new machines are built with fossil fuels, anyhow.

        The acreage requirements and visual blight of wind power are a prime example of “energy sprawl” and nuclear has a much smaller footprint. The only footprint some people care about is an abstract, atmospheric one. They throw out all the other values of environmentalism in their zeal to push something pseudo-clean. They also fail to recognize physical limits to economic growth, choosing to just rebrand it as Green Growth.

    • Ted Apelt says:

      A 1,100 MW nuclear plant costs $9 billion, so it would take 38.5 of them to equal that cost. Considering that it would take over a thousand of those nuclear plants to equal the total U.S. electricity generation capacity (1.2 million megawatts) the cost of going full nuclear would be over $9 trillion.

      The largest and most cost effective wind turbine is the 12MW Haliade-X with a capacity of about 60%. (Average output would be 7MW.) How much is one of those? I couldn’t find the answer, but it claims to be cheaper for its power output than anything else, so we’ll say $12 million. 1.2 million megawatts divided by 7 megawatts would mean that it would take about 171,000 of these things to meet U.S. electricity demand. Lets have some overcapacity and make that 200,000. The total cost of the turbines would be $240 billion.

      We do need to build storage along with wind and solar,, but we can afford it. Raccoon Mountain (a Pumped Water Storage facility in TN) cost 1.2 billion 2019 dollars. 289 times that amount (enough to store a days electrical output for the U.S.) would be $346.8 billion, and the total cost for wind and storage to equal the total U.S. electricity generation capacity would be $586.8 billion.

      More overcapacity would increase the turbine cost while reducing the PWS cost. Figuring out the right balance would be very complicated, especially when you consider that the more overcapacity you have the more hydrogen you would generate, assuming that’s what you do when all the PWS facilities are full to the brim and you are still producing more power than demand. (Another possibility would be to use this energy to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and put it into concrete or something else.) You could sell hydrogen you are sure you will never need, making the U.S. an energy exporter.

      Similar numbers would be true of solar, now below $1 per peak watt (slightly cheaper than wind), and a capacity that must be below 50% (therefore lower than wind), no matter how you do it. Figuring out just how much solar vs. wind should be in the mix gets really complicated, and there is no need to figure it out. The point is that either one or both would be sufficient to totally replace fossil fuels, even if you had no hydroelectric, geothermal, wood, nuclear, or anything else.

      • Andy says:

        So the essence of what you’re saying is that renewables can replace fossil fuels? I’m sorry, but that is impossible. It’s neither doable nor desirable. Just to meet the increase in energy demand every year, you would have to cover enormous areas of land with nothing but wind turbines and solar panels. And you’d have to install high voltage transmission lines (for wind) to get the electricity to its destination. And then, of course, 24/7 fossil fuel sources to back up every installation because wind and solar are so intermittent and unreliable.

        So what you’re really calling for here is a massive increase in the use of fossil fuels, which is what you wanted to avoid to begin with. This is madness.

        There are two big problems here: scale and density. The scale of global energy demand is simply beyond the scope of what wind and solar can realistically provide because those sources are not energy dense. They contribute to massive landscape sprawl. And as a “bonus,” wind turbines are killing golden eagles and bats every year with few or no repercussions.

        Like them or not, oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear are all energy dense and provide power at the scale the planet needs. If you want to move away from oil and coal, you simply can’t escape the conclusion that natural gas and advanced nuclear are the way to go. And if you want 100% emissions-free, you have to embrace nuclear.

        Cost is irrelevant to the discussion. We could have paid for all the nuclear power needed here in the U.S. (along with Medicare for All and all sorts of other great stuff) if we’d had a wealth tax or a Wall Street sales tax for the past 50 years.

        Do more research, and think long and hard about what the realistic solutions are.

  11. Greg says:

    Yeah cutting down trees to put eye sore panes up. How is this great fore
    e the environment?

  12. David Faubion says:

    Animal life is in a large measure about our energy to move, grow and survive. Using an energy source that is found nowhere else in nature is antithetical to life on Earth and the physical laws of the universe. It is not even a gamble, nuclear power csn, will and is killing us slowly or quickly.

    Ralph you are so very correct about the youth worldwide in revolution about climate. They are the game changer. Hope you will host some of their many voices including Extinction Rebellion.

    • Andy Schmidt says:

      “Using an energy source that is found nowhere else in nature is antithetical to life on Earth…”

      I hope you’ll remember that the next time you drive your car around town. Or turn on your air conditioning. Or fly in an airplane. Maybe you don’t do those things.

      I assume you’re talking about solar panels and wind turbines (found in nature, lol). But they simply can’t scale up to meet global energy demand.

      And what evidence can you cite that nuclear power is killing us?

    • bruce k, says:

      >> “Using an energy source that is found nowhere else in nature is antithetical to life on Earth…”


      Natural nuclear fission reactor ->

      When I found out about this many years ago it blew my mind. A natural nuclear fission reactor is a uranium deposit where self-sustaining nuclear chain reactions have occurred.

      This can be examined by analysis of isotope ratios. The conditions under which a natural nuclear reactor could exist had been predicted in 1956 by Paul Kazuo Kuroda.[1] The phenomenon was discovered in 1972 in Oklo, Gabon by French physicist Francis Perrin under conditions very similar to what was predicted.

      Oklo is the only known location for this in the world and consists of 16 sites at which self-sustaining nuclear fission reactions are thought to have taken place approximately 1.7 billion years ago, and ran for a few hundred thousand years, averaging probably less than 100 kW of thermal power during that time.[2][3][4]

  13. Curt Hubatch says:

    Great show! Will there be a transcript for these interviews?

  14. Don Harris says:

    When it comes to energy production, climate change and just about every other issue the major obstacle to implementing solutions is big money in our political process.

    This limits the politically possible solutions to non-solutions that make citizens dependent on making money for the big money interests rather than solve the problems.

    This prevents point source generation of energy from being implemented because there is a lot of money to be made building large production plants and transmission systems.

    Solar panels and wind generation on rooftops, parking lots and along highways along with small vegetable oil powered generation (instead of batteries, oxygen and water vapor are the only exhaust ) to fill in some, all or most the gap could make many homes and businesses completely energy independent other than the cost of the vegetable oil which could be offset or partially offset by selling excess energy produced back into the grid.

    This would save millions (billions?) on constructing large production facilities and transmission lines. it would also have the added national security benefit of not leaving us vulnerable to an attack on the grid and even not leave citizens and businesses without power following natural disasters such as hurricanes that take out power lines.

  15. Ted Apelt says:

    I wish your last guest had told us how many solar panels and wind turbines he has at his place and how many batteries he needed to put in his place so he had power when the sun was not shining and the wind was not blowing. The batteries required to store just one days output is about five times the cost of your solar or wind source, and they wear out and need to be replaced periodically. The way he just shrugged all that off like it was nothing tells me that either he is very rich or he does not know what he is talking about. How long has he lived off the grid? How did he get started? He didn’t go into any of that.

    Utility scale flow batteries and pumped water storage like Raccoon Mountain in TN (of which your guest seemed totally unaware) are a much better solution to renewable energy storage. I go into the details of how they can be used here:

    A carbon tax WITH THE MONEY COLLECTED BEING EVENLY DISTRIBUTED TO ALL ADULT RESIDENTS would not be a “distraction”, it would be just the thing to not only give people an incentive to conserve fossil fuels, and switch to renewables, but would also provide them with the money to do so. If high enough, it would send us down the road to renewables much faster than anything else we could do.