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Episode 05 - Steve Levitan & Jane Albrecht: A Politics Buffet

A smorgasbord of hot topics, with Steve Levitan and Jane Albrecht, ranging from Impeachment to Roe v. Wade to Trade Wars to Climate Change to Gun Control.


This episode we bring Television Producer and Activist Steve Levitan, Attorney and Trade Expert Jane Albrecht, Pulitzer-prize Historian Ed Larson, and Entrepreneur Bill Curtis together. This is a recipe for getting to the middle of some of the most compelling and contentious issues we face. Impeachment 3:00 in - Roe v. Wade 10:35 in - Tariffs and Trade 17:25 in - Guns and Police 24:50 in - Climate Change 31:08.







Announcer: From Curtco Media.


Mike Thomas: Hi, everyone. Welcome to this throwback episode of Politics. Meet Me in the Middle. I'm show producer Mike Thomas in June 2019 for our first ever podcast recording and Curtco's Media's Malibu podcast studios. We wondered what would happen if we invited an uber successful television producer and activist and attorney and international relations expert, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian and an independent entrepreneur to sit together to discuss politics. We discovered that you get a dinner party like podcast touching on everything from impeachment to Roe v. Wade to climate change to guns. We're serving up some of the most contentious and compelling issues of our time. And it's coming up now on Politics. Meet Me in the Middle.


Celeste: So whatcha gonna do about it?


Bill Curtis: I'm Bill Curtis. And I'm here representing your interests. And I'll be asking your questions in a conversation that really matters. Here at Curtco's Malibu Podcast Studio right across from Nobu and beautiful Soho House on the Malibu Shore, we have to stop for a moment and realize we've reached a critical stage in our dysfunctional society. Friends are polarized on political lines and every media moment is viewed through the filter of our own opinions. So you can either grab a cup of coffee or pour yourself a martini. But I'm asking you to leave your positions for a moment and meet me in the middle. Today at the table we're honored to have an amazing and truly diverse group. For two decades, Jane Albrecht served as the CEO of Global Entertainment Network. She is a former V.P. at the European headquarters of the Motion Picture Association. She's a negotiator, a strategist and an attorney, which we'll forgive her for today. And she's also the president of the Malibu based chapter for the Democratic Club. Welcome, Jane. Nice to have you.


Jane Albrecht: Thank you.


Bill Curtis: I've lost count on how many Emmy awards Steve Levitan has won for writing, creating, sometimes directing and co-producing the blockbuster series Modern Family.


Steve Levitan: 9, Bill, 9.


Bill Curtis: 9. Now, he's also won for writing or directing such shows as Just Shoot Me, Frazier, L.A. to Vegas, and Back to You. On a more serious note, he's quite the advocate for logical thinking. And for example, at the time of our recording, he's just tweeted to his millions of followers about wearing orange shirts that suggest an end to gun violence. Thanks for joining us, Steve.


Steve Levitan: Pleasure to be here, Bill.


Bill Curtis: And now our host for Meet Me in the Middle. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning American historian and author of such book, This Summer of the Gods Return of George Washington and a Whole Series on Evolution. He's a beloved university professor and he's just returned from a worldwide lecture tour on the kinds of topics we're discussing here today. Here's our guide. Ed Larson, thank you very much. Tell us a bit about the history of impeachment effort, Ed.


Ed Larsen: Benjamin Franklin believed it was necessary to include impeachment in the Constitution because how else could American officeholders be held to be accountable under the law? This will give an opportunity for a president who can be impeached to defend himself and either be acquitted or convicted.


Bill Curtis: Steve, can you tell me a little bit about what the real goal is there and what you think we ought to do about it?


Steve Levitan: There are two schools of thought here. One is impeachment only plays into Trump's hands. It makes the Democrats look like they're being overly aggressive and and they're just impeaching him based on politics. And then there are those that say, let's take politics out of it. It's the right thing to do.


Ed Larsen: The issue, though, is the Republican Senate and correct me if you think I'm wrong, but the Republican Senate will just automatically acquit him,.


Steve Levitan: Of course.


Ed Larsen: And since they automatically acquit him, what's the point? He will be acquitted and he will be able to argue "that's old news. I've been tried and I've been acquitted."


Jane Albrecht: There are things that need to be investigated about what Trump has done. That includes money laundering, that includes FEC violations, that includes violations of his charitable trust.


Bill Curtis: So is the point a political one to have a president who's currently under impeachment running for office and maybe that will affect his ability to get reelected?


Steve Levitan: I think that's precisely not the point. I think that the point is if there are crimes, if there are further issues that need to be uncovered, then all that needs to be investigated. But most importantly, do we say that what he is doing is wrong or not?


Ed Larsen: There is a pattern of Trump refusing to give information to the current investigations. But wouldn't they do exactly the same thing to an impeachment proceedings?


Steve Levitan: So, in other words, if someone's not going to cooperate with an investigation, should we prosecute? Well, yes, no matter what. Yes, somebody has broken the law. It's Congress's duty to do that.


Ed Larsen: But you don't think he'd lose in the Senate?


Steve Levitan: No, I don't.


Ed Larsen: Well, that's the problem. Why put America through this ordeal if you know what the outcome is gonna be?


Bill Curtis: And Ed, this takes a two thirds vote, right?


Ed Larsen: It takes a two thirds vote in the Senate. Even Bill Clinton, there were 50 votes for conviction in the Senate. But it takes two thirds. And, as you agreed, it's not going to happen with this republican party


Jane Albrecht: But politically, even in the Nixon impeachment or the potential impeachment, I should say, my understanding is a lot of the Republican senators came around because the public had changed their view. So the willingness of Republican senators and Congressman at that time to go against Nixon was based on public sentiment, and what's not happened here is that a lot of the public buys the kool-aid.


Ed Larsen: If you narrowly impeach based on some sort of conspiracy or some sort of effort to obstruct justice, that's not the sort of high crime and misdemeanor that Americans or the founding fathers really had in mind here.


Jane Albrecht: When you talk about interfering with a serious criminal investigation, the question is, is politically, would that bring it along? I think what Congress is working on, even though it doesn't get talked about too much in the media, is they are working on the broader investigation. That's why they requested his tax returns.


Bill Curtis: Our expert at the table was very clear that this would be an unsuccessful impeachment because we don't have enough people, let's say, on the Republican side that would agree with this.


Jane Albrecht: We'll also think about the timeframe. Let's say Trump cooperated and the investigations went forward. They would be lucky to finish those investigations by November 2020.


Bill Curtis: So don't they just want to do that in order to have the 2020 election be about a president that is currently under investigation and impeached?


Jane Albrecht: And I don't think so, no. I think there's more than one reason to do it. One reason is Congress does have oversight of the president. And if they don't, then who will? And there are serious questions that if they do their job right, they should look into it.


Bill Curtis: But what president is not going to be accused of that in the future if this is a method for managing the other party's president?


Steve Levitan: How do we ensure that future presidents won't get hit with it? Because typically presidents don't get accused of this. It's very rare. And I think that's for a reason because very few presidents have done something like this. Let's look at it this way for a second. Let's just say this were a private matter and prosecutors were faced with this very question. The prosecutors could say, while we are afraid that this guy controls too many people, people are afraid of him. We're going to lose because of that. Is it right for them, then, not to charge him? I would argue that no. Maybe it means he gets acquitted of those charges. But it's important, I think, to do your duty,


Jane Albrecht: because Trump has continued to show himself as someone who truly believes he's above the law in many, many respects. It's our only way of keeping him accountable. While they do the investigations, they should proceed with their legislative agenda, whether they can achieve it or not, whether it's going to be stopped by the Senate. They need to show the American people what they think needs to be done with this country. Because when I go to the Midwest, they're not talking about impeachment. It's just not on their mind.


Ed Larsen: I agree with Jane here. I'm not convinced that the American people and I think this is why what you say when you go to different places people aren't talking about it, is they're not convinced that the underlying activities, they're not yet convinced that they're criminal. With Nixon there was a burglary. There was a blatant underlying activity that was criminal and he tried to cover it up. But I think what differs with the Nixon situation and differs with Andrew Johnson administration, an example in a variety of others, is you've got to decide not the cover up, but the underlying crime was clearly illegal and convince them of those facts.


Jane Albrecht: Ed, what you talk about is true, that the American public doesn't fully appreciate it. What concerns me about this administration, among other things, is they're trying to desensitize the American public to serious crimes.  When they talk about lying to the FBI as a process crime, when you don't have proof of an underlying crime, then the intent is more important. And one of the failures of Mueller, in my opinion, is that he caved when it came to interviewing the president.


Bill Curtis: What could you do in this situation that could actually convince the number of Republicans that need to be convinced in order to actually succeed in a process of impeachment?


Jane Albrecht: Well, I think additional evidence of other crimes would help, but in the both media and the current administration efforts that they're making to lie to the American public and desensitize the American public, I think we're not going to know until we get there.


Bill Curtis: If those other crimes are found in the investigation, then there's a chance that you could get those Republicans to vote along for a conviction.


Steve Levitan: We've seen no sign of that yet.


Bill Curtis: That being said, we're probably not going to solve this issue. So if you don't mind, I'm going to ask that we move on to another one. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state in this in this country?


Jane Albrecht: Yeah, I think it's pretty interesting that, you know, this country was founded on the separation of church and state and all the evils that that come with it. I personally believe that both the government and the religions are better off when there is separation of church and state.


Bill Curtis: Is Roe v. Wade really at risk?


Steve Levitan: Yes.


Jane Albrecht: Yes.


Bill Curtis: How is that possible?


Steve Levitan: Because they're stacking the courts. The far right is stacking the courts because Republican controlled states are going crazy and they're all challenging it on a state level. And when we lost our due pick on the Supreme Court, it tipped everything  and opened the door for them to to make that challenge. We don't know what's going to happen. I mean, you know, we have an attorney general who claimed that he was going to be very impartial and that clearly isn't the case. So I think that  it's something to definitely be feared. You know, what we're seeing across the country right now is terrifying. I think it should alarm everybody. It should certainly alarm women. But anybody who cares about women, it should  alarm you, too. It's very real.


Bill Curtis: KI'm just trying to figure out how church and state got combined into one issue.


Jane Albrecht: Well, I mean, look, I this is it's more complicated with Roe v. Wade.


Steve Levitan: I'm sorry. I pulled out a bill. Look at our, look at the bill. In God we trust. We preach separation of church and state. But there it is on our money. It's  insane. You know, when we say: and may God bless America.  you know, every president has to say, you know, may God bless you and may God bless America. I don't know why that's appropriate. I really don't.


Bill Curtis: Is that a problem? That doesn't bother me. Does that concept bother you?


Steve Levitan: Well, it it does, because, first of all, I don't think that we should be singling out anybody. Like, if we had the power to elicit God's blessings, then we should bestow it upon everybody. Why are we going to be so stingy with God's blessing since we can control it by saying it?


Bill Curtis:  The America first in God eyes too?


Steve Levitan: Yeah Yeah. God should bless us. But  God should not bless Mexico or Canada or anybody else. There was a recent poll that said what characteristic would keep you from voting for a a candidate? Number one was an atheist. And number two was a socialist.


Jane Albrecht: Well, the other thing is that you talk about church and state and Roe v. Wade. And yes, in a sense, they're related. But there's much more that goes on with Roe v. Wade, which is the woman's right to have control of her body and the state's right to tell her what to do with her body. And there's many more things than separation of church and state.


Bill Curtis: So looking for the middle here for just a minute. Isn't it somewhat appropriate here if you're going to change a concept like Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood, shouldn't we allow that to be a popular election of the women based on what the women vote is appropriate for them?


Jane Albrecht: I've given a great deal of thought to this issue over the years, being a woman, being a lawyer, being a constitutional lawyer, in part. And personally, I'm Catholic and I personally would not choose an abortion except in the case for myself, in case except the case of rape and incest and possibly health of the mother. And so at the end of the day, I think it is a decision that must reside with the woman. You cannot command a woman to bear a child against her will. The state has to let the woman make the decision. And why is this a constitutional issue? Why should you just not let the majority rule? And that's because, one of the reasons for the Bill of Rights, was to prevent the tyranny of the majority. And at the end of the day,.


Bill Curtis: Can you describe what you mean by that?


Jane Albrecht: Yeah, I mean, various types of sexual acts, including homosexual acts, used to be criminal. Abortion has been legal at times in our society. It's even been allowed in the military before Roe v. Wade. Paid for by the military. Abortion is now, can be made a crime. So there's many decisions that the majority would make that would be wrong.


Ed Larsen: For many people, this is a very difficult issue because if you look at the political polls, people have a variety of viewpoints. There's some people that are iron clad women should have a right to abortion in every case. There are other people who strongly believe women should never have a right. There are a lot of people who are in the middle and say, well, certainly rape and incest and certainly health. There are people who are all conflicted and government shouldn't provide this. It's a complicated issue.


Jane Albrecht: It's not the right to abortion. It's the right for a woman to be the one to determine whether A. she carries a baby or not, and B, her health.


Ed Larsen: Now, this is part of a problem of a of a 200 year old constitution where back then there was no such thing as a safe abortion. I mean, that was before there was anesthetics. That was before there was any idea of the germ theory of disease. Abortion just wasn't an option back then. The question to ask is, where do you find  a right to abortion in the Constitution?


Jane Albrecht: You didn't have the right for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionally of statutes in the Constitution, Marbury vs. Madison established that. There's a long list of things that are not listed in the Constitution. The Constitution was not meant to be a detailed, specific list of all things that will ever come up. The forefathers knew that. An interpretation of the Constitution that is so literalist that  what's not in there is not in there is actually faulty interpretation of the Constitution. And I think it would be ironic at this time when our right to privacy in many areas is going to be ever more important with the ability of governments to intrude on our lives electronically, to curtail the right to privacy. And by the way, it's not just the right to abortion. It has to do with the right of the government to tell you what to do inside your bedroom. So I think this would be a big mistake at this time, knowing what we know to all the sudden say there is no right to privacy because it's not specifically put in.


Bill Curtis: So I can tell you that we are going to have numerous other shows that focus on each one of these issues. We'll be back.


Announcer: On Medicine. We're Still Practicing join Dr. Steven Taback and Bill Curtis for real conversations with the medical professionals who have their finger on the pulse of healthcare in the modern world. Available on all your favorite podcasting platforms.  Produced by Curtco Media.


Celeste: So whatcha gonna do about it?


Bill Curtis: Welcome back. So, Ed, let me ask you to cinch up your seat belt just for a minute. Tell me a little about the history of trade wars. Have they ever turned out well,.


Ed Larsen: From the very beginning you could call our nation the United States of tariffs. After Independence the United States was no longer part of England. The central government had no power to impose tariffs or taxes. And Hamilton, as treasury secretary, was the architect of tariffs. And he wanted to build up high tariffs not only to build up the American economy, but also to keep manufactured goods from Europe out and build up American manufacturing, because he wanted America to become another England with a big manufacturing base. And so there's a long history that made the Republican Party the champion of free trade while Democrats tended to working class Democrats. When you think of pro-labor Democrats, they wanted some protectionism for some American industries. And the Republicans were the big champion of free trade. Now, President Trump has flipped the Republican Party in favor of tariffs, which is one of the great reversals.


Steve Levitan: Tariffs are very, very complicated. Our relationship with China is so complex, we need them and they need us. But does anybody at this table believe that Trump understands the subtlety of the tariffs that he's enacting?


Bill Curtis: Well, starting with the subtleties of the Chinese, some years ago, I had a dinner with a CEO of a companies who was one of the architects of the DVD player. And I'm sitting with the CEO. And he said through his interpreter, Bill, do you have a five year plan for your business? And I said, yeah, actually, we just finished a five year plan. I'm really proud of it. He said, well, we have 100 year plan. We don't think of things in the short term. We think of things over multiple generations and we are never going to divert from that thought process. So currently we have a president that believes that he is going to pressure a current sitting leader in China to change the way that they're doing business during this current administration. Is that realistic?


Jane Albrecht: It's a multi dimensional chess game. And by that, I mean, you have to look at the trade elements, which are complicated. There's many industries and many issues. But then you have to look at the geopolitical issue. Among other things, you've got what China's doing in the South China Seas and their goals of being a re-emerging power in that area. And you've got to look at North Korea. If China cuts off North Korea, North Korea has got big problems. My prediction is that Trump will desperately want some sort of agreement before the 2020 election. I think in general, they will have much more leverage than Trump has to come away with a deal that really is in their long term best interests.


Bill Curtis: It is complicated because if you want to buy a sixty thousand dollar Chevy Suburban, in most Asian countries, the cost is astronomical. If you go to a place like Singapore, small country, a Chevy Suburban, that here is $60000 cost you close to $200000 in Singapore. How do you fight that kind of governmental control? Because they want to force and they are capable of forcing their citizenry to buy according to that government's plan.


Jane Albrecht: Well, there's more than even that. In China, yes, there's a great trade imbalance, but a lot of our U.S. companies build things there. And when you look at the total revenues of our companies, that is, you know, built in China, sold for the Chinese market imports, it's not such an imbalance. So do trade wars work? Trade battles can work if you really know what you're doing.


Bill Curtis: But what if we really motivate American companies to employ Americans and to put us in a position where we're paying less tariffs because we're, in fact, manufacturing here on our shores? I don't think that part of it is such a bad thing.


Jane Albrecht: I think you can give people incentives.


Bill Curtis: When you when you levy a tariff, all you're saying to a company here in the states is manufacture your product here and you won't have to worry about these tariffs.


Jane Albrecht: I agree with you. It would be really nice to say, well we pay a little bit more its going to be made in America, but there's so many other things. If you didn't have jobs going overseas, you'll have them replaced by technology because competition in our country and indeed now from the world is very intense and people can't pay more up to a point. Wages in America have not kept pace. But purchasing power of the average American has kept pace because we've had lower cost goods.


Bill Curtis: But is that so important that we satisfy Americans with their ability to buy products at cheap prices?


Jane Albrecht: It's not just the consumer, it's  the whole country willing to go that way. And then we've got to compete even if we just do that at home and in developed countries like India and China originally did that to try to promote their own goods. You can't close yourself off to the rest of the world.


Ed Larsen: China still does close itself off through a variety of techniques. It doesn't buy foreign goods. It buys domestic goods. It's a complicated thing. And I don't see the present administration having the ability to negotiate because it's like three dimensional chess writ large. You need quite a mind to be able to handle it. And the Chinese are much better able at doing this than we are.


Jane Albrecht: China's is not as closed as you think. One of the most common cars on the road I saw in China are Buicks. And Ford has been manufacturing in China for a long time. But the other thing is that with or without tariffs or international trade, there has been a  big factor of how we manage our corporations. The philosophy of our business has been to keep the costs of labor low.


Ed Larsen: But the reason why they're able to pay their workers so little is they can threaten to move the plan over to Mexico or outsource the business to India.


Steve Levitan: You saw a drastic shift in the 80s with Reagan and trickle down economics. That's the biggest reason that that changed.


Ed Larsen: What we know works, if you look at the history of this, is trickle up. If you throw a lot of money at the working class and the poorer people, they quickly spend it and it quickly triples up to the richer people.


Jane Albrecht: When you actually stop and take a look at what's gone on for the past 30 years, the Republicans have had that long term strategy. What they've been selling to the American public from trickle down economics to all government is bad and all regulation is bad and all taxes are bad is they have been gradually pushing the country back towards laissez faire capitalism, which is, which creates the greater inequality in wealth. It's basically rollback environmental regulations, rollback labor protections, rollback any regulation. And that's a philosophy of making money. And so what it's resulted is, is we are gradually moving back towards laissez faire capitalism and all the evils that go along with it. And we're trying, we're not there. They haven't done away with Social Security yet. They haven't done away with Medicare yet. And they haven't done away with all worker protections. But that's basically what's going on.


Bill Curtis: So I'm going to move us on. I'm looking at my email and I see that we need to ask Steve if he really believes that the answer to this next problem is that we arm the teachers.


Steve Levitan: It's such a frustrating issue, but it's getting better. It's getting better. Slowly, slowly. We're seeing finally the grip of the NRA is weakening as that organization has been imploding.  It's my personal number one issue. It's what I care about the most because it's just so simple and avoidable.  Everybody knows you're lying if you're saying you don't believe the answer because people say, well, it's you know, it's video games and it's  a mental health issue and it's this and it's a oh, all other countries have mental health issues and they have video games and they have the same, you know, social issues, poverty, violent movies, everything, whatever you want to call it. But they don't have access to guns that we do and subsequently our murder rates, our shooting rates are  astronomically higher than every other developed.


Bill Curtis: It does seem like we are often waking up to really bad news.


Steve Levitan: It's becoming you know, you're starting to not even, you know, another mass shooting. Like it's getting that absurd and in my opinion, a corrupt organization. It used to be at one point it actually was sort of a reasonable organization that used to actually propose some laws that would keep people safe, supported some regulation in the past. But it's been taken over by these zealots, either zealots or those who are just sold out to the gun manufacturers. I don't know how they live with themselves. You know, it's just so clear to me what, you know, what needs to be done. And, you know, it's so baked into our supposed DNA of the Second Amendment. But that was an amendment.


Jane Albrecht: The NRA spent 30 years, first of all, getting judicial precedent changed about what the Second Amendment means. And changing the view of the American public about what the Second Amendment was. I do think this all relates to money in politics.


Ed Larsen: You only have to go back to Richard Nixon, who campaigned on limiting, as he called them, Saturday night specials because there was a great fear then. He was running on a law and order platform and a Southern strategy, and there is a great fear that urban blacks had Saturday night specials and they were used to kill people and rob and steal. So he ran strongly on the issue. He promoted strongly for gun control. It might be a little strong to say, but the NRA historically was in sense a gun control organization in the sense it was an organization of hunters who  promoted responsible gun use. And the Second Amendment has that opening provision that it's designed to protect the state's rights to have a militia. So in that sense, it's a states rights organization that they can have a militia and therefore, in the protection of states having militias, gun ownership cannot be limited. But that has been twisted and turned in other directions. And in the late 70s, early 80s, the Republican Party was casting around to wedge issues. And they decided, even though that Ronald Reagan had signed the most liberal abortion law in the country, that abortion was a wedge issue, anti-evolution was a wedge issue and guns could be a wedge issue. And they've worked. They've all been very successful, but they've become partisan issues. And you have economic interests that pack those issues.


Steve Levitan: Fortunately, we have overwhelming support in this country, popular support for stricter gun laws, gun sense laws, things that actually make  some sense for us to do.


Jane Albrecht: It's money in our politics. It's because the NRA threatened even Republican candidates that if you do, if you vote against us, we will challenge you in the primaries and throw a lot of money. And that's why after Sandy Hook. When you have 95 percent or more of the American public wanting and demanding action, Congress could not act. It's quite remarkable.


Ed Larsen: But it works as a wedge issue, not because it serves the interests of the gun industry. It works as a wedge issue. It's people want to feel safe. So, to an extent, people feel they need guns to an extent, to feel safe. So the question is crafting laws where people can still feel safe. Did they have the access to the guns they need to feel safe, but not access to the guns which make them feel more vulnerable and their children more vulnerable. And there's the balance that works.


Steve Levitan: There's a study that says if you bring a gun into your home, you have a 17 times greater chance of becoming a victim, of you or someone in your family becoming a victim of gun violence. Look, I understand if I lived in some rural community where the police could not get to me in any reasonable amount of time, I would want to have a gun, first for protection.


Ed Larsen: What if you live in a community where they don't feel safe from the police?


Steve Levitan: You know, we have a we have a police problem right now. And I believe it's real. But I don't believe it's quite as sinister as it is always made out to be. I think it is sometimes, very much so. But listen, I think that there are a lot of cops that are every time they are encountering someone, they are scared that they are going to get shot because everybody's got a gun now. So you're walking around and everybody I stop is probably going to have a gun or I got to I got to act as if that person is going to have a gun. I'm going to be much more aggressive. I'm going to be much more trigger happy than I would need to be if I basically assumed that people are probably not armed. So it's got to start someplace.


Bill Curtis: Well, that being said, let's take another turn. So, Steve, just for a minute, is there a way we can get serious about the green initiatives like solar and wind and whether or not electric electric cars help? And is there a middle here? And how long do we need to have some people that deny the need to care for our planet?


Steve Levitan:  It's going to take a compelling leader who believes in all this. Listen, every, what is it, ninety nine point nine percent of of actual scientists support all the theories about climate change. And yet we have a president that mocks it. It is a huge issue. But, you know, I actually view it as an opportunity. The world is going to change, you know, wind, solar. Those are real opportunities to make money and to be forward thinking. But if we don't do it. China will. And they're already taking the lead.


Bill Curtis: Why doesn't there seem to be enough money in it to get people's attention?


Steve Levitan: Because with economies of scale, you've got a you know, could we if we started today? Could we build all these gas stations? No. It takes a real effort. You tax what you want to stop and you provide incentives for things that you want to move forward. So if we were to to start converting some gas stations into fast charging stations, you would see electric cars becoming even more and more pervasive. Why aren't we doing it? Because it's just not a priority for this for this government yet.


Ed Larsen: Well, there are certain things that petroleum is better at doing. It's always going to be used for plastics. It's always gonna be used probably for jet fuel for a long time. There are lots of other possible uses. If you go to places like northern Europe, people don't use gas for cars. They use natural gas and natural gas, the carbon footprint of natural gas is a tiny fraction of the carbon footprint of petroleum. So there are lots of alternatives. Same way with atomic power. It has no carbon footprint,it has  certainly got other problems, but it's got no carbon footprint. So you have countries like Sweden making heavy use of it. And there the result is they have a much lower carbon footprint. So there are a lot of things that can be done and could be done economically at scale.


Bill Curtis: And locally, by the way, we have huge resources for natural gas here, don't we?


Ed Larsen: America's the Saudi Arabia, as they say, of natural gas. So you have these alternatives, but you have an established infrastructure that people have invested in. And therefore, those people who have invested in that infrastructure, who already own the oil, who already have the pipelines, they have a vested interest in keeping it the way it is. And therefore, they will throw their money around in Congress and in other places to get tax subsidies and get support.


Bill Curtis: Getting back to the climate change. And I don't know why this is controversial. It seems kind of obvious. We even clean up our own house once in a while. We like it to be clean and well kept. And I'm surprised that there's anyone who thinks we shouldn't do that with the world that we live in.


Jane Albrecht: There's a ton of good reasons to protect the environment. There's almost every good reason to do it and no good reason not to do it. So, you know, to the extent you have people in Congress and others that just say, I don't believe in climate change. Well, list all the other reasons to do it. It's sort of a no brainer that you want clean water, you'd like clean air, and you'd like not to use up your environment in such a way that there's not resources available tomorrow for it.


Ed Larsen: But the very companies that are pushing the bandwagon for there's no climate change are making their own internal plans based on the idea that there is climate change. They know there's climate change. They know that the Arctic is opening up. They know the changes that are coming.


Bill Curtis: They're just  not accepting that man has anything to do it. Well, I think they are in denial.


Ed Larsen: I think they are interested in their own bottom line. They have the oil fields. They had, they're invested in this material. So they're going to keep promoting that as long as they can. It's just in their self-interest. And the point is, climate change is  twenty years out for a for major effects and therefore, people push it off.


Bill Curtis: Well, we're going to leave it there for today. We've all used a word, kind of as a transition word. It's complicated, many times. Well, it turns out it really is complicated. Ed, we've got a lot to do. The two party system, electoral college, blending of church and state, the environment, we've got so much to cover in future episodes of Meet Me in the Middle. Steve and Jane, I hope you'll join us here again. You've been spectacular. And to everyone listening. Thanks for joining. I'm Bill Curtriws. And again, next week, I'll ask you to meet me in the middle.


Bill Curtis: If you like what you heard, please help us by telling your friends. And of course, subscribe to Politics. Meet me in the Middle so you don't miss our next argument. And if you have time, please leave a review. It really matters to us. You can also check us out at This episode of Meet Me in the Middle was recorded at Curtco Media's Malibu Podcast Studios and was produced and edited by Mike Thomas. Audio engineering was by Michael Kennedy and our theme music was composed and performed by Celeste and Eric Dick.


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