Guest: Journalist, author, activist, Bill McKibben of 350.org, ThirdAct.org; Also: Putin on dangerous edge; Ukraine now fully on the EU grid...
By Brad Friedman on 3/17/2022, 6:41pm PT  

No biggie, but on today's BradCast we've got a great idea that can help defeat fascism, secure Europe and save the planet, while saving Americans money and adding a ton of new jobs in the U.S. But the best part of the plan may be that Joe Biden can make it all happen tomorrow without begging for the approval of any obstructionist, fossil fuel-loving Senators. Our guest today reports the Administration is now actively considering it --- and not a moment too soon! [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

On yesterday's BradCast, as the war in Europe grinds into its fourth deadly week, we cited evidence of progress in peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators. Those encouraging signs, however, are tempered today by Russian President Vladimir Putin's increasing isolation and darkening tone as displayed yet again during his latest, nationally televised address on Wednesday, boding ominously for the path ahead.

"The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors," Putin sneered into the camera in his latest chilling screed, "and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth onto the pavement." He spoke of his nation's need for "self-detoxification" and derided the "servile mentality" of fleeing Russian oligarchs with "villas in Miami or the French Riviera, who cannot make do without foie gras, oysters or gender freedom, as they call it."

Kremlin experts argue the Russian leader is becoming ever more manic and unpredictable as his war against Ukraine has bogged down; the Russian economy disintegrates, battered by Western sanctions; and as billionaire oligarch escape routes via mega-yachts are being blocked from Spain to France to Norway. As one expert observed, it was as if Putin was warning the elites: "We're all in this together and if I go down, you go down."

Ukraine, on the other hand, even as the punishing, deadly assault by Russian bombardment grinds on, is moving ahead. Last night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced his nation has now fully disconnected from the Russian and Belarus power grids and is 100% hooked into Europe's after a remarkable three weeks time. In the middle of a war.

"The enemy expected that the Ukrainian power system would collapse, that we would not be able to cope," said Zelenskyy in a statement published by his office on Wednesday night. "As of today, Ukrainian electricity flows to Europe and European electricity flows to Ukraine...We now have a single energy circulatory system from Lisbon to Mariupol. Ukraine is in the 'energy eurozone'. We cannot be defeated."

Still, much of Europe's energy continues to derive from Russian fossil fuels. And much of Russia's economy --- its war engine --- relies on those fossil fuel exports to Europe. That, too, needs to end. Happily, our guest today has a great idea about how to do just that, in a way that helps fight fascism and climate change, while adding jobs, beefing up U.S. manufacturing and securing Europe. And the best part: President Joe Biden can make it all happen without needing corrupt coal-state Senator Joe Manchin's permission!

We're joined today by the great environmental author, journalist and activist BILL MCKIBBEN of 350.org and ThirdAct.org to discuss the plan he recently spelled out in one of his "The Crucial Years" newsletters. It's based on an effort being pushed hard by the non-profit Rewiring America and New Mexico's Sen. Martin Heinrich. The plan would replace tens of millions of Europe's fossil fuel burning furnaces and boilers with new, electrified heat pump technology.

The replacement of old furnaces with electrified heat pump systems could make a huge dent in Russia's fascist petrol-economy, remove Putin's ability to freeze out Europe by flipping a switch, cut deadly greenhouse gas emissions that have lurched our climate into crisis, and could begin right now, in advance of next winter, under Biden's wartime invocation of the Defense Production Act (DPA).

As McKibben details, new electric heat pump technology provides both heat in winter and air conditioning in summer. Much of freezing cold Norway already uses it. And Biden has the authority to use the DPA to kick-start production at major U.S. air condition manufacturers like Carrier and Trane. (Many of whom, on a political note, happen to have manufacturing hubs in swing-states like Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.)

"This is obviously a hideous, hideous month. It's completely horrible, and it's completely tied to our dependence on fossil fuel. This is not a war for fossil fuel, the way that some of our wars in the Middle East may have been, but it's a war funded by and about the power that comes with fossil fuel," he tells me.

"The good news is that our scientists and engineers over the last decade have done incredible work," McKibben continues. "They've dropped the price of renewable energy 90 percent. The sun and wind are the cheapest way to generate power now. And they've produced this suite of technologies that allow us to do the things we need to do with that electricity. Everybody knows about the rise of electric vehicles, but it's the same for the gas or oil furnace that's blazing away in one's basement. The most efficient way now, and cheapest and smartest way to heat your home or cool your home, is with this technology that we're calling heat pumps."

Both Biden and Donald Trump invoked the DPA in response to the COVID pandemic. Biden has even "used it to get a factory in Oklahoma to produce hundreds of miles of fire hose at a moment's notice" after we ran out thanks to last year's huge (climate change-fueled) California wildfires.

McKibben explains that U.S. manufacturers have the spare capacity to begin a "Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom" effort almost immediately. "Every President since" the Korean War-era DPA was adopted has used it and, he asserts, "this is the kind of thing we can use to get this work done now, and get this stuff over to Europe."

"They have to cut back a lot on their consumption of gas. That's basically what Russia is sending to Europe. And that gas is used above all for home heating. So anything that we can do to get even a few million homes off that gas before next October is a big blow to Putin," he argues.

Do heat pumps work as well as the old boiler and furnace systems? "Absolutely," answers McKibben, who uses one in his own home (with solar panels, natch, but that's not a necessity.) "This is good technology. In the same way that my EV works better than any other car I've ever had. This stuff is great. Quiet, clean, works."

"The Europeans can use them," he says. "The chokepoint may actually be trained people to install them. Which is one reason why the good people at RewiringAmerica.org ,who have taken this up in a big way, have in their proposal for the Biden Administration training and sending abroad a big crew of Americans to help with that installation. One of the benefits for us is they get good at it, come back here, and what helps enormously in Austria, Germany, Poland and Moldova this winter helps a lot in Minnesota and Montana the winter after that. So win-win all around."

McKibben says that he is being told the Administration is seriously considering the idea. And while sending defensive munitions and humanitarian aid are both, unfortunately, very necessary right now, sending this kind of assistance helps Europe, the U.S. and the planet for years to come. Indeed, "win-win all around."

Finally, we end an unusually green program, even for us, as Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more reminders of why Heat Pumps for Freedom --- and working around corrupt, coal state Senators like Joe Manchin --- is so vitally important for all of us right now...

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