Episode #15: Akshat Rathi


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Quinn:    Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.

Brian:    And I'm Brian Colbert Kennedy.

Quinn:    And this is Episode 15 with our guest, Akshat Rathi. We're going to get a little more nuanced and hopeful on the concept of carbon capture, or what we like to call the emissions apology board. 

Brian:    Akshat is a London-based reporter for Quartz, who's also written for The Economist and Nature, the Hindu, The Guardian, and more. He's got a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Oxford, and a B. Tech in chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai. 

Quinn:    So, he's you.

Brian:    Yeah, we're brain twins.

Quinn:    Right. He wrote a pretty compelling series for Quartz last year. Some great journalism, called The Race to Zero Emissions. We've linked to it before, and we will include it again in the show notes, so you can read it again.

Brian:    Yeah.

Quinn:    Yeah. Speaking of Zero Emissions, I would guess at this point the single benefit of your motorcycle is fewer emissions. 

Brian:    Not single, there's not one benefit.

Quinn:    What's the other one?

Brian:    That is a really good one. I barely use any gas. 

Quinn:    What's the other one?

Brian:    It's fun to ride.

Quinn:    That's not a fucking benefit.

Brian:    That's a benefit. What do you mean?

Quinn:    For who?

Brian:    For me. 

Quinn:    You are so selfish. 

Brian:    And for the people that I ride around. I'm not selfish when I'm riding around the people.

Quinn:    Speaking of the people you ride around, did you ride it like Maverick and Kelly McGillis into the sunset up to meet the in-laws this weekend?

Brian:    I am Tom Cruise.

Quinn:    Sure.

Brian:    But taller. 

Quinn:    How did that go? Both the ride and meeting the in-laws.

Brian:    We did not ride, we took her vehicle. She has a car, and we drove it up there. It was beautiful. Have you been up to Big Sur?

Quinn:    Yeah, it's like a fake place. It's preposterous. 

Brian:    Man. Unbelievable. Really, really pretty.

Quinn:    You're avoiding the question. 

Brian:    No, no, it was the best weekend.

Quinn:    Really?

Brian:    It was so fantastic. It was beautiful. We ate well. Her parents are the best people.

Quinn:    And they liked you?

Brian:    They liked me.

Quinn:    Have they listened to this?

Brian:    They have not listened to this.

Quinn:    So, you didn't tell them you've taken an official position at Asgardia, and you'll be bringing their daughter there, assumably for eternity?

Brian:    Listen, I'm only creating the system of currency there. Okay? No other plans have been made yet.

Quinn:    No. You have to live there to create the system of currency, and one would think you're going to bring your girlfriend, correct?

Brian:    She is my girlfriend, yes. 

Quinn:    So, assuming this is the first episode they listen to, tell them what Asgardia is.

Brian:    I don't want to get into Asgardia again.

Quinn:    No. Everybody cares about this. 

Brian:    It's a cool, futuristic space civilization, and it's going to be the best. Okay? And people are going to be so happy to be in space. 

Quinn:    You are selling the shit out of this.

Brian:    Listen, as I think previously proven, I don't know much about Asgardia, okay? Or anything about it. I just think it sounds cool, and I would like to live in space.

Quinn:    Again, all of that makes them feel so much better that this new guy is taking their daughter there.

Brian:    I don't know much about it. I'm not going to Asgardia, okay? I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay here because I like her that much. 

Quinn:    Question. If you had to choose between her-

Brian:    Oh my god. 

Quinn:    ... and living in space. Go.

Brian:    Quinn. Listen, living in space seems really cool. Okay? But there's no true happiness there unless she wanted to come with me, which I don't think she does. She seems like a type person who just wants to have a pretty normal Earth life, with a family and not traveling through space. So, I think I'll just hang out here for now.

Quinn:    Look, let's just see how it goes. 

Brian:    I'll keep everybody updated on the situation with me and my girlfriend in this life in space. It was really great. Thank you for asking. It was wonderful. 

Quinn:    Sure. I'm so glad. 

Brian:    It was great. I didn't tell them that I have a motorcycle. 

Quinn:    You did not?

Brian:    Did not.

Quinn:    Now they know now.

Brian:    I know, I know, I know. 

Quinn:    All right, well, let's go talk to Akshat.

Brian:    Let's go talk to Akshat.

Quinn:    Our guest today is Akshat Rathi, and together we're going to dig in further with carbon capture. And we're going to really work on this decisive question of, can carbon capture technology become a viable weapon against climate change in the next 10 years. Akshat, welcome. 

Akshat Rathi:    Hey, thanks for having me. 

Brian:    Akshat, tell us real quick who you are and what you do. 

Akshat Rathi:    I am Akshat Rathi, I work for Quartz. It's an online business publication. We have journalism offices all around the world. I'm based in the London office. I write about energy and science. I think one reason we are talking right now is because last year, I did an investigative series on carbon capture technology, and hopefully, from those things, we can learn a few things today.

Quinn:    Awesome, and can you talk just a little bit about ... And this is not to dump on other journalists, but you have quite the scientific background yourself. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah, I do come from a slightly unusual right down to journalism. I did an undergrad in chemical engineering in Mumbai, and then I did a PhD in organic chemistry at Oxford University. And then, sometime while I was doing my PhD, I realized that there are way more things that I am interested in than just organic chemistry, or even within organic chemistry, a small niche which I was doing my PhD. I used to write as a hobby, and I thought, hey, if there's a way I could convert a hobby to a job, that would be great. Somehow, I managed to do that, and I've just stayed on. 

Quinn:    Congratulations. 

Brian:    Yeah, that's incredible. 

Quinn:    Where were you before Quartz?

Akshat Rathi:    When I left Oxford, the first place I went to was The Economist, where I was a science intern, and that was where I say I got my crash course in journalism.

Quinn:    Love that place. 

Akshat Rathi:    After that, I worked for a startup called A Conversation. It's a wonderful startup. It does journalism in different way. It tries to get academic experts to use their knowledge to comment and analyze world events. They had started an edition in the UK, and I was the science editor for the first two years over there, and after that, I joined Quartz, which was in 2015. So, it's three years and on. 

Quinn:    Awesome. Very cool. 

Brian:    Yeah. Very good.

Quinn:    We will hopefully put that scientific know-how to use today, to try to dial things down for our definitely less scientifically educated, but much more interested and action-oriented listeners today. 

Brian:    Yeah, yeah. So, let's set up our conversation for today. Our listeners have heard this before, but we're we're big believers, Akshat, in action-oriented questions. We want to get to the bottom of today's topic, so you really get it. And then, because these times call for action, formulate some specific steps everyone here can take to make a little dent in the universe.

Quinn:    Does that sound good?

Akshat Rathi:    [crosstalk 00:07:41] Yeah, and I think if we need to start there, the reason I got into writing about the environment in the first place was to write from a solutions-oriented perspective. I don't think I would be able to write about the environment sustainably if it was just the depressing news about how we're fucking things up.

Quinn:    Right.

Brian:    Yeah, that gets old real quick.

Quinn:    Right, and that is really the most concise way of putting it. 

Brian:    So, Akshat, we start with one important question to really get to the heart of why you're here today.

Quinn:    And that's existentially, and also, on the podcast. 

Brian:    Yes. So, instead of saying, tell us your life story, we like to ask, why are you vital to the survival of the species?

Quinn:    Be bold.

Akshat Rathi:    I think you've probably heard this from other people, but I don't think I am. I think that would not be me. I would not think that I can save humanity, but I feel like, with the work I do, if I'm able to ... You know, the world is a complex place, a very complex place, and there are many more ways to get things wrong and very few ways to get it right. And if, though my work, I'm able to help people be less wrong, I think that would be my contribution to humanity. 

Quinn:    Well, that would be a hell of a contribution, certainly. 

Brian:    Yeah. Less wrong, that's great. 

Quinn:    We need as much of that as possible. Less wrong could be the thing that just saves the day. We're never all going to be completely right on the same page, but less wrong. Maybe we'll make it through this thing. All right. What we're going to do now is, establish some context for our topic of the day. And again, as we try to ... We're still rookies at this, in going. We're trying hone these sections for everybody so they have both have something to look forward to/dread or skip over. 

Quinn:    But it's your friendly reminder that context 101 with Professor Brian is greatly oversimplified. You know, often veers completely off course and is also often, though never intentionally, wrong. But that's why we've got our resident expert here to correct us. So, as always, please consult a medical professional before making changes to your medication.

Brian:    All right, I'll give it a whirl. Professor Brian, here, so a little reminder for everyone from our talk with David Hawkins at the NRDC. There are two kinds of carbon capture. You can strap a machine onto a dirty power source and capture all those emissions before they can escape. And then two, direct air, where you just suck the shit we've already put into the air right back out, like a big air purifier. 

Quinn:    Right, and to be clear, air purifiers, vacuuming those things every month or so can get super annoying, so I can't imagine it on a global scale. Let me tell you, when you open it up and there's a metric fuck-ton of dust in there, and you're like, what would I be breathing without this thing. Anyways.

Brian:    Yeah. All right, so but, there's a lot of hype. Despite it, this technology is not perfect. For starters, putting one of those things onto an existing coal plant would, by some estimates, increase the energy needs of the plant by up to like 90%. So, not great, kind of defeats the purpose, there. Then also, the end result of either of those versions is sequestration, yes? Taking the trash out, basically. And the whole procedure, then, is typically called carbon capture and storage, or CCS if you're cool. 

Quinn:    I think the storage is usually assumed to be big ass rocks, right? We're either burying the stuff underground or in the ocean. 

Brian:    Oh, yeah. Well, okay. I don't think Dr. Aiona Johnson would be very excited at all to hear you even considering that as an option after our conversation. It's like you didn't even listen to her. 

Quinn:    All right. Okay. It's not my idea. Don't get me in trouble with her. 

Brian:    You do not want to be in trouble with her.

Quinn:    No. Well, maybe the best idea is in making new geological formations out of it, not in the ocean, which would be kind of awesome, right? Like, big mountains. 

Brian:    Yes. Pick what you want to do this weekend. 

Quinn:    Oh, let's go repelling down all the emissions grandpa put out fighting World War II. 

Brian:    Feels like a lot of contradiction there. 

Quinn:    Anyway.

Brian:    Yeah, the first version of this was tried back in 2000, yeah?

Quinn:    I think. Right? Which was a long time ago. I was still ... 2000, Jesus, I was wearing like seashell necklaces and had 5% body fat.

Brian:    I wore those little black wrist bands that had like a band symbol on it, you know? Oh God, they were so terrible. So, now it's cranking up to a few more places, to varying degrees of success, but we'll get to that. It's still very early days, but Akshat's here, and he's going to enlighten us. Let's see, in closing, the IPCC estimates that the economic potential of CCF should be between 10 and 55% of the total carbon mitigation effort until 2100.

Quinn:    Which is a decent chunk, but it seems like that's also a very large ... 10 to 55% is-

Brian:    Quite a range.

Quinn:    Quite a range. All right, with that for some context, which may or may not be totally off base, because this is still very early and we're not doctors, let's focus on our question this week: Can carbon capture technology become a viable weapon against climate change in the next 10 years? Why all the hype? What's the reality? And using Akshat's fantastic series that he did last year, where is it actually working?

Quinn:    Akshat, my first question is ... And this is a little different. This actually has a little bit less to do with technology than sort of anthropology or sociology or even psychology, if we're kind of dialing it down to a specific person. When we talk about the second one, direct air capture, there's a part of me that wonders if we're each kind of hoping direct air carbon capture works, that we can remove the carbon we've already put in the air, to try and make good on the harm we've done. 

Quinn:    To kind of make ourselves feel better, besides the actual scientific effect. How often can we go back and fix a mess we've created, especially an existential one? I'm just curious, but maybe that's a good thing, if that's the thing that's going to drive investment in these things.

Akshat Rathi:    I can address this question in many ways. First, I wouldn't say is an existential risk. Now, an existential risk, as I would define it, is that humanity gets wiped out, and no serious scientist would tell you that climate change would wipe humanity out. It would seriously injure us. We might go from seven billion people to few thousands. That is a tragedy that has never happened in human history. There will be all sorts of troubles. Who knows whether the thousand people will be able to survive. But it's not going to wipe out humanity on its own. So, not an existential crisis. 

Quinn:    Great news. 

Akshat Rathi:    That is not to say this is not a big crisis, because if we are down to a thousand people, we're talking about going back to homo sapiens 200,000 years ago, when they were trying to leave Africa to try and conquer the world. There might be some people who have fantasies of these things, but that is not a good place. 

Quinn:    I was going to say, a lot of people on the paleo diet would think that that's a great idea.

Brian:    Yeah. Perfect. 

Akshat Rathi:    Right. So, that's one thing. Right, existential crisis, this is not one. But an important one, it definitely is. Now, I think we are jumping ahead if we're starting to talk about direct air capture. I feel, in the wonderful recap that Brian gave, there was one aspect that was missing, which I think you guys couldn't get to with David Hawkins, because you had so many wonderful other things to talk about, related to climate change, related to solving it. But there was one aspect that you guys didn't touch upon.

Brian:    Educate us.

Akshat Rathi:    And that is that, not all of the captured carbon dioxide is ... The end goal is not to put it underground. Majority of it would have to be because of the sheer amounts we're talking about. If you're talking about 10% to 55%, up to 2100, we are talking anywhere between 100 gigatons to ... Multiply that by 500 gigatons, a thousand gigatons. It's just a huge amount. Now, putting gigatons in aspect is something you can do later, but it's just a big number. So, most of it will have to be buried underground. 

Akshat Rathi:    But in this phase that we are right now, where we don't have a business model for why we're putting these emissions underground, we don't have the right regulations in place, we don't have a price on carbon, what is it that we can do that could get us to a place where we might be able to do those things at the scale that we require? That's the missing aspect, and that's called in the field as with all the technical jargon, it's called CCUS, where they add the U to be use or utilization.

Brian:    Interesting.

Akshat Rathi:    And that is the idea, where you put carbon dioxide to some sort of use.

Quinn:    Let's dig into that, talk us a little bit about that. 

Akshat Rathi:    Now, carbon dioxide. Pretty much everything around you is made of carbon in some form. Even steel, the metal in front of you, has a little bit of carbon in it, because that's how you make that alloy from iron and other things. And this carbon is what is in carbon dioxide. It's just that it is combined with oxygen, two oxygen molecules, which makes it a gas. And it makes it an inert gas, and an odorless gas, a colorless gas. And of course, it has this side effect of heating up the planet. But essentially, is a carbon-based molecule.

Quinn:    Side note, isn't that ... This is a terrible example, but I think about how, when you pee in the pool and nobody can see it, and some places have added the chemical that makes it turn purple or something, so that you're shamed into not peeing in the pool. Wouldn't it be great if we could add something to carbon dioxide when it's coming out of these plants, people could see horrific things we're actually putting into the atmosphere?

Akshat Rathi:    Yes, and that's such a good point to bring up. One of the scientists I interviewed for my series said, "If carbon dioxide was black, we would have solved this problem long ago." 

Brian:    Yeah. Man, that's wild. 

Quinn:    Talk to us a little bit about the usage, CCUS.

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah. So, carbon dioxide is carbon, right?

Quinn:    Right.

Akshat Rathi:    If you think of what we make from all the oil we extract, we run our cars and sometimes we run power plants, but there's a big chunk of that we convert into chemicals and products. So, we're using oil, which is carbon-based, as a feedstock for all these things. What if you could do that with carbon dioxide instead? Now, the challenge here is physics, and physics is a bitch, which I think we will have to say multiple times in this episode. 

Brian:    I think I dropped out of physics, too.

Quinn:    Yup, yup.

Akshat Rathi:    And maybe a little bit science for refreshing nightmares people have about physics classes from their childhood. There is a second law of thermodynamics, which comes handy in this case. So, oil is an energy-rich molecule. You burn oil and you get energy out of it. In the process, you make water from the hydrogen that's trapped in oil and carbon dioxide from the carbon that's trapped in oil. If you want to run this reaction in reverse, which is sort of what we're saying, we don't want to convert it back into oil. 

Akshat Rathi:    Some people do. But maybe that's not the main use for it. If you want to run this reaction in reverse and use that carbon dioxide to actually do things, you have to put in all that energy that you can extracted in the first place to be able to do that. So, that's the reason why most of the carbon dioxide that we will have to sequester will have to go underground, because we just, we're talking about putting a fuck-ton more energy to actually convert it into something.

Quinn:    I feel like that's a more accurate number than the gigatons you meant before.

Brian:    I think everyone understands fuck-ton.

Quinn:     Everybody gets that.

Akshat Rathi:    So, to overcome physics is something we need to be able to understand. And luckily, we are in that place, where it might not be outrageous to think that we could do this. 

Quinn:    To overcome physics, was that the term you used?

Akshat Rathi:    Yes.

Quinn:    That sounds like a small hurdle.

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah. And we've had this wonderful boom of renewable energy coming online, solar and wind and small amounts of other technologies. But mostly solar and wind, and we will keep seeing the amount of energy produced by those sources increase. The latest figures over 2018 report that just came out from the U.N. said, "Including hydropower, the amount of renewable energy contributing to the world right now has gone up to about 12%." That's wonderful. 

Brian:    Hell, yeah. [crosstalk 00:21:02]

Akshat Rathi:    It's still not where we need to be, but it's great. [crosstalk 00:21:04]

Quinn:    We're close, but agreed. But I think even three years ago nobody thought it would be 12%. 

Akshat Rathi:    Right. That's correct.

Quinn:    But it's coming. Again, you're seeing these new energy deals signed in places across the world, not here, that are just shockingly low. It's pretty incredible. 

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah. So, what's going to happen is, you're going to reach a point where renewable energy is essentially just the cost of the panels themselves. Like, it's just one sort of capital cost, and the marginal cost of energy, because the fuel is free, will be zero. 

Quinn:    When do you think that is going to be? What's your thought estimate on that? Because it seems like there's some varying numbers, but it's been moving so quickly, which is great, that it almost seems like it's hard to pin down. But it seems like it's coming more quickly than people think.

Akshat Rathi:    Right, so there's a caveat. I say zero is a marginal cost. In some place actually, including where you live in California, prices have been negative because of solar. This is a peculiar thing that happened in the market, where solar is producing way more energy than the grid needs at that moment, because the grid only has a certain capacity. If you keep putting more solar on top of it and not use it, the grid would fry up, and the grid goes down. Nobody gets anything. 

Quinn:    We also have been ... It's an entirely different discussion, which if you'd like, we can come back for to talk about how we're barely starting to solve storage and transmission, as well. 

Akshat Rathi:    Right. But the point is, that there, at that point, grid operators have to pay people to use that electricity. Or, another way to look at it is, actually any excess renewable energy at the point that it is not being consumed is of zero value. 

Quinn:    Interesting.

Akshat Rathi:    So, what's going to happen as we keep adding more renewable capacity and wind capacity? Even with storage included, batteries are great and everything, but they have a limited capacity. Whereas, with the variability in solar and wind, we just have to create a lot more capacity than we actually need. 

Akshat Rathi:    So, if you're consuming, say, 100 gigawatts in one state, we need to have the capacity in wind and solar to be able to make 200, 300, 400, 500 gigawatts, because in solar, the actual capacity ratio 20, 25%. We're only consuming one fourth of what it actually is capable of producing at peak hour. That's the crucial point here, which is to say, there'll all this excess capacity sitting there while we have carbon dioxide in the air that could, using that excess energy, be converted into other useful products. 

Quinn:    Interesting, and what do you see ... It's really fascinating stuff, and I feel like I've read about that but very little. Can you educate us a little bit on maybe what the first manifestations of that might start to look like? I don't know anything like that already exists, but talk to me ...

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah, there is a neat example. There is a Canadian startup called Carbon Engineering. It was founded by this guy named David Keith, who is at Harvard University. He's a guy I think you guys should interview. He's a wonderful fellow, a very smart person. What Carbon Engineering does is direct air capture. So, they have the technology to essentially pass large volumes of air over certain substances that can capture the small ... Carbon dioxide is a problem, but it's really .04% of our air. It's a very small amount but it captures that.

Akshat Rathi:    So, it does what a power plant carbon capture unit does, and does it on a much more dilute solution of carbon dioxide. Then, once it captures that carbon dioxide, it ... They have [inaudible 00:25:21] technology to be able to convert that into biofuels, and they've made their first batch last year.

Quinn:    Fascinating. 

Akshat Rathi:    So, again, all of this, technically, we knew it could work. We know that if you take carbon dioxide just from a canister and you do a bunch of reactions on them, you can convert them into, essentially, oil again. Because it'll have carbon and hydrogen, and you'll have got rid of the oxygen. And what you've got at the end is, fuel that you would be able to put into your car and drive with. But the challenge has been, A, why would you invest in this if energy costs are so high and you're going to have to put more energy into producing the fuel than the energy you will get out of the fuel?

Quinn:    Right, and that's definitely a point I want to get back to as we talk about it, is the absolute energy costs of this sort of industry.

Akshat Rathi:    Right. So, you have a solid example in front of you with carbon engineering, who have shown from start to finish, from carbon dioxide in the air to bio fuel from the car, it's feasible.

Quinn:    But at the same time, as much as where we would look, I would love to go all solar and wind tomorrow. You know, we have to be realists, which is that, even at its most aggressive, which is not what we're doing, but even its most aggressive, it's going to take 25 to 50 years to totally wean off this stuff, and some of these things are going to be much more difficult than others in required fuel, like aircraft and shipping. So, hell, if we're going to need to use it, it might as well come from a source like this. Right?

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah, and that's correct. 15 to 20 years is a long time, and given how we need to be able to hit our climate goals and sooner, relying on direct capture, which is the question you were asking, can we actually turn back time or turn back, go back and fix our mistakes, is not something that you should rely on. And again and again, sensible academics in the climate field say, yes, we've baked in our climate models, this so-called thing of negative emissions, and we will have to do some of it. But let us act sooner so we don't have to do a lot of it.

Quinn:    Sure. So, let's say ... I don't want to say perfect world. Let's say, both versions of carbon capture go a little bit better than we think they're going to go right now for the next ... I know that's very scientific. For the next 15 years. Like you said, we can't rely on it, but how much of an effect do we think this will have in us keeping things under 2C? You know, realistic ... Like, feeling good, but realistically by 2040. [crosstalk 00:28:21] What percentage of an effect does it have in reducing emissions?

Akshat Rathi:    This is where it gets into models and wonky calculations, and I think audiences would go, how can you pull this number out from total whatever model you're [crosstalk 00:28:35] I don't think that's- 

Quinn:    Totally. We just want to help everybody visualize it a little bit, because I think, [inaudible 00:28:41] is it 1% or is it 45%? It's like, if we're going to inspire people to do action, I want them to think, like, "Shit man, if this could make a 15 % difference, even that is worth it." So, we want to just-

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah. I think a good number that I have used as a way to ground the goals that we are setting with carbon capture is, 10% of annual emissions by 2050. 

Brian:    I was hoping you were going to say 100. 

Akshat Rathi:    This is a figure that the IEA, and I can verify the exact figure, but the IEA has done a bunch of calculations, just like the IPCC does. IEA has some other models, but that's about 4 billion tons a year is what we're talking about, just to give it a place holder. But it could be a lot more. It could be a lot less. It will all depend on how we take the next few steps.

Akshat Rathi:    And, you know, when I wrote the series last year, I was less hopeful of change than I am four months down the line. I don't think it's because of my theories. I would be happy to hear if that's ... 

Brian:    We think it is. 

Akshat Rathi:    That's something that I had an impact on. But there was a lot there was a lot going on before there that has ended up in this. Ironically, Trump signing something that's going to help the climate and that a tax credit being given to carbon capture projects. It's called the 45Q tax credit, and it provides approximately $30, if you put the carbon tax to some use, or $50 if you put it underground as a tax rebate on your power plant or your chemical industry, if you capture that carbon dioxide. And it's one that a lot of advocacy groups are fighting for, and in the big budget bill that had to pass to keep his government running, they put that in as, "we want this," and they got it.

Brian:    Slip it right in there. Couldn't do anything about it. Had to sign it.

Quinn:    It is kind of really interesting what came out of that bill energy-wise. I think people were kind of shocked by that, with science funding going up and things like that, but good news is they're ruining everything else.

Brian:    Right. 

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah. So, I'm more hopeful now. There are already talks about which projects might be able to take this on and make it a business model that works. And if you have a business model that works, then you'll have the ability to be able to scale up a technology, because you can develop this technology and make it technologically feasible. But if the economics doesn't work, you're never going to get it.

Quinn:    Right. 

Akshat Rathi:    Take, perhaps, flying cars.

Quinn:    Yeah. Right. So, let's get to the economics in one sec on that. 

Brian:    You said the next few steps, right? So, science is failing, failing, failing, small success, failing, failing, maybe another success, maybe. What are those next steps?

Akshat Rathi:    The next steps, I think, very solid next steps if we are taking them, will be different for different people. But for industry, especially the oil industry, would be to recognize that bridges have turned, and they are now squarely in the wrong place. I think European oil industries understand that and are already starting to act. American oil industry, on the other hand, hasn't yet reckoned it. 

Akshat Rathi:    So, something that David Hawkins said in the podcast previously was that, ExxonMobil shareholders came out, and they told ExxonMobil, "You need to tell us, what are the risks to your assets based on a carbon constrained world, where regulations are going to come through and perhaps make some of your oil assets, stranded assets."

Akshat Rathi:    ExxonMobilMobil did come up with that report, and they were, ask any reasonable climate scientist, they were far short of where you would think a reasonable scientific consensus on how to go about dealing with those oil assets should be. Basically, they said, "All our assets are good. They are not going to be stranded. We know that the things that we need to do to reach a two degree Celsius world that the Paris Climate Agreement has set up, are these things, and we will get there without worrying about oil. Because oil people keep still burning." 

Akshat Rathi:    And they mention carbon capture as a way of improving technology, and mention converting that carbon dioxide into biofuels. Both of the things that they're trying to invest money in, but not enough to actually make the technology work.

Quinn:    Right, right. It really is, and when you see ... Sometimes, you hear, oh, this many million dollars was invested in this project or trial, and it's like, man, things can't start with an 'M' anymore. Million is not going to cut it.

Brian:    With an 'M'. [crosstalk 00:33:59]

Akshat Rathi:    That's right. That's correct. So, here's the solid thing, which is to say, let us stop hating upon the oil industry. I think there is a problem in the environmental movement that I have found in my reporting and my work is that, the environmental movement is squarely against the fossil fuel industry, and I understand why. They have tried to undermine climate activity for so long that it is hard to trust somebody. It's like you have a partner who has been cheating on you and you keep giving him or her another chance and another chance, and you just know that in their heart, they don't really love you. So, I understand that.

Quinn:    That's pretty deep. We can get into that later. 

Brian:    Deep cut. 

Akshat Rathi:    [crosstalk 00:34:38] But the problem is, they are not your partner. They're just a corporation that is actually publicly owned, that can be held accountable, that has to follow government regulations if it has to operate, and the rules are completely different. And environmentalists just need to understand that, right now, are the pace at which we need to be able to hit our climate goals, we need every possible technology and every possible partner to come on board and act.

Quinn:    Well, and that's kind of a bit of the angle we've taken here is, a couple things. We did a sort of three-part series with a bunch of conservative climate activists, which is words I really didn't know existed until fairly recently. But in the sense that, like you said, we need every partner, and one of their unifying messages to us, even though each of their mission was slightly different, was the messenger is more important than the message. 

Quinn:    Let them do their jobs and just sort of support them, because no one wants to hear liberals yell at them anymore. But they really are almost, counting out corporations, but they really are fighting the last essential fight. Basically, everybody else is on board. It's like, but if we can get those people and get those last partners on board, it'll make a big difference. So, that's part of what we've embraced here. You know, whatever the means are to get to the end, sure, great. Whatever the thing is, at this point. Whatever gets us to radical action, let's do it.

Brian:    If that means we have to step aside and shut up and let other people take care of it, even. Fine. 

Quinn:    Great. We'll shut Brian's podcast right down.

Brian:    So, we need to convince everyone that this is one of the next pedestals, and as we-

Quinn:    Even if it's 15%. That's great. We'll take 15%.

Brian:    As we work towards the next few steps that you talked about, what have we found so far that's repeatable, that we and they can build on?

Quinn:    Right. What are the what are the success stories so far that, obviously, are all very small-scale, but any commercial industrial things that, again, are repeatable? We can look and say, hey, this is something that can be acted upon and grown.

Akshat Rathi:    Right. This is the other thing about what David Hawkins said that I can add a little more nuance to. 

Quinn:    Please.

Akshat Rathi:    He is right that these things are on a small scale, but how you define scale is a very relative term. Now, if you talk about technology development, they have these levels of technology readiness. They are called TR for technology readiness, and they have nine levels in that. I won't go into details of what each of those levels do, but essentially, by the ninth level, you should be able to produce at the level where you are able to sell it into the market at a competitive rate with other technologies in the market that can do the same. 

Akshat Rathi:    So, if you talk about that scale, that scale carbon capture has already hit. So, it is already working on a large scale. Now, there are two power plants in the world that are coal power plants, that are running carbon capture units. 

Quinn:    Where are they?

Akshat Rathi:    One is called Boundary Dam. It's in Canada, in Saskatchewan. I don't know if I'm pronouncing that right. And the other one, which I visited, is in Houston, south west of Houston, and it's called the Petra Nova Project. Boundary Dam is capturing about a million tons of carbon dioxide each year, and Petra Nova is capturing about 1.4 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. 

Akshat Rathi:    Boundary Dam has had some problems and they have dealt with them. And, you know, any technology first that was a first, it was a first coal power plant unit, will face those problems. They're dealing with it. Petra Nova so far, which launched more than 12 months ago, has not had any problems so far, has been delivering most of what its goals were. 

Quinn:    Sorry to interrupt. Are those both coal plant, then?

Akshat Rathi:    They're both coal power plants. 

Quinn:    You said a million and about a million and a half tons. What percentage of their actual emissions, then? [crosstalk 00:38:56]

Akshat Rathi:    Again, that's the wrong way to look at it, because Petra Nova in itself has, I might get my numbers wrong here, but something like four natural gas power plants and four coal units. So, they have four units of each of the fuels. Now, the carbon capture unit is actually only on one of the coal units, and even within the one coal unit, it's only taking 40% of the emissions of that coal unit. 

Akshat Rathi:    So, if you take as a whole, it's a small percentage of that power plant, but then you can also say, as a whole, where all the called coal power plants that are burning, what is the percentage that's being captured and buried? But that's not the right way of looking at what percentage it is. The right way of looking at this is to say, there is this technology that can work at the level of a power plant, a reasonable sized power plant that exists all around the world, and we can install it on top of that. [crosstalk 00:39:55]

Quinn:    Right. Heres two things, which is, let's again, assume, which is troublesome, but assume they can scale that up to all four of the coal plants, even ticking away 40% of the emissions of coal, is extremely compelling. 

Brian:    Yeah.

Quinn:    It's not perfect by any stretch, but it's extremely compelling, especially when, again, you start to look at China for all they're doing in clean energy, which is momentous. They're building something like 250 coal plants, probably [inaudible 00:40:28] that number in Africa. And thinking, okay, before we get those, if we can tick off 40% of those emissions at the source, again, that's very compelling. 

Quinn:    I guess the two questions then are is, of those two plants that are working, that have that going, what are the energy costs to do that? Because it seems like that's one of the issues, is, the immense amount of energy it takes just to do that work. So, what are they saying?

Akshat Rathi:    I think, again, those are getting into details that ... It's a question that people will ask to be able to say, "Haha. That's why you don't make it work." But that's not the way to look at it, because whatever the initial cost may be, if you make the business model work, if you put a price on carbon, if you have a use for that carbon dioxide, it doesn't matter what the energy costs are. This is what I'm trying to say, when you convert carbon dioxide into something, the energy cost is way more than the energy that you put to produce that carbon dioxide in the first place. That doesn't matter if you have a market and a business model to support it. So, that's the wrong question.

Akshat Rathi:    And the other way to answer this would be to say, look, coal power plants actually, if you look at carbon capture, coal power plants have the highest energy cost. Okay, now, that's probably not right. Natural gas power plants will have a higher energy cost, because they produce less carbon dioxide, and then there's less carbon dioxide. It's harder to capture from the mixture of gases that come out. Coal power plants would be the second one, because they have about 10% to 15% in the exhaust gases that's made of carbon dioxide, so the energy cost is high. 

Akshat Rathi:    But there are other industries that essentially produce pure carbon dioxide, and people have begun to use that, where the capture cost suddenly reduces, because you don't need to separate carbon dioxide from the mixture, which is the reason most of the energy is spent. What you can do is, you simply take the gases that are coming through, and you compress them, and you bury them. There is a big project, carbon capture project, in Chicago, in Illinois, not in Chicago, in Illinois, run by a ethanol producer.

Akshat Rathi:    In the process of producing ethanol, you use a pure stream of carbon dioxide, and they're using that carbon dioxide, and they're simply burying it underground. In the US, that's the first large-scale plant that is able to do that, and just bury it. Most of the other places are actually, to make it economically feasible, are putting it in oil fields to extract more oil. So, that's the current use of carbon dioxide. Most of the use for carbon dioxide is that, which again, is not doing anybody any favors. We need a different business model that will make it feasible, but right now, any amount of carbon dioxide put underground is a good thing.

Quinn:    Sure. All right. Let's get to the thing we've we've kind of talked about a bunch, which is, again, the economics of this thing, from the business model, to building an actual market, to both penalize emissions, and also incentivize new technology, which theoretically should happen at the same time. 

Quinn:    So, I guess there's a couple of questions, which is, how viable is it cost now, both on the level of production it's working at, and to scale it up, with where the market barely exists now? And then, should we implement something like a carbon tax, or, on the other hand, more stringent regulations? What does that do to the business model, and how does it make it affordable? 

Akshat Rathi:    One very neat way of looking at whether we are there with the economics is a metric that economists use to understand the damage each ton of carbon dioxide causes or will cause to humanity, because of it being in the atmosphere. It's called the social cost of carbon, and many economists have come up with different values, but one that economists tend to agree on for current rates is about $140.

Akshat Rathi:    Now, the point of this is, if we keep emitting, the social cost of carbon goes up. If we start emitting less and we start capturing some of that, the social cost of carbon will go down. But right now, it's about $140 on average, that's something that people can agree upon. Now, if you put that number in relation to what it costs to capture carbon dioxide from a power plant, at Petra Nova, the cost I was able to find out, was about $60 dollars per metric ton. 

Akshat Rathi:    Now, that includes your capital costs, that includes your operating costs, that includes the energy costs you were talking about, which all will seem outrageous in a different context, but you need to look at the bigger picture. At the bigger picture, you have, right now, a $60 cost. The Department of Energy has done its own analysis and has concluded that $60 is okay for now, but really, we would like to get it down to $40 per ton. 

Akshat Rathi:    There are technologies available that can do that. What you're doing in the Illinois plant I mentioned is way less than $40. To be able to just compress carbon dioxide and put it in, it cost maybe $10, maybe $20. So, already, you have places where you can do that for lower costs than what even the DoE is trying to set as an industry standard.

Quinn:    So, where, and obviously it's not apples to apples here, but we've had a couple conversations about carbon tax verses regulations. Where do you think the number starts with implementing something like a carbon tax on a wider scale? And obviously, just doing in itself is controversial, because you open the questions of, okay, what do we do with the revenue, et cetera, et cetera. Does it go to new energy? 

Quinn:    Does it go back to the taxpayers? And that seems to be part of the reason why this thing is not getting done on a state or federal level, besides the partisan issues itself. Where do you think a number like that should and could realistically start to actually, again, satisfy both the things of penalizing emissions and also incentivizing new technology investments like this?

Akshat Rathi:    I think, on this, I actually agree with David Hawkins 100%, where he said, the ideal solution would be a mixture. Again, this will depend on the context, on countries. And, already, you can look at examples where it's starting to work. I live in the UK, and the UK has consistently outdone its rivals in Europe at climate action. Okay, France produces most of its electricity from nuclear, so it's already doing well. But if you look at Germany, they have very high goals that they want to hit. They have invested a huge amount of money in renewable energy, but they have turned down nuclear power plants and they have turned up coal power plants. And so, that's messed up.

Akshat Rathi:    Whereas, in the UK, they have applied a very simple tool of a carbon tax, and only on coal power plants. So, they did a very targeted carbon tax. It's about 18 pounds per ton, which it may be in dollars about $24 or so, or $22. And that's much lower than the social cost of carbon that we're talking about. It's much lower than the cost of actually capturing carbon. But what it has done is that, it has essentially eliminated coal from the mix. Last year, the UK produced .7% of all its electricity from coal.

Akshat Rathi:    Last year was the first day since the Industrial Revolution began, when the UK did not burn coal for a whole day at all.

Quinn:    Yeah, I saw that. [crosstalk 00:48:48]

Akshat Rathi:    So, you can do these things with carbon tax. You can do these things with a cap and trade system, where taxes can be burdensome, can be a blunt tool. There are advantages and disadvantages to them. But there is a separate system where you price carbon, and you treat it. So, if I'm a producer of carbon dioxide and I actually need to be able to keep producing it for whatever reason, I can't invest in capture technology right now, I will buy certain credits for the extra carbon dioxide that I'm producing from a market.

Akshat Rathi:    In the market, there might be some other people who are like, "Well, we can put this carbon capture technology at cheaper prices, and so we will be able to capture that carbon dioxide," and they will be able to sell those credits to you. And we can have this market, which is currently working in the EU. It's going to be working in California and in Canada in the northeastern states in the US. And you can make that system work. 

Akshat Rathi:    So, that's a market-based way of regulating emissions. And then you have plain old regulations. The example that David Hawkins gave you about how sulfur emissions, they went from causing acid rain to not having any sulfur coming out of power plants, was based on that method where they said, "That's it, you guys. Here are five or 10 years. You have to go from producing a fuck-ton of sulphur dioxide to zero ton of sulphur dioxide. [crosstalk 00:50:23]

Quinn:    Right. Exactly. Now we don't have acid rain, which, thank you. 

Brian:    Yeah. 

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah. So, there are different economic models, and they will work in countries differently. China is looking to create the biggest carbon market. It's going to use the European carbon trade system, which has its limitations, but it's going to use some of the things that the Europeans have done and have not done well, use those lessons and try and set it up in China. Now, if China can do it, it is the biggest producer of emissions, you can see hope that other people can do it.

Quinn:    Sure. 

Brian:    Right.

Quinn:    Sure, sure. All right, so we're getting into sort of policy and things like that, which means we're getting closer to things that our listeners can actually affect.

Brian:    Yes, how they can take action.

Quinn:    Right, right.

Brian:    Let's shine a light on that, where we need to go.

Quinn:    Right. So, it might seem like ... Again, this has gotten pretty technical at times. It's gotten pretty industrious, but it's understandable if Joe the Plumber, who probably doesn't listen to this. I don't know if people know about Joe the Plumber. You might be saying, like, "How can I affect carbon capture and storage," you know?

Brian:    Well first, get retrained in the clean energy field. 

Quinn:    Right, but the second answer is, okay, so we've we've talked about all this and it sounds like we need to start driving some incentives to match the pricing these models and to build business models for them. So, Akshat, talk to me a little bit how, let's be specific to America for now, how can I start to act personally, and with my vote?

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah I think, again, sure, there are things that you can do, which are depends on your motivation. You could be that person who, A, understands the subject, and then B, becomes an advocate for it. And within climate change, you could do it for different things. You could become an advocate for renewable energy, you could become an advocate for carbon capture. It's the level of commitment you want to make. 

Akshat Rathi:    Let's just take an example of somebody who wants to have the lowest amount of effort put into this. I think the lowest amount of effort would be to actually give money to places that are doing this job for you. So, the NRDC would be a good place. There are many other organizations I can mention. In my reporting, I was benefited by talking to people at the Clean Air Task Force. It's also an advocacy group, and they were wonderful in being able to connect me to the relevant experts and help me out there. 

Akshat Rathi:    There is now a coalition called the Carbon Capture Coalition, which is also doing the sorts of things we're talking about, where, policy and ... They're doing the hard work that all these elected leaders actually need to be done for them before they can take it to the level of creating a legal framework or a law around it. So, you can donate to the Carbon Capture Coalition. You could donate to Sierra Club. It is a decent environmental organization. It is squarely opposed to carbon capture, has been for a while. I think that's wrong. 

Quinn:    Interesting.

Akshat Rathi:    But they are doing other things that are good for the environment.

Quinn:    What is their opposition? I'm so curious. Is it just that we need to go completely clean?

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah. So, they have a very ideological stance, and again, there might be new ones here. I have not spoken to them at length about these things. You should get somebody from Sierra Club to be on this podcast. And yeah, they have an ideological stance on, we can keep fossil fuels in the ground. Economically, I would argue that's not feasible. The world will keep burning them until it's not punished to not burn them. 

Akshat Rathi:    Environmental organizations, donate to them. Be informed. I think that would be one thing I think people could do without too much effort. I read, these days, news, and what is true information and not can be [inaudible 00:54:34] it was previously. But that might just be a perception. I don't think in fact it is true. So, I would say, if you go to solid news organizations, like The New York Times and The Washington Post, what you would get from them will be the true information. 

Akshat Rathi:    Read those things and be informed. But there are new media organizations, like where I work at Quartz or at [inaudible 00:54:59].com, who are doing things that are going beyond what the traditional news media organizations have been able to do, and are investing in finding solutions-driven journalism, like theories that I produced last year. 

Quinn:    Yeah. And by the way, we've loved the conversation, as well. It was cool to hear you mention that. It's really interesting what they're doing. 

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah, and the conversation, because that is where, in a way, the highest amount of trust in society has been, for a very long time, with academics. If you're a professor or a doctor, the amount of trust that people put into you is astonishing. Journalist, I left that profession and became a journalist. I basically jumped from the top of the table of trust to the bottom of the table.

Quinn:    Yeah, good move. Good move, champ. 

Akshat Rathi:    But those people are also really good to listen to, and the conversation is a place where you can find and hear directly from them. If you have questions you can write to them. They reply. So, there are multiple ways in which you can get informed. I think those are three ways, depending on how much commitment you want to, how much motivation you have the words saving the world. You could involve yourself.

Brian:    [crosstalk 00:56:14] All right, so we're getting close to time here, Akshat. We cannot thank you enough for your time today, man. Could we get some recommendations from you? Who else should we talk to? I mean, you've given us a few already, but ...

Akshat Rathi:    Yes, so the few people I mentioned to you. David Keith is a great [inaudible 00:56:33] to speak to, somebody from Sierra Club. I would recommend you talk to them yeah. Somebody from the Clean Air Task Force. I can give you names, John [inaudible 00:56:42] Bruce. One thing we didn't talk about but could be a fascinating subject to touch upon is, geoengineering. This is where we have ... This is also solutions-driven journalism, but it's a sort of solution that's really out there, but something that we need to be talking about. And I would recommend you speak to Oliver Martin, who is a journalist at The Economist, and he wrote a book called Planet Remade, which is a really nice book on geoengineering and the philosophy of how we can get there. 

Quinn:    Yeah, it seems like people feel like that's taboo sometimes, like, "Jesus, do we really have to take such a drastic step?" It's going to end up like ... What's the Captain America movie, where he's on the train and they shot a bunch of sulfur into the air, and it went real bad? 

Brian:    Oh, yeah. We've talked about this before.

Quinn:    Yeah, right. And it seems like people just pooh-pooh it, but I'm with you, which is, we need to at least be having the conversation about these thingsm, so we're not having to start from scratch when we actually have to, and it's the same way ... In one of our conversations, we talked about space exploration, and colonies on the moon or Mars, which seem super sci-fi, but there's people actively working on it. 

Quinn:    And yes, of course, we should focus on the problems on this planet, but also, it's super helpful to have a redundancy and a backup plan, which is not like, oh, escape when everything goes bad. It's like, whether it's asteroid or climate change or whatever it is, to have another population somewhere. These things are helpful. To be able to know what the fundamentals of geoengineering are, these are helpful, should we get to the point where we actually need to actively start working on those things. 

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah, and I would say two other names. The guy from Clean Air Task Force. His name is Bruce Hill. And two other names I would give is, there's a teenager I interviewed for my series, who I think you should talk to, just to be able to understand. He's smart, but also, the motivations that young people have towards the environment, which are really strong. His name is Ethan Novek, N-O-V-E-K, and he's a good guy to speak to.

Akshat Rathi:    Another person I would recommend, not on the topic of carbon capture, but on the topic of understanding where we should be by 2050 and how we will get there, is a guy named Varun Sivaram. He is at the Council on Foreign Relations, and he's just published a book called Taming the Sun: On Solar Energy, but he has a very holistic view of where solar energy and other renewable energies fit into the bigger picture of reaching climate goals. It's not sort of ideologically driven, that it should be only fossil fuels or need renewable energy. It's driven by economics and practical constraints and figuring out how to get there. 

Quinn:    I love it, I love it. That's really helpful. We really appreciate it. Again, to summarize, it's, for listeners, for progressives, for everyone. If you really get this stuff, become an outspoken advocate for it. On the flip side, if you want the lowest amount of effort but still want to take action, fine, we'll take anything. Give money to the places that are going to do the job for you. The NRDC, the Clean Air Task Force, the Carbon Capture Coalition, and the Sierra Club, who are still really doing excellent work even though they might be opposed to this for now. And as always, be informed from real news sources. Quartz, Fox, the Conversation, Fox News. Kidding. Awesome. Well, that's all super, super helpful. 

Brian:    All right, Akshat. We have a last few questions for you. It's sort of a lightning round. Does that sound all right?

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah.

Quinn:    All right, Akshat. When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful? 

Akshat Rathi:    I come from a background of businessmen. I come from India, where there are communities that have certain professions and they continue those professions for a very long time. And I come from a family a businessmen, so I was the first person to go and do a research science degree in my immediate family. And I think that sort of was the point, so when I was an undergrad in Mumbai, where I met academics who did research and who said, you can ask a question that there isn't an answer to, and do experiments to find an answer for it, it felt really powerful. So, that was the motivation for me becoming a scientist. 

Akshat Rathi:    I am no longer a scientist, but I feel like I have carried forth that power that my academics gave, that my professors gave to me, that you can ask a question that doesn't have an answer and you can find the answer. Doesn't have to be doing science in a lab, but you could do that as a writer, as a journalist. 

Quinn:    I love it. And by the way, it almost feels like your family's heritage of business people comes into play when, like you said, you're writing from a solution's perspective, which is, how do we actually make this sort of thing work? Which, I think it's really easy in journalism or in academia or anything to throw  a bunch of theories up. If we want to keep going, and not be a thousand of us with Brian as our leader-

Brian:    Professor Brian.

Quinn:    ... sorry, with Professor Brian as a leader, we do have to make these things work. So, we do appreciate that amazing series you did, and all the rest of your work, again, comes from the perspective of business and solutions and, how do we get this stuff off the ground. 

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah. It's very nice of you to articulate in that way. I haven't done it that way in my head before, but it seems reasonable. The other trait, I think, that I've carried to from my family is to be an optimist, and I think that also comes from being a businessman. In a business, you're going to fail most of the time. And if you're not an optimist and you don't have the motivation to fix those problems, you're not going to succeed. So, sort of makes sense now.

Quinn:    Sure. 

Brian:    All right. Question number two, how do you consume the news, aside from reading your own articles, I assume?

Akshat Rathi:    Yeah, I think it's, for a journalist, it's a very skewed way of consuming news. I'm consuming news 24/7, I feel like. Even in my sleep, I'm dreaming about something that's happened in the news. It can be annoying. I went on my honeymoon with my wife, luckily with my wife, last month.

Quinn:    Congratulations.

Akshat Rathi:    Thank you. And it was the longest holiday I've taken in my life, ever. 

Quinn:    Oh, wow.

Akshat Rathi:    And I sort of was off the news for a whole week, and I realized that when I came back and I was like, "I don't need the whole holiday to be off the news. I actually can consume news as a reader from the outside." And that, if that is the question you want me to answer, it is, I use my mobile phone as my primary source. Newsletters are my second resource, within a mobile phone, and then social media. 

Quinn:    Awesome.

Akshat Rathi:    [inaudible 01:04:03] which I, most of the time, read news.

Brian:    Nice. All right, this is one of our favorites, Akshat. If you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would it be?

Akshat Rathi:    That's such a good question. I would say that-

Quinn:    With the usual disclaimer, that somebody else is going to read it to him.

Akshat Rathi:    Yes. Oh, that's true, actually. This is a short book, so it would be good. 

Quinn:    [crosstalk 01:04:29] Perfect. Pictures are awful.

Akshat Rathi:    It is a book called Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. It's a book that-

Brian:    Oh, that book is amazing.

Akshat Rathi:    ... I read whenever I feel stressed, and I'm assuming Donald Trump is stressed right now. It gives me perspective of being a human in a world with other humans, which I think Donald Trump needs right now. And it calms me down in a way that I don't think many texts have been able to. And I think he needs to be calm in making all the decisions that he has to. So, what I ...

Brian:    Boom. 

Quinn:    That is a very generous recommendation. 

Brian:    So, last one. We've talked a lot about this, and like you said, you're speaking from a perspective of solutions. How would you like to use the last minute of this podcast to speak truth to power? Obviously, you have your outlet, which is very renowned, but talking to our listeners today, which are progressive action-minded folks, mostly in America at this point.

Akshat Rathi:    I think people, if they can consider themselves empowered, I would say to your listeners that, you have the power to change. It's not sort of the hokey message that is made out to be. You know, Obama saying, yes, we can and all that, but honestly, there is real power in humans on the ground who were not leaders, but who can make a difference through their actions, through picking the right leaders, through understanding the world and being less wrong. 

Quinn:    I love it, I love it. Awesome, awesome. Akshat, where can our listeners follow you online, in you're writing?

Akshat Rathi:    Mostly on Twitter. I'm at @AkshatRathi, one word. And you can follow Quartz at qz.com. Lots of wonderful writers on there. Yeah, I look forward to listing more of your episodes. 

Quinn:    Well, thank you so much today, Akshat. We really appreciate it. 

Brian:    Thank you, brother.

Quinn:    Really trying to fill in some gaps and educate folks on this important subject, that hopefully will make a difference going forward, and further other items like this, that can make a difference, just because it seems kind of out there, it's difficult, doesn't mean we shouldn't be working on it. So, thank you for all that you do. Your awesome series, we'll repost that again for everybody to check it out,-

Brian:    Hell, yeah.

Quinn:    ... and everything going forward, and just keep kicking ass out there. 

Akshat Rathi:    Thank you so much. 

Quinn:    All right. Thank you so much, Akshat. Have a great day. 

Akshat Rathi:    All right, you, too. Bye, then. 

Quinn:    Thanks, bye bye.

Brian:    Thanks, man. 

Quinn:    Thanks to our incredible guest today, and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute, or awesome workout, or dish washing, or fucking dog walking late at night, that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species. 

Brian:    And you can follow us all over the Internet. You can find us on Twitter @importantnotimp. So weird. Also, on Facebook and Instagram @importantnotimportant. Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. So, check us out. Follow us, share us, like us. You know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this, and if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple podcast. Keep the lights on. Thanks. 

Quinn:    Please. 

Brian:    And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, importantnotimportant.com. 

Quinn:    Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening, and finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day. 

Brian:    Thanks, guys.