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Eli Dourado: Abundant Energy Changes Everything

Good Clean Energy is a podcast about how to build a world with abundant, cheap, carbon-free electricity. TAE’s Chief Marketing Officer Jim McNiel hosts in-depth conversations with scientists, innovators and energy experts about the challenges our electricity systems face and the race for game-changing, clean ways to power our lives.

This week, we speak to Eli Dourado, an economist and a senior research fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University who believes that “energy superabundance” — access and productive use of an endless supply of cheap, clean energy— will drive dramatic increases in economic growth, improve human well-being and unlock solutions to many of the world’s biggest challenges.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
ELI DOURADO: I think energy is good. We need to get past this idea that we’re always trying to conserve energy, and in fact, it’s better sometimes to use more. That suddenly enables you to use a bunch more recipes for other stuff. You have more pages in your economic playbook and you can do more things. It would just unlock a huge range of economic activities. Transform transportation, agriculture. It would just be a real game-changer.

JIM MCNIEL: You ever think about how so much of what we do is driven by this notion of scarcity, that if I have it, you don’t have it? We’ve had this idea that there’s a single fixed pie and everyone gets a slice, but if everyone wants to have a bigger slice, we need a bigger pie. Today, we talk to an economist who believes that the right answer is to build a bigger pie.

The global economy is measured in global domestic product. It’s right about 100 trillion dollars right now. If we can grow that year over year, there could be a bigger share for everybody. And if we want to grow GDP and do it responsibly, we need to circle back to energy and where we get it. We need good clean energy and lots of it. I mean, unlimited amounts of good clean energy to be able to drive global domestic product growth. We’re here to talk about superabundance. What if we had an abundant amount of energy and resources, not just for one group of people, but for all people.

Today we talk with Eli Dourado, the Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University. Eli has some big ideas on how cheap abundant energy can change the metrics for the planet. Welcome to Good Clean Energy.

MCNIEL: Welcome, Eli. So glad to have you here. How are you doing?

DOURADO: I’m doing great, Jim. Thanks for having me on.

MCNIEL: You’ve had a very interesting thread going on about increasing per capita GDP by $250,000 by the year 2050. Can you unpack that for me? You know, why GDP per capita and what’s the outcome of that?

DOURADO: Yeah, sure. So I’m an economist by training, so it’s just how I think about the world is we want to be rich and we want to get more people to be rich and to have the levels of prosperity that only a minority of people in the U.S. have.

Unfortunately the rate of economic growth started slowing down in the early 1970s. And so, you know, I kind of look at a lot of these questions through that lens of Oh my God, this slowdown is taking us in the wrong direction here. We need to grow faster if we want to achieve widespread shared prosperity.

GDP per capita is a statistic that people kind of understand intuitively. You can think about this is how much the average person in your country earns in a given year. The statistic that I, for my own use, look at the most is actually total factor productivity. And this is the one that started stagnating in the early 1970s and sort of coinciding with a lot of other social changes that also happened in the 1970s, including sort of a peaking of energy use, which happened in 1978 and since then we’ve been doing more with less energy, and I’m really interested in finding ways that we can do more with more.

To estimate total factor productivity, what you do is you take GDP and you figure out what portion of it is due to labor inputs, what portion of it is due to capital inputs, and what portion of it is due to everything else.

So if you can drive energy costs down, that suddenly enables you to use a bunch more recipes for other stuff in society. You have more options. You have a bigger playbook. You have more pages in your economic playbook and you can do more things, and that would be reflected in total factor productivity.

MCNIEL: So let’s think about that in terms of, you know, one of your favorite energy sources and one of mine. So, You have an interest in deep geothermal, which has the potential of providing literally unlimited amounts of electricity at very low marginal costs. I mean, you don’t have to pay for fuel, right? I have an obviously big interest in fusion energy, which shares similar characteristics which is we have very, very low cost of fuel—next to nothing if you talk about boron and hydrogen. So what would unlimited amounts of clean energy have to global GDP or total factor productivity.

DOURADO: It would be very positive , and I think it would just unlock a huge range of potential economic activities that would reverberate through the economy in all kinds of unpredictable ways. You know, transform transportation, agriculture, sort of natural resources, materials. It would just be a real game changer.

MCNIEL: Well, going back to your earlier comment about what happened in the 70s, when you say we kind of went to peak energy consumption in I’m assuming you’re talking about the United States on a per capita basis? And I guess we attribute that to higher levels of efficiency in terms of lower energy appliances, industrial uses, things of that nature. Is that what we’re…because we have higher productivity than we had in the 70s.

DOURADO: So I wouldn’t attribute it to more energy efficiency. I would say energy efficiency is the necessary result. The initial cause might have been caused by the oil crises of the 1970s, the oil shocks that happened involving the Middle Eastern countries and so on. Suddenly the price of energy goes up, people adapt in all kinds of ways and one of those ways is they target energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is good. We should obviously try to be efficient where it makes. But it’s not the only way to grow, right? I think energy is good. We need to get past this idea that we’re always trying to conserve energy, and in fact, it’s better sometimes to use more.

If you look at the trend in the United States, from about 1800 to the mid 1970s, it was a time of about 2% increase per year in energy consumed per capita. And that was a good thing and that’s what drove living standards higher. And then in the 1970s that reverses and it actually starts to decline.

MCNIEL: Well, let’s follow that up and think about the argument that we need to consume more if we can. What do we do with it? If electricity were free in the United States, both to, you know, consumers and to industry. What do you think the outcome would be?

DOURADO: Oh, I think it would be fantastic. We would go more places, we’d travel faster. We’d be able to economize on pesticides and on land use by adopting more energy intense…

MCNIEL: Go to greenhouse models.

DOURADO: Yeah, vertical farming. A big cost in vertical farming is the LED grow lights and the pumps to move nutrients around, right? So you could have lower environmental impact in terms of land footprint. You know, we have a drought in the Western United States that’s been going on for some time, and that’s an energy problem, right? We could desalinate enough water and simply pump it back up to the headlands of the Colorado River. That is possible, right? And I mean, that would only take about 2% of current U.S. electricity. So it’s not even long-term future, that’s near term. We could do that and so we could end the drought and support the 1.4 trillion ecosystem of the Colorado River.

MCNIEL: I’m really interested in your thoughts about geothermal. When do you think deep geothermal is going to be part of the grid and what are the obstacles that stand between us getting there?

DOURADO: So I would say fusion is the only energy resource that is bigger than geothermal. Geothermal is, in terms of the amount of energy in Earth’s crust, about 40 times bigger than all the fission-able material on the planet. So it’s 40 times bigger than nuclear fission. Bigger in terms of potential, bigger in terms of potential. You know, basically it’s available anywhere on the planet, provided you can get to depth cheap enough.

What happens in Iceland or at the geysers out in California, or there’s a hundred year old geothermal field in Italy, is that the boiling water is basically right at the surface, almost right? Like the oldest geothermal plant is this place in Italy. It’s called the Valley of the Devil because the boiling water is just like there. It’s a resource that’s very easy to get to.

Iceland is like essentially a big volcano, right? And so those are the resources that people have tapped in the past for electricity. There’s a whole host of ways you could use geothermal not for electricity, including for sort of domestic use as it’s done kind of a bunch of places out west. You could use it for direct heating of your home or you could use it as a sort of an exchange fluid for a ground source heat pump or something like that. And so those are different ways.

MCNIEL: So that’s near-surface solutions. And then ground source heat pumps are just using the differential in the temperature of what’s in the ground versus what’s in the air. And in many ways that’s kind of a solar solution because it’s the heat from the sun heating up the mantle or the top of the planet that you’re mining.

DOURADO: Yeah, that’s a good point. The temperature, if you go like a hundred feet down, is pretty much constant year round, right? It’s insulated by the ground.

MCNIEL: But that’s not what you’re talking about with deep geothermal?

DOURADO: No, no. With the deep stuff, what you really want to do is just drill down until you reach the temperature of the volcano. But anywhere, right? So you could be in North Carolina, and if you drill deep enough, you’re going to reach those temperatures eventually. And you can drill probably a field of wells. You inject water down. One way to do it is you create fractures between the wells. And so the water is like seeping through these fractures at depth where it’s hot and all that surface area is allowing the heat from the rock to transfer into the water.

And then it comes up to the surface as steam, which you can use to drive a turbine the way you do any coal turbine or a nuclear fission turbine.

MCNIEL: Well, you’re talking about really, really high temperatures. I mean, I think you’re talking about what, 500 degrees C? Is that what you’re thinking?

DOURADO: You could do that if you go deep enough, 500 degrees C at depth, which would produce 400 something degrees C at the surface. So you’re still super critical for water.

MCNIEL: So you’re super critical. Let’s talk about that. So super critical high temperatures under pressure. So if you heat water at sea level, it boils at a hundred degrees C. And then you pressurize it, it stops boiling. And then you keep pressurizing it and you keep getting hotter and hotter and hotter. And then it’s not really even a gas anymore, is it?

DOURADO: Once you reach a critical pressure and a critical temperature, which I think the pressure is like 22 atmospheres for water or something like that, and 370 something degrees C for water, and if you reach that temperature it becomes sort of another phase. It’s a supercritical fluid and it has some of the characteristics of a liquid and some of the characteristics of a gas in terms of how it flows and so on. And you take advantage of the phase transition between the steam and the supercritical fluid as well. So going through that phase transition gets you more energy out.

MCNIEL: It’s not a plasma though, is it?

DOURADO: It’s not a plasma. It’s a weird thing, right? We don’t, we don’t experience it very often. Like plasma, we don’t experience it too often.

MCNIEL: Supercritical, okay. So you have this really, really hot substance. You’re going down a great distance. You’re using basically a fracking technology to create kind of what looks like the root system of a tree. You pump a bunch of water into that and then you have a return path that takes all this really, really hot gas or supercritical water up to the surface, and you just direct drive turbines. So you could just plug right into a coal plant if you wanted to.

DOURADO: If you got to 500 degrees C. There’s people working on all kinds of concepts for this and stuff that’s happening this year, next year, and maybe in the next five years is probably not gonna reach those temperatures unless they happen to be near a volcano or something.

To get that deep, in most places you would need new drilling technology. So

MCNIEL: So what’s standing between us today and having abundant levels of kind of deep geothermal?

DOURADO: One near term obstacle is federal policy on federal land. So if you want to get a drilling permit to put a well in on BLM [Bureau of Land Management] land, let’s say. You have to go through this permitting process and do an environmental assessment and so on. That can take like two years to go through, which is hard if you’re a startup. You know, you’ve raised capital, you’re trying to get a return on capital for your investors, and you have a two-year delay that adds risk and uncertainty.

MCNIEL: Do you have to use government land? Why don’t you just go buy a couple acres? I mean, what do you need?

DOURADO: Yeah, so I think that that’s exactly the right solution in the sort of medium term. In the near term, there’s going to be a lot of learning-by-doing in this industry and for sort of the shallow heat resources, there is tremendous overlap between sort of shallow heat resources and federal lands. The cheapest place to do it are all out west and they overlap significantly with federal lands.

MCNIEL: Hey, I’ve got 40 acres in Connecticut if you want to dig a deep geothermal well on it. You know, cut a deal with you.

DOURADO: So there are companies that are going after that strategy. You know, I’d point to Sage Geosystems in Texas. They’re basically just taking advantage of the fact all the land in Texas is non-federal, pretty much, including some of the best resources that exist in the state in terms of temperatures. They’re just doing it.

MCNIEL: They’re already drilling wells all over the place in Texas anyways.

DOURADO: Exactly. It’s well understood and accepted by the state.

MCNIEL: So you’re saying regulation is an issue, but we can go private. So is it really that big of an issue? Is the bigger issue the technology in terms of how you get to dig that deep and how you get through hard rock?

DOURADO: Yeah, I think it’s a new industry in the sense that the drilling, and especially the sort of the fracking technologies have really only been developed since about 2005 with the shale boom. And so that shale boom was characterized by a tremendous amount of learning by doing. They knew it was possible in theory, but the costs were really high initially, and they kind of had to drive the costs by just trying a bunch of stuff and sort of learning from experience. So I would say, it’s really been only in the last five years or so that the costs have gotten low enough where they could now be applied to geothermal.

I think we have to go through another cycle of learning by doing within the geothermal space specifically. And I think that’s going to rely a lot on sort of workforce transfer from the oil and gas industry. It’s a lot of the same people. Enough people in the industry are going to have to be convinced this is a way that we can take our labor force, our skillset, our drilling rigs, you know, same equipment and continue to do more drilling without the carbon emissions and so on. And then I think the other thing is that it is a little different from the oil and gas industry in that the drilling technology is all the same, but the drilling companies and oil and gas, they don’t really operate power plants.

MCNIEL: No, they pump oil or gas and they sell it.

DOURADO: They pump oil and gas and sell it. So there is a little bit of a gap in sort of skills of being able to model and execute on a power plant system when you’re used to just selling the product of what you drill.

MCNIEL: So until you get the technology to a stage where it’s cost effective enough to dig down to 10 or 20 K or or kilometers, get through the ledge or whatevers the obstacle in that particular area, it’s really going to be concentrated in low depth kind of areas, right? Like the mountainous areas where there’s steam?

DOURADO: Yeah. If what you’re talking about is electricity production, right? I think that’s like the western half of the United States where there is an existing oil and gas industry and infrastructure already there and if you break a drill bit, you can get a new one later that day. So the U.S. has a huge advantage here versus basically any country in the world because we have that oil services infrastructure there and it’ll be there first. And if they can continue to sort of like, push the depth and push the temperatures, then it could expand to other places.

MCNIEL: Well, the race is on. I mean, I, I think you and I can have a bet to see what gets to electrons to the grid first: deep geothermal—we’re going to have to say greater than 10 kilometers or something—and fusion energy.

DOURADO: Well, I’m a big all-of-the-above believer, so I’d love to…

MCNIEL: Well, neither of us could lose that bet, right?

DOURADO: Yeah, I’d be happy to lose it.

MCNIEL: Look, my goal is to get clean energy for an entire planet, right? That’s what my primary objective is. And if you were able to convince me tomorrow that deep geothermal could get there in the next five years with some surety, and we could overcome the regulatory issues…. In fact, you made a comment on this, which I want to explore a little bit what you just said before. You’re a regulatory hacker is one of your self labels or monikers. You made a statement that the NRC has never, what was it? Do you know what I’m talking about?

DOURADO: Yeh, the stat is that they have not ever approved a new nuclear reactor to produce electricity on the grid from start to finish. Every power plant that is operating today and producing electricity on the grid, every fission plant, they applied for their construction permit under the Atomic Energy Commission before it was split up and became the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. So before 1975. So they had to do at least some portion of their permitting before 1975.

MCNIEL: What are the risks of deep geothermal?

DOURADO: So one risk would be induced seismicity. So the simplest version is you create two wells. One is an injection well and one is a production well, and you’re creating fractures right between them because you need that surface area to transfer the heat from the rocks to the water.

That process of creating those fractures over time, sort of by running a lot of water through it, arguably that could cause seismicity. It’s especially true, like if you happen to be doing this near a fault line, then that definitely seems to be true.

MCNIEL: Which is a really good place to do it because it means you’re close to the heat.

DOURADO: Well, I think that the idea of deep geothermal is that you don’t need to do it near a fault line, right? Like if you get the drilling costs down, you don’t need to do that.

MCNIEL: The shortcut would be to do it near a fault line because it’s going to be closer to the surface, right? Oh, so that’s where it’s falling off the edge here. So you guys are going to create a supervolcano in the middle of America, which is going to bury Manhattan in 50 feet of ash, right? Is that the downside?

DOURADO: Well, the supervolcano question is actually really interesting. So I actually started looking into geothermal as a solution because I read a NASA paper where they were looking at the Yellowstone Caldera, the supervolcano that is at Yellowstone that does erupt every 600,000 years or so, and it’s been about 600,000 years since the last one.

MCNIEL: Yeah, it’s just about due I think.

DOURADO: Yeah. It’s due. And so NASA was looking into how could we take heat out of the system and one of the answers is to drill in and sort of extract it with water

MCNIEL: Just vent it.

DOURADO: And they sort of calculated this would provide an amount of electricity equal to all of the U.S.’s electricity consumption if you could do that. I think that anybody, if you want to make deep geothermal work, you’ve got to get the drilling cost down pretty far.

MCNIEL: So if we get electrons to the grid in the fusion space before 2030, we’re competing head-to-head with deep geothermal. Is that your thought? Do you have a timeline for deep geothermal?

DOURADO: I think the deep stuff in terms of being commercially viable, it’s probably, schedule’s always slip, so probably early 2030s. That would be success for the geothermal industry I think.

MCNIEL: We had a chat with Ernie Moniz, the former Secretary of Energy, who basically is saying the same thing you and I are, which is, wind and solar is great, but it’s intermittent. It’s not dispatchable power. We need baseload power. Fusion and geothermal of the nature you’re talking about are still a few years out.

So fission is about the only carbon-free, fully dispatchable baseload power that we can rely on right now. Being the regulatory guy you are, and I’m sure you’re aware of what’s going on in the kind of compact, modular, fission areas. What’s your opinion on fission?

DOURADO: You know, I think that the fission industry has gone down kind of a bad path. What would drive the cost down in fission is repeatable, manufacturable, taking a design that works and doing it over and over again and driving the cost down. Some of it is the NRC, they’re too conservative in a lot of ways, but a lot of it is mistakes that the industry has made itself.

MCNIEL: To build these bespoke cathedrals to power in all these places, that are all one-off designs, right? Every single one is different. There’s no economy of scale.

DOURADO: Yeah, that’s right. So I think that what could be successful in fission would be to start small scale, maybe smaller than even than a lot of the sort of small modular designs. Target an off-grid application even. Manufacture a bunch of them, drive the costs down, get people comfortable with it, and then work back up the sort of the size curve.

MCNIEL: If you you look at the challenges that face climate right now in terms of getting to abundant levels of carbon free power, what do you think are some of the levers that need to be pulled or turned to realize a lower carbon energy future.

DOURADO: The biggest one is that we have to make it easier to build stuff in this country. You know, if we’re going to want to deploy a lot of new clean energy facilities, whether it’s fusion, geothermal, something else, we are going to have to build a lot of stuff. And I’m sure a lot of this new infrastructure is going to require some sort of federal approval.

It’ll have some federal handle on it that requires a federal permission. And to have to go through years of review before you can do that, that isn’t going to work. What we’ve seen so far, especially in, let’s say, the Inflation Reduction Act, is that the government is getting serious about subsidies and funding a whole range of clean technologies, but what they’re not doing is finding a way to sort of step out of the way and let that funding be effective. So sometimes the catchphrase that I’ve heard people use is ‘We’re subsidizing demand and restricting supply.’ And that that doesn’t, that doesn’t work too well. You need to deal with both the demand side and the supply side, and sort of make it easier to build and deploy new innovations across the economy.

MCNIEL: It kind of leads me to the top of your mind conversation that you’ve been having with the world, which is improving quality life for all life. If you get to 200 K per capita GDP globally. That’s your stated goal. My question is, is this how you think you can improve the quality of life for all life? Is that what you’re thinking of?

DOURADO: In terms of by 2050, I’ve been thinking about it in terms of just the U.S. and just a political goal. And part of the reason for saying 200 K by 2050 is just, I observed how a lot of people have been effective with slogans, right? The sort of the $15 minimum wage, fight for 15. And I was just like, I need a slogan for myself, and I thought 200 K by 2050. But I do think that the quality of life for human beings is very, very correlated with some of these economic numbers. The GDP per capita in particular, and I’m not going to claim as an economist that that’s the only thing that matters in life.

But what I would claim is that it’s correlated with a lot of the other things that matter in life as well. You know, if you want more time with your grandchildren. If we get richer as a society, that means that we have more R&D resources to plow into drug research that will help you live longer and more importantly, live healthier lives so that you can play soccer with your grandkids. So I think that a lot of the things that matter in life correlate with economic statistics.

MCNIEL: But how do we distribute it outside of the north? How do we get it out of the Western civilization and into a better part of the world because the gap is substantial in terms of the power that we consume per capita in this country, which is on average about 12,000 kw per person versus what’s being consumed in sub-Saharan Africa. So is there something in your mind that can be globally uplifting?

DOURADO: So the way I would frame this is that sort of the U.S. is pushing the technology frontier in most domains. So the U.S. is the place where technology has advanced the furthest and where it’s hardest to make progress.

MCNIEL: Wait, I have to challenge you on that. How is it hardest to make progress in the United States where our access to capital is nearly unparalleled?

DOURADO: Right. The advantage for everybody else is that once the technology is developed in the U.S. they can more or less copy it. I’m not trying to cast aspersions on that use of the word copying, but that’s a good thing, right? We invent a new technology; sometime goes by and it becomes easier to just import that technology to their country.

MCNIEL: No, I was actually challenging your point about the regulatory constraints of the United States. You have to weigh that with cost of capital, access to talent. You know, the level of infrastructure we have as a nation that enables us to build, you know, companies rather rapidly.

DOURADO: Yeah, so in terms of the economic infrastructure, the U.S. has huge advantages and permitting I think is one of the ones where we’re the worst. But you’re right, there’s so many other advantages, and particularly the rule of law. Being able to sign contracts and understand that they’ll be enforced and so on. You know, you can do a venture investment from DocuSign on your mobile phone while sitting on the toilet and that contract will be…

MCNIEL: Reasonably lower levels of corruption, less corruption.

DOURADO: Yeah. That’s incredibly important and that’s necessary if you want to push the technology frontier forward. Other countries, they can grow faster. In much of the world, they are growing faster than the us. They are catching up because of the ability to just sort of take what works in the U.S. and just sort of adopt. Also in some cases, to leapfrog, to go without having to build sort of every generation of the infrastructure or every generation of the technology just find themselves where they are and just sort of adopt the latest thing.

MCNIEL: You don’t have to lay 10,000 miles of copper wire to have a telephony infrastructure in India because you’ve got wireless communications.

DOURADO: Exactly. Because you didn’t have anything and you’re starting from scratch, and so why not just start with the best? So this is called in the sort of economics literature, in the comparative economics literature, it’s called convergence. And it’s a thing. For a while it wasn’t happening in a bunch of countries and particularly Africa. And so there was this big puzzle in the literature of like, why isn’t Africa converging with the rest of the world? But now it seems that they are.

So I think it is, you know, even if you want to take a global perspective, it’s still important for the US to push the frontier forward because that’s what everyone’s going to be converging to in the future. So I think that there’s certainly a role for aid, for commerce, for transfer of ideas. I think it would be great if more Americans lived abroad and worked abroad and spent a few years in poorer countries building those relationships and transferring knowledge and so on.

MCNIEL: Completely agree. And also getting a little bit of a worldview. I think that, you know, my singular view, you know, because there’s only so many things you can do in a day, is if we can bring cheap electricity to every nation on earth where they could produce all the power they want, not limited by access to fuel, that to me, would be a complete game changer. It would change national security. It would change access to, to energy for both industry and for consumer. It would stop people from chopping down their local forest to cook their food or heat their house and it would give them lights and so they could work and become educated and access the internet and do all kinds of things.

DOURADO: You know what I will say, what’s interesting about TFP is that the growth has slowed down in the US since the 1970s. It’s actually declined in some countries, including in some European countries over the last 20 years, which is kind of an amazing thing. If you think the naive view of TFP is just ideas. It’s technology. And so we’ve been forgetting a bunch of ideas like in Spain and Italy and so on, right? They’ve been getting worse at turning inputs into outputs.

MCNIEL: Well, population has something to do with ideas, I would think.

DOURADO: But it’s not just that you’re producing fewer ideas, it’s that somehow you’re losing them, you’re unable to hold onto them, which suggests that it’s not really ideas. It’s not purely ideas that this measure is capturing. It’s also capturing sort of an institutional quality dimension, which is also important.

MCNIEL: Well, that could be a really deep philosophical conversation about the value of migration in immigrants because we have a history in this country of immigrants being super hardworking and coming up with ideas because they wanna leave their level of poverty and get to something much, much greater. And maybe what they accomplish in their generation is to the next generation to be able to do something better.

DOURADO: You know, the U.S. has so many advantages and one of them is that people want to come here. It’s kind of crazy that we’re not taking full advantage of that and you know letting more people in. Even if you’re not directly contributing to the frontier of research, you’re deepening the web of economic transactions where, you know, there might be a particle physicist somewhere who finds it easier to get someone to mow his own lawn so he doesn’t have to mow his lawn. And that frees up time for him to be doing more physics and discover the secrets of the universe.

MCNIEL: And that’s been true since the beginning of time, right? I mean, specialization is what’s advanced the economies of the world. I think there’s real value in that and we’ve this attitude that incoming resources are a liability.

And if we just turn it around and say, Okay, how do we turn them into an asset? How do we make them more productive? How do we make them better parts, more integrated parts of our society? You know, that would be a positive thing.

DOURADO: I am just enamored with these hard technologies in industries. We have achieved so much over the last 20 years in the world of bits, of the Internet, of software and so on. I long for a return to really high rates of growth in the world of atoms. And so I love these industries where it’s capital intensive. There’s a ton of regulatory hurdles to overcome because obviously there’s going to be safety issues involved. You’re doing stuff in the real world, you could hurt people. That to me is the most exciting space to be in, broader than just energy. Just innovation in the world of atoms is just so much fun to work on.

MCNIEL: The world of atoms. Well said. Eli, thank you so much.

DOURADO: Oh, my pleasure. It’s been a great conversation.

MCNIEL: You know, if you want to find out how things work, I believe you need to follow the money. That’s why I love economists. I think economics is the root to understanding why people do what they do. And if we want to change the way this planet operates, we have to look at it from a money perspective.

Thank you for listening to Good Clean Energy.

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