Too Much Of A Fuel Thing | Crooked Media
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March 09, 2022
What A Day
Too Much Of A Fuel Thing

In This Episode

  • President Biden banned the import of Russian oil and natural gas into the United States on Tuesday, which is expected to have a serious impact on the Russian economy. Meanwhile on the ground, reports say that 2 million people have fled Ukraine, including one million children.
  • Recent reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say that countries are not doing enough to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt, hosts of Crooked Media’s “Hot Take,” join us to discuss recent climate news.
  • And in headlines: Minneapolis teachers took to the picket lines for their first strike since 1970, Missouri Republicans introduced a state bill that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident get an abortion out of state, and January 6th rioter Guy Reffitt was convicted on all five criminal charges against him.


Show Notes:



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Gideon Resnick: It is Wednesday, March 9th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, the podcast that will continue to ask Biden for more free COVID tests until we get an A on one.


Gideon Resnick: That’s right, they just announced more are going out, but I’ve gotten all B’s and C’s on mine so far, so I’m going to keep taking them until I get something else.


Josie Duffy Rice: You got to help Gideon get that A, as a community.


Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, Minneapolis teachers go on strike. Plus, a jury convicts the first accused participant in the January 6th riot.


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, a few updates about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Yesterday, President Biden banned the import of Russian oil and natural gas into the United States, which is expected to have a serious impact on the Russian economy. As we mentioned yesterday, it would also have an effect in the U.S., where gas prices are now averaging about $4 and 17 cents, the highest price ever recorded. Here’s more of what Biden had to say.


[clip of President Biden] I’m going to do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home.


Josie Duffy Rice: Still, U.S. dependence on Russian oil is not nearly as high as it is in other places, namely in Europe, where countries depend on Russia for an average of one third of their oil imports, compared to just under 10% here in America.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And as you mentioned, this import ban is going to have a significant impact on the Russian economy, which is already suffering under pretty serious sanctions. In addition to that, there were plenty of U.S. corporations that announced yesterday that they are temporarily going to close shops or stop selling products in Russia, from McDonald’s to Coke to Starbucks. So how does President Putin plan to address the impact that all this is going to have on Russian citizens?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So yesterday, Putin signed multiple bills. Those laws include additional subsidies for families living below the poverty line and a plan to increase pensions in the country. The monthly pension there has dropped to about 140 on average half of what it was a month ago.


Gideon Resnick: That is really crazy. So that’s a little bit on what is going on in Russia. But let’s get back to Ukraine. What more do we know is happening on the ground right now?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So as we mentioned yesterday, the number of refugees out of Ukraine has skyrocketed since the Russian invasion began. Reports yesterday say two million people have fled the country, including one million children. Meanwhile, Russian forces have attacked a number of cities, including Mariupol, a key port city in southern Ukraine. Video footage obtained by the New York Times show that much of the city has been turned to rubble, although it’s hard to get more information given that there is no power there. Ukrainian forces continue to push back, but there is no question that Russian forces are causing major destruction in the country and are determined to continue. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to the UK House of Commons via telelink on Tuesday, where he received a standing ovation. He echoed the words of Winston Churchill when he said this:


[clip of translator for President Zelensky] We will not give up and we will not lose. We will fight till the end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land whatever the cost.


Josie Duffy Rice: He also once again asked that NATO establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine in order to make the quote, “Ukrainian skies safe.” The question about whether or not to instate a no-fly zone continues to be a very controversial one, with many experts saying it would be a major escalation and could risk serious Russian retaliation, not only in Ukraine but elsewhere. So that is the latest update on Ukraine as we go to record at 9:30 Eastern.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and all of the news that we’ve been talking about gas and gas prices had us thinking a little bit about the really crushing hold and culpability of the fossil fuel industry, particularly in light of recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, on the state of the climate crisis. It will likely not come as a surprise to anybody that is listening, that they have been quite bleak, those reports. So earlier we spoke to the hosts of Crooked Media’s Hot Take, Mary Annaise Hegler and Amy Westervelt. Their amazing podcast takes an intersectional look at the climate crisis and the conversation around it. We began by asking if there is any possibility that surging gas prices could lead to more urgency in pursuing renewable energy sources.


Mary Annaise Hegler: I’ll say that it should mean that we’re going to get on to more renewable energy. I think that if the war in Ukraine shows us anything, is that fossil fuels do not make us safer. In fact, they make us far, far, far more at risk in so many ways. And the oil and gas industry’s answer to everything is more oil and gas. That’s really all they know to do. These are the same people who told us we needed to go to war in Iraq, while at the exact same time telling us to dig up more oil here at home. Like these folks have not had a new idea in a minute, and none of these ideas have made us safer. So I think this is a moment where the way we talk about these things really, really, really matters because these folks are masters of deception.


Amy Westervelt: As far as energy independence, if we wanted to be energy independent immediately and have all of this stuff not impact us at all, we could also stop exporting oil and gas. Hello! There used to be an export ban on oil and gas in the US, actually prompted from the last time all of this happened, which was the ’70s, when there was a shortage of oil and gas and it was, there was a lot of like geopolitical stuff happening—I won’t get into it—but there was a ban on exports because it was like, Well, we need this stuff here, we don’t want what’s happening in the rest of the world to impact our gas prices so much. Trump lifted that. Obama lifted that. They kept it lifted. Everyone has been leaning on Biden for a while now to reinstate the export ban. And here we are with, you know, why are we importing Russian oil at all?


Josie Duffy Rice: So last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a.k.a. the IPCC, released the second of three reports of climate change that shows how global warming is affecting our society. Some scientists refer to the report as quote the bleakest warning yet. Can you walk us through the biggest takeaways from it?


Mary Annaise Hegler: Well, first of all, every IPCC report is the bleakest one ever because it gets worse the longer we delay.


Josie Duffy Rice: All right.


Mary Annaise Hegler: What I’m encouraged by is the fact that the IPCC report has even become news. But the biggest findings in it were just it’s bad, it’s getting worse, and there are tangible things that we can do, that our decision makers can do and stop doing, to control how bad it gets in the future.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah, the two big new things in this report was that they actually mentioned misinformation for the first time, which they’ve never touched on in any IPCC report, even though it’s been such a huge, huge blocker to climate policy. And then they also mention another M-word, “mal-adaptation” which is basically false solutions, right? So like they specifically talk about what they call green gentrification a lot. So this idea like, oh, we need more green space in cities and then they are all like protect biodiversity and conserve water and do all these things, but then it ends up pricing low-income people out of the community and messing with housing equity and things like that. So again, for the first time, really caution policymakers against solutions that haven’t actually been thought through on multiple levels, which I think is due to the fact that this is the first IPCC round where they’ve had social scientists weighing in.


Gideon Resnick: It’s really interesting because you were also sort of referencing this in the Guardian piece that you wrote about it, but there is this sort of involvement of fossil fuel industry and oil companies in institutions like IPCC, and I’m not sure that people necessarily know that that is the case. First of all, like why is that, and is there a world in which they become less involved?


Amy Westervelt: Oh, I mean, the answer to the second question is, I sure hope so. So really, like before the IPCC even existed, before they started, like putting out reports, the oil industry was kind of on this and like infiltrating the international sort of system that was emerging to deal with this problem. 1988, the IPCC forms, they start putting out reports. From the very first report, there are oil industry staffers working on those reports. Including as lead authors!


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Amy Westervelt: So like, well, not just commenting, not just providing input, but actually authoring those reports.


Mary Annaise Hegler: One of the biggest reasons why they’re still allowed to operate in this way is because the oil companies still have their social license to operate, which boggles my mind. We are not mad enough at them.


Amy Westervelt: It’s true. Yeah.


Mary Annaise Hegler: We do not call them out enough about the horrible, horrible things that they do. Also, the oil companies, as I was saying, they’re masters of spin and of deception, and one of the ways that they do that is by co-opting other justice movements, right? So they are expert “woke washers”, right? Like, I’m here in New Orleans, they sponsor a jazz festival. They should not be allowed to do those sorts of things in public. They don’t get to like, light the world on fire and act like they’re some sort of social justice warrior at the exact same time.


Josie Duffy Rice: Realistically speaking, given where we are right now and what we know is irreversible and this current stage of climate crisis, what can countries do to mitigate the absolute worst effects on people?


Mary Annaise Hegler: Right. So if we’re talking about countries in the global north, I think the first thing that they need to do is pay reparations both to the global south and to disadvantaged communities in their countries. They need to invest in responsible clean energy and also in unsexy self like energy efficiency—our energy system is wild wasteful. And at the same time, getting off of fossil fuels. Maybe just stop inviting the fossil fuel industry to the cookout. Like this is absurd.


Amy Westervelt: Yes, I think that would be a huge improvement.


Gideon Resnick: A study that was published in recent days basically finds that the Amazon is approaching this critical threshold at which a lot of it could be replaced by grassland. What did you make of that, and can you talk about some of the actual ramifications of that? That’s a little bit hard to grapple with when people see or read that?


Mary Annaise Hegler: Yeah. I mean, it’s depressing. It’s really depressing because the Amazon is often described as the lungs of the Earth, right? It’s a huge carbon sink. And by that, I mean, like, it absorbs a lot of carbon and releases a lot of oxygen, it helps to keep the whole planet healthy. And what’s been happening there over the last decade is an increase in clear cutting for grassland to raise beef, which that also then contributes further and further to CO2 emissions. And this is happening at a time when you’re seeing climate change really starting to hit Brazil in other ways, too, in terms of drought, in terms of dryness. So you also are risking more fires by doing this, which would again then, you know, add to CO2 emissions. So it’s just like the world doesn’t actually need more beef, it certainly doesn’t need it by way of chopping down the Amazon and turning it into grasslands. It’s concerning in the same way, I mean, there was also a report recently that showed that, you know, we’re reaching the limits of the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2. So these things are a real problem because as bad as things have been, they’ve been less bad because we have these carbon sinks. So as we start to lose those, it could lead to accelerated change that we’re not ready for.


Amy Westervelt: But I also, you know, I was just like looking at you’re guys’ faces while we’re talking about these reports, and I just want to make it very clear there will never be a time where there’s nothing left to fight for.


Gideon Resnick: Right.


Amy Westervelt: Even if the Amazon crumbles, even if the ocean becomes just one big wad of plastic. There will always be something worth saving as long as there’s a breath in your body. So I think when people hear these sorts of things, they’re like, Oh, it’s worthless, there’s no point anymore. There’s always going to be a point.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So kind of on that point, a couple of months ago, I was talking to some people about criminal justice and someone asked me, like, how do you do this work every day because it would make me so depressed? And I was like, Oh, that’s how I feel when I talk to people who do climate change work, like it’s feel so stressful to me and bleak, right? But I think it’s important for the audience to know and for us to hear from you guys what gives you some glimmer of hope in this moment as we talk about the bleakest of possible outlooks getting bleaker and nothing seems to change?


Mary Annaise Hegler: No, really, it doesn’t. I’m not here for the hope.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaise Hegler: I’m not hopeful. I am angry.


Amy Westervelt: Yeah.


Mary Annaise Hegler: I had a talk with my mom not too long ago. She was a little kid when Emmett Till was killed. Like her sister was part of integrating schools in Nashville, Tennessee. And I asked her, you know, she’s seeing all these horrible things happen around her to people who look like her. She’s aware of what race is, right, like how was she not scared? And her answer was like, Of course we weren’t scared, we were angry. And every time, like a church got bombed or a school got bombed, we got angrier and angrier and angrier. It wasn’t about hope. It was about, this is wrong, and it needs to be righted. And so I think when it comes to climate change, people ask, like, What gives you hope? They’re asking, Are we going to win? And that question to me is premature because we haven’t yet shown that we’re going to try.


Josie Duffy Rice: That is Mary Agnes Hager and Amy Westervelt, the hosts of Crooked Media’s podcast Hot Take. We’ll include a link to their newsletter of the same name in our show notes, and stayed tune next month for when they debut the first episode of their new season. Can’t wait to continue that discussion with Mary and Amy soon, but that is the latest for now.


Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Josie Duffy Rice: Minneapolis teachers took to the picket lines yesterday for their first strike since 1970. They hit a roadblock during the months-long contract negotiations with the district over issues like wages, caps on class sizes, and more mental health services for students. Here’s Greta Callahan with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers:


[clip of Greta Callahan] We are on strike. We’re on strike for safe and stable schools. We’re on strike for systemic change. We’re on strike for our students, the future of our city, and the future of the Minneapolis Public Schools.


Josie Duffy Rice: While the teachers are striking, classes are off for the district’s 29,000 kids, although meal programs, clinics, and mental health services will still be available for students who need them. Teachers in nearby St. Paul almost walked out as well, but they reached a last-minute deal with their own district on Monday night. An extended strike in Minneapolis, however, is expected to be tough for working parents, and as of now, there’s no sign of when the next talks between teachers and the district will take place.


Gideon Resnick: In another state that begins with an M—great transition that we will keep—Missouri state lawmakers introduce a new bill that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident get an abortion out of state. Republican Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman proposed the measure yesterday as an amendment to several anti-abortion bills that are moving through the GOP-led state legislature. The bill is likely targeting the thousands of Missouri residents who have crossed state lines to Illinois for abortion care since 2019. That is when Missouri passed a law that bans abortions after eight weeks with almost no exceptions. Coleman’s bill echoes Texas’s abortion ban, which allows private citizens to sue abortion care providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion within the state. But reproductive rights advocates say the Coleman’s bill is unconstitutional since it would infringe on other states’ laws. However, if it passes, it could open the door even further for anti-abortion lawmakers nationwide to restrict abortion access and expand the power of GOP-led states beyond their jurisdiction. The Idaho House of Representatives passed something similar yesterday with a bill that criminalizes providing gender-affirming care to trans kids in the state. If signed into law, that bill would also charge parents who take their trans teenagers to get care in another state with a felony. They want to regulate where people can and cannot go and what they can and can’t do—these are the people who really like liberty? Is that, am I understanding that correctly.


Josie Duffy Rice: They really love liberty. I don’t even see that confusion.


Gideon Resnick: No.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s dark. The ghost of insurrections past reared her vengeful head yesterday as Guy Reffitt, the first January 6th writer to go to trial, was convicted on all five criminal charges against him. Those charges included obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 election and unlawfully transporting a firearm in the use of a riot. The federal trial lasted four days and mostly featured evidence created by Reffitt himself, thanks to his use of an unconventional legal strategy called “filming your crime.” Prosecutors showed a 30-minute video Reffitt filmed with a helmet-mounted camera the day of the insurrection and a video he recorded of himself bragging on a Zoom call after. Reffitt faces up to 20 years in prison for the obstruction charge alone. Legal experts say that his conviction could set off a chain reaction among other Capitol rioters awaiting trial, influencing them to take plea deals rather than go to court. Also in January 6th legal news, the head of the nation’s largest association of men who are asked to stop cheering in screenings for “Joker”, The Proud Boys, was charged with federal conspiracy for his role in planning and executing the insurrection. His name is Enrique Tarrio, and he’s the second leader of a far-right group to face charges in the Capitol riot investigation after Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, who is charged a seditious conspiracy.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I do wonder what the Venn diagram of people being excited in Joker screenings means in terms of their, um—


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s not good. It’s not good.


Gideon Resnick: —potential [unclear]. You know, if you enjoyed the movie on its face alone, that’s a little bit of a red flag, but that’s a separate conversation. Of all the stones to split in half, Japan picked the one with an old evil spirit inside. Reports out of an area called Mount Nasu say that a stone called the Sessho-seki or the Killing Stone, separated into two equal sized parts sometime in the past few days. And that could present a problem because, according to 12th century Japanese mythology, the rock contains the evil spirit of a murderous, nine-tailed fox. We hate when that happens. The area is a popular tourist destination, so visitors were quick to notice the split. One person posted a picture of the rock with the caption quote, “I feel like I’ve seen something that shouldn’t be seen.” And their first instinct, Josie was to take a picture of said thing and share that with others. Which is great.


Josie Duffy Rice: You know, if they’re going to suffer, we’re all going to suffer, you know?


Gideon Resnick: The Rock was said to continually be leaking poison when it was intact, and now that it’s open, all we can do is hope that fox spirits cannot pass through high-quality N95 masks. Local officials think the split may have come as a result of rain and freezing temperatures, and they will now be tasked with deciding whether to reseal the rock or to leave it as is. All right, whatever they do, it is not going to address the root problem of this big killing stone that we call planet Earth.


Josie Duffy Rice: We don’t know if it’s going to solve the problem, and maybe we should try to reseal it. You know, where can you go wrong? Can’t make it worse.


Gideon Resnick: I feel like you could. Re-trapping this fox, it could make it worse. I would like to stay away from this. I will not be looking at the post, to save myself from any ill will from this fox. But good luck to all who have looked at it. Those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: It is Wednesday WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are talking about the only type of hunt that is more exciting than a witch hunt, which is a yacht hunt. So over the last two weeks, it has been open season on the super yachts of sanctioned Russian oligarchs, with authorities seizing or detaining boats in France, Italy, and Germany. Now in the Italian region of Tuscany, Italian police are attempting to suss out the ownership of one of the world’s biggest yachts to see if it too is owned by a Russian oligarch—OR, even Putin himself—and is thus deserving of being put into jail. The 459-foot boat is called the Sheherazade and it is worth about 700 million. It has a swimming pool that converts to a dance floor, and is the only boat of its size whose owner has never been revealed. The boat’s British captain vehemently denies that it belongs to anyone on a sanctions list, but locals and even some former crew members describe it as quote, “Putin’s yacht.” And there is an air of secrecy around the boat that would make any yacht detective slightly suspicious. Italian police have reportedly boarded the ship and reviewed certification documents. Per The New York Times, the boat’s captain said quote, “I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this investigation will clear the vessel of all negative rumors and speculation.” So Josie, what is your reaction to this story?


Josie Duffy Rice: You know, I think the only way to solve this mystery Gideon, is for you and I to live on the yacht for a little, explore the yacht, check out the yacht. Maybe even own the yacht.


Gideon Resnick: Perhaps, yes. In order to effectively rule out that there isn’t anybody on the sanctions list who owns it, you will have to just pass over the ownership to us. That makes total sense. As a man of the people, I don’t really understand yacht culture.


Josie Duffy Rice: Me neither.


Gideon Resnick: I’m perplexed by the swimming pool. Don’t you have the water right there?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. And as someone who has never once been on a yacht, I can’t confirm—I haven’t ever even been on a cruise ship—but I will say that like you can’t really, just like, jump off the big thing to go swimming. Doesn’t it like, run over you?


Gideon Resnick: Again. We don’t know. We we don’t know, clearly.


Josie Duffy Rice: If you’re on a cruise ship, you don’t like jump off the cruise ship in the water. And I feel like cruise ships are like, slightly bigger yachts.


Gideon Resnick: You bring up an interesting point. The only way that we will be able to definitively determine that, as well as the ownership structure, is if we are the owners like we said. So . . .


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s true. And we will let all of you guys know why the pool is on there and how great the pool is.


Gideon Resnick: Exactly. We will grade the pool, most importantly. Just like that, we have checked our temps. They are at an OK temperature, but we have yet to cool off in said pool and so we can’t definitively know what our temperatures could be.


Josie Duffy Rice: One more thing before we go: be sure to check out the latest episode of Keep It! This week, Kristin Chenoweth joins Ira and Louis to talk about her new picture book, Nora Ephron’s iconic dinner parties, and more. Listen to new episodes of Keep It! Every Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, investigate the owner of the yacht that you work on, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you are into reading, and not just good grades received on COVID tests like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And protect yourself from the killing stone.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I guess Josie’s advice is use scotch tape?


Josie Duffy Rice: OK. Do you have better advice? I don’t know how to trap a spirit.


Gideon Resnick: I will never try to outfox a fox. So no, I don’t have better advice.


Josie Duffy Rice: Oooh. You’ll just join the team? Can’t beat them, join ‘em?


Gideon Resnick: Perhaps I will. If there is another cabin open inside of the killing stone, perhaps I could join.


Josie Duffy Rice: I love it.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.