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SDG&E Contract Renewal, Logan Heights Church And Residents Rift Fueled By Cultural Divide, Keeping Up With COVID-19 Test Demands, And Comic-Con Long Tail

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MIKE DAMRON

Above: A trail of electric grid wires and poles travels across the skyline in South Park, July 27, 2020.

The city’s contract with San Diego Gas & Electric is up for renewal. The deal could be lucrative but some are concerned city leaders could be asking for too little. Plus, the rift between St. Anne Catholic Church and Logan Heights residents started over street parking but is being fueled by a cultural divide. Also, as the number of coronavirus cases rise in San Diego, demand for testing is creating a supply shortage, hampering the region’s ability to fight the pandemic. And, nuclear fusion, the dream of clean, cheap nuclear energy has been just that — a dream, until now. In addition, Coronado-based Citizens' Climate Lobby has won a prestigious national award for its advocacy for national policies to combat climate change. Finally, even though Comic-Con this year was unlike any other, the virtual Comic-Con@Home convention can be enjoyed long after it is over.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The city negotiates, a multibillion dollar energy franchise agreement is a huge opportunity for us right now, the mayor and the councilor squandering that opportunity. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS midday edition, the promise of nuclear fusion and the effort to save the planet. So if you're able to, and it's a big ass, but if you're able to make nuclear fusion viable, commercially viable, then you would have this energy source that would virtually unlimited tensions between neighbors and congregants of a Logan Heights church, and how Comicon played entirely online for the first time. That's ahead. On mid day edition, the city of San Diego will soon negotiate a multibillion dollar deal with a utility to provide gas and electricity to residents for years to come community advocates say this potentially lucrative agreement could be a significant source of revenue for the city, but as KPB as science and technology reporter Shelina chatline, he finds some are concerned that city leaders may be giving away too much.

Speaker 2: 01:28 Matthew [inaudible] points towards a green Canyon at a roadway intersection in South park.

Speaker 1: 01:33 And three of the canyons are a number of SDG and is infrastructure the gas lines underneath the power lines underneath [inaudible] is an environmental advocate. Um, and it's, uh, the city leases the land for them to put that infrastructure on land.

Speaker 2: 01:51 The 1970s, the city of San Diego and utility San Diego gas and electric broker to deal for $50,000 fee, San Diego gave STG any right of way to build wires and poles to provide service in return. STG pays the city, a yearly tax known as a franchise fee, but the contract expires next year and [inaudible] says the city needs to make a better deal this time. Otherwise the community potentially loses money that could pay for building parks, addressing police.

Speaker 1: 02:21 And this deal again, as being one of the most valuable assets for the city is a huge opportunity for us right now, the mayor and the councilor squandering that opportunity.

Speaker 2: 02:35 But the city's chief operating officer, Eric Caldwell counters that they're supporting a bidding process for the franchise that's competitive and in the city's best interests. He says any agreement would include provisions like regular audits to make sure that utilities actions align with the city's needs like climate action goals.

Speaker 1: 02:53 Two years ago, we didn't have a competitive process. So our goal is maximize competition. Thereby ensuring the city

Speaker 3: 03:00 Gets the best possible

Speaker 2: 03:04 City leaders voted in mid July to move forward with a recommendation from JV J Pacific consulting to ask for bids for a 20 year franchise estimated to be worth about $6.4 billion at a minimum price tag of about $62 million. The utility that wins this bid for the deal. We'll also pay a franchise tax of around three to 3.5% on its revenue to the city. For some contexts that tax generated around 65 million for San Diego last year, the city says the proposal would be a tremendous improvement over the contract 50 years ago, but critics like [inaudible] disagree.

Speaker 3: 03:41 It's a sweetheart deal for SDG and E.

Speaker 2: 03:44 So it says SDG Annie, in fact, they're balking at the $62 million price tag and say it's quote unjustified and an unprecedented demand. And now the consultant's recommendation could soon go to the full city council for a vote. So let's back up. What is this deal? And how important is it in the first place? Steven Weissman lays out how these kinds of franchise agreements work.

Speaker 4: 04:09 A franchise agreement allows the utility to rip up city streets, putting equipment in the city property in exchange cities and counties can charge a fee like a tax.

Speaker 2: 04:23 Weisman is a lecturer at UC Berkeley and a former energy lawyer at the California public utilities commission. He says a charter city like San Diego can negotiate a fair amount with the utility.

Speaker 4: 04:33 And it's supposed to reflect the level. That's both acceptable to the city and an adequate form of compensation. And that the utility is willing to agree with.

Speaker 2: 04:44 And Diego COO Caldwell says, that's what they are trying to do in this bidding process and says, this proposal for the deal could say, rate pairs around 80 million. Over 20 years,

Speaker 3: 04:54 We set that number too high. It discourages competition. If we set it too low, it potentially sets the city to receive far less revenue in an upfront payment than we believe is reasonable.

Speaker 2: 05:14 In fact, STG is currently not the only utility bidding for the chance to service the city of San Diego. Berkshire Hathaway also said it's interested as well as another smaller group, Indian energy of orange County KPBS reached out to Berkshire, but didn't get a response, but there's another take on these franchise agreements. Loretta Lynch is the former president of the CPC. She says cities, shouldn't low ball, their worth.

Speaker 4: 05:41 That is not what happens in the 21st century anymore many cities in the 21st century. We're taking another look at their once in a lifetime franchise degree

Speaker 2: 05:50 Lynch. Now on the board of the environmental advocacy group, protect our communities foundation to San Diego has right to set whatever terms it wants simply because the city is offering a deal that yields an incredible profit and that profiting a San Diego historically STG historically has been incredibly lucrative. San Diego is currently pay the highest energy rates in the state and those rates continue to rise. Meanwhile, between 2010 and 2019 San Diego gas and electric profits have nearly doubled according to sec filings equally, how are you? Hi, I'm good. Nice to meet you. So I asked STG executive Mitch Mitchell about how much the utility is prepared to pay.

Speaker 5: 06:37 You're not opposed to paying a reasonable franchise thing. A reasonable fee is somewhere in the million and a half to $2 million range. And we think that

Speaker 2: 06:45 Mitchell says utility has a good track record in San Diego. He says it's helped with climate action goals by bringing on more renewables and investing heavily in wildfire, mitigation, STG, any plans to bid, but it wants better terms and ability to pay the bid and cash goods and services and a smaller franchise fee. Community advocates say they want a five year contract, but STG E says it wants a longer one. Why is it so important to have a 20 year agreement? Why couldn't you live with a five year?

Speaker 5: 07:13 Well, we have said is in order for us to be a partner in this region and with the city in particular, we need to make long term planning objectives and start to carry those out.

Speaker 2: 07:25 But former CPC president Loretta Lynch says other cities are negotiating for shorter terms with more accountability. The city of salt Lake city has a five year deal. Why? Because they want to keep their utility on their toes. Lynch says franchise deals happening once degeneration leave new city leaders, uneducated and vulnerable to utility lobbyists in the past, utilities have been able to get great deals, but she says cities don't have to follow the past basing what is a good deal on what happened in 1970, really short changes, every single resident of San Diego and every single business. If you got a penny for your golden goose 50 years ago, getting two pennies today is not a good deal. If the goose is worth $2 billion, Lynch says what's at stake are high energy bills and a lack of utility accountability. We currently have

Speaker 5: 08:25 78 callers in the queue. Comments will be limited to one minute. Please begin by stating your name

Speaker 2: 08:32 At an environmental committee meeting held remotely. And mid-July the consultant's report was open for public comment and discord over the agreement was palpable from the over five dozen callers from union workers connected to STG.

Speaker 5: 08:46 Please don't gamble with my job and renew a franchise agreement for at least 30 years with MTG

Speaker 2: 08:52 Members of the community that we need. Those millions dollars in profit diverted into our community, not Intuit shareholders, pocket and environmental advocates, but it is highly likely to pay right

Speaker 5: 09:05 Money

Speaker 2: 09:10 To the city council. This last option known as municipalization where a city runs its own utility is not on the table right now. Instead the environmental committee voted to move forward with the JV J's proposal city council member, Jen Campbell, the committee chair said they've been reviewing their report for weeks and let's move forward. Let's say, you know, you could speculate all day, but why the good thing is to get him moving, get the bids in, see what they offer and see what happens. Council member, Barbara Bree, the one committee member who voted no on the report says not so fast. This is a very rushed process on what is one of the most important decisions facing the city Bree, who is running for mayor and community activists say more time is needed to determine what a fair deal will be for San Diego Ray pears. And if the council doesn't reach an agreement by 2021 in San Diego, gas and electric just stopped providing gas and electric service to us. And no, of course they can't. In the meantime, the city and the incumbent utility seems stuck, unable to agree on the terms for a deal that could weld them together. Again for decades,

Speaker 2: 10:25 KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina chatline.

Speaker 2: 10:38 Some residents of Logan Heights say a neighborhood church is not acting very neighborly relations have become strained between members of the traditionalist, Saint Ann Catholic church and neighborhood residents. The rift began primarily over street parking, but is being fueled by a cultural divide. Now back and forth, accusations of harassment are being hurled and police are getting to know the church's address very well. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune reporter Andrea Lopez via Fanya and Andrea, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me st. Anne's is a Catholic church in which the mass is still said in Latin. And that is the hallmark of a conservative or traditionalist Catholic church. Do most of the church members come from Logan Heights? You know, I would say that they do not. Um, I, I asked several questions. I try to speak with the priest, but from observations, I went several times and most of the people who attend don't seem like they live in the neighborhood, primarily most of them are white and the neighbors I spoke with all say, you know, these are not individuals that we know from our community. These are people who are coming from the outside. Now residents seem to have picked up on some of the church goers

Speaker 6: 11:54 Political preferences. And it's apparently a point of contention.

Speaker 7: 11:58 Yeah. Yeah. I spoke with several residents who mostly pointed out that, you know, this is a predominantly, a Latino community and always has been. So there, there are some, um, who noticed that some of the individuals who come to the church, whether they park in the church's parking lot, or they park on the street, they'll have like bumper stickers. Right. And some of these bumper stickers that people pointed out to me included like Trump 20, 20, or, um, something about like sending illegals back. Um, there's also, uh, there's a mention of a bumper sticker that had like a graphic image against abortion. So, you know, just, um, a lot of these like bumper stickers that kind of display, you know, their political beliefs and that some of the residents felt that they, um, were insensitive to the people in the community

Speaker 6: 12:50 Parking situation, like at st Anne's

Speaker 7: 12:52 Parking lot. Um, I don't know how many cars, the parking lot actually holds if I had to maybe estimate from what I saw, um, just several times that I went over there to observe maybe like 20, 30 cars, um, if they're squeezed in tightly, but it's a, it's a relatively small parking lot for that congregation. Um, so the parking tends to flow out into the street. I do know that on the weekends, the church borrows a parking lot from a nearby school, um, because of course, Sunday mass, uh, you get higher attendance and they have more services. Um, but you see that overflow, it just, you know, by going there, you see people, uh, parking, um, within the neighborhood.

Speaker 6: 13:35 So from maybe tensions around parking and so forth, what have the other disputes resulted in? What has the situation been like? Yeah,

Speaker 7: 13:45 It's been so interesting just to see it unfold from this like parking lot issue where maybe there was tension with, with, with one particular resident who was more outspoken than the rest. And she's, she started feeling that it was disrespectful, uh, you know, some of these bumper stickers, but, um, when the pandemic started, residents noticed that, um, some parishioners were coming to church and maybe, you know, because they park on the street would walk down down the street and they would notice that they weren't wearing face mask. Uh, they were still holding mass. Um, so people would go in there not wearing face mask. So people were concerned, you know, these individuals are in there and they're coming out into our community and are they infecting us? Um, so someone may raised an issue about them not wearing face masks, and then it kind of evolved into something else.

Speaker 7: 14:33 When we saw this big push for racial justice, following all the black lives matter protests that we had here in San Diego. Um, some of the residents put up, uh, black lives matter signs. And, um, there was an altercation, mostly just verbal between a parishioner and an older woman. And he was just asking her to take the sign down and, uh, you know, yelling at her using explicit language. So it's just evolved to like these little, um, negative interactions where there doesn't seem to be any kind of follow up from, from maybe those empower who could try to ease those tensions

Speaker 6: 15:10 And the tensions have spilled over into social media as well. Right?

Speaker 7: 15:14 Yeah. So that, that's actually how I became aware of the story. Um, a post was made on, on a Facebook at neighborhood group and residents were really upset about an altercation that had happened with regards to a black lives matter poster. And someone suggested, Hey, let's organize a black lives matter protest outside of these church. Um, you know, they made other accusations that whether those were real or not, um, I have no way of knowing, but that post was shared just across like different, random social media accounts. And eventually it led to, um, the woman who made the original post, um, her information, her, um, her address being posted on some of these things. So, you know, she was doxed and, um, got some death threats and it just, it just blew up on social media.

Speaker 6: 16:05 Yeah. It's a spiraling situation. What's been the official response from st. Anne's to these growing tensions.

Speaker 7: 16:13 I tried to speak with the priest there and, um, he referred me to this San Diego diocese and, and they were aware of, of some of the parking issues, but did not respond to my other inquiries. So no response, I guess.

Speaker 6: 16:30 Well, the police have responded. They've been called to st. Anne's numerous times in the last year from your reporting, Andrea, how do you assess the situation now? Is it getting any better?

Speaker 7: 16:40 I think it's going to continue. I'm interested in seeing what happens, you know, after, um, you know, after the article published, I'm interested in seeing w w if something has done, um, if any kind of outreach happens. Um, but I think this is still going to happen. The most recent call that SDPD had was a complaint that people weren't wearing face masks and they weren't social distancing. So I think that, you know, they're SDPD is probably going to continue getting these calls from residents who are, um, upset about what they're observing in their neighborhoods. So I think we're going to continue seeing these tensions until something officially gets done to, to address them.

Speaker 6: 17:21 I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter Andrea Lopez via Fanya. And thank you very much for speaking.

Speaker 7: 17:28 Thank you for having me. [inaudible].

Speaker 6: 17:42 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Mark Sauer we're months into the pandemic and labs are again

Speaker 8: 17:50 Facing gaps in the Corona virus. Testing supplies. As cases rise shortages nearly forced the County to cancel appointments at its testing sites until a local company stepped in KPBS health reporter, Taran mento toured the facilities at helix to learn how they're navigating around scarce resources. Machines are key to scaling up Corona virus testing the process at helix lab in LA Jolla begins with the device, nicknamed boots. He gets his name from a star constellation and shouts it out loud to alert his human handler. Jason knew when there's a problem. Well, he has trouble with the double O

Speaker 9: 18:31 Okay, but we can't get a robot to say that

Speaker 8: 18:35 In a room full of similar devices, boots, his calls alert, knowing that his machine needs attention.

Speaker 9: 18:40 You get attention there. It calls out its name, and then you can just go directly there. So each one, I mean,

Speaker 8: 18:46 Boots is the first in a series of automated machines that helix that are running Cova tests from County sites, and they demand consistency boots. His job is to move specimens from individual test tubes to trays that hold dozens of samples. But today he can't find a tubes barcode that helps helix track each sample, no win. Thanks. Frequent use of hand. Sanitizer may have rubbed a bit of it off. Yeah.

Speaker 9: 19:12 Known issue at the, uh,

Speaker 8: 19:15 The minor hiccup requires no end to enter the ID manually. And another person to verify machines like boots and his roommate Cassiopeia depend on uniformity to process thousands of tests in a day, but there are services and the daily supplies needed to keep them running are in high demand across the country.

Speaker 9: 19:33 We're doing something like 600,000 tests a day in the U S three months ago, six months ago, we, we didn't do any of those.

Speaker 8: 19:41 Mark Laurent is vice president of operations at helix. The lab where boots resides the startup focuses on the human genome, but jumped into Cobra testing as need grew.

Speaker 9: 19:50 Every single one of that test requires a tube that's every day. So you're, you know, these are millions of tubes a week that essentially were not planned.

Speaker 8: 19:58 Helix needs at least 2000 tubes a day for its testing agreement with the County, but vice president of quality and research and development. David Becker says it's not easy to use. Just any tube. You don't get a tube that is, um, half an inch in diameter, one day and three quarters of an inch in diameter the next day that your, your robotic systems and your processes don't handle those very well. It can take time and human effort to reprogram with every fluctuation. If it's even possible, he looks operations. Head Lorenz says they work directly with producers to better handle any upcoming challenges

Speaker 9: 20:34 To understand. Okay, so the normal supply is constrained. Do you have another two that's close enough that we could adjust to and work with? These are the type of conversation we have weeks ahead. So we're not surprised.

Speaker 8: 20:45 There are even greater constraints on the known as reagents that help detect Corona virus and the plastic tips that pour them called pipettes machines are proprietary. And these components aren't always interchangeable plus about a dozen pipettes are required for every specimen and the toss in the trash after each use. This can mean limited options. When a supplier runs out, County officials dealt with a similar dilemma. Earlier this month, a supplier said it had to temporarily cut the county's weekly shipments of collection materials. Also known as testing.

Speaker 1: 21:19 We were facing a real tough situation of needing to close down. Some of our County testing sites,

Speaker 8: 21:25 County health agency, director, Nick mashy own says helix provided a last minute report.

Speaker 1: 21:30 Our ability, uh, to TESL stabilize as because of this new partnership, but we're always looking to bolster our resources. In fact, that's how we found

Speaker 8: 21:39 Helix. Helix made certain decisions about its testing kit to try to avoid some of the restrictions. Still the company will need far more kids as it's planning to significantly expand its testing capacity to 10,000 by the fall, and possibly even grow to 25,000. That'll use other machines known as next generation sequencers that helix staff nickname to the Soviets and Fuji. But the first step in the process will still be boots, sorry, but OTs, Taran, mento, KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 22:16 It's heroic stuff, nothing short of a revolution in energy production that could save the planet. Nuclear fusion holds the promise of endless clean, cheap energy, the big game changer for climate change, but it's all been a fantasy till now joining me to discuss how the dream might become reality with a key involvement from a San Diego based company is Rob Nikolsky, who covers energy for the San Diego union Tribune. Rob, welcome back to midday edition and to be back. Thanks, Mark. We'll start by explaining the theory behind nuclear fusion. What is it, how does it differ from nuclear fission, which of course has done in power plants across the world, including the now defunct center, no free plant here. Well, the infusion, basically what you're doing is you're splitting the nuclei of atoms infusion. You're fusing helium atoms, and it requires an incredibly amount of incredible amount of heat. And, and, uh, you have to, um, by fusing those helium atoms, you go to 150 million degrees Celsius. And so that's one of the very interesting things about this story, about nuclear fusion. It's just these astronomical numbers that are surrounded or surrounding this very process. I mean, it's, it's not an exaggeration to talk about this. And one of the, when I've written about this in the past, one of the things that's brought up is you're basically creating

Speaker 10: 23:46 A star on earth, uh, which is kind of mindless

Speaker 11: 23:51 And no toxic waste left behind as we have with existing nuclear plants.

Speaker 10: 23:56 Yeah. That's one of the things about fusion that's one of its major pluses is that unlike vision, like we see the commercial plant, like in San Antonio for a nuclear generating station, all the fishing nuclear plants, they leave behind spent fuel rods, which then have to be Fiat to find a place to put them in a, some sort of repository that we haven't been able to find. But in fusion, you don't have that. There's no long lived nuclear waste trail behind it. And that's one of the, one of its major felony points. And the other major selling point is it produces basically an inexhaustible supply of energy. So if you're able to, and it's a big gift, but if you're able to make nuclear fusion viable, commercially viable, then you would have this energy source that would that's virtually unlimited and has very little or practically no nuclear waste trail behind it. So it's, it's almost too good to be true. And that's what these scientists are trying to do, um, with this latest project that is being constructed. And

Speaker 11: 25:06 Yeah. Tell us about that project being launched in France today. What's the device that's being developed or being built there.

Speaker 10: 25:12 Yeah, it's called the eater project. I T E R and that's Latin for the way. And it's, um, it's basically been in existence all since about the mid two thousands. And what they're doing is they're putting together this device and it's a very large device. It's in this, uh, area in Southern France. That's about 450 acres. And they're building this project where they're going to have this project that will, as we said earlier, try to find a way to find if, if there's a viable way to make nuclear fusion happen. Now it's very important to state that this very expensive project in Europe is not going to make a nuclear fusion power plant. It's just going to see if it becomes practical. Even the nuclear fusion it's been around since the 1950s, no research facility has been able to get a nuclear fusion reaction to last more than a few seconds. And the eater project, their plan is to have this go for a few hundreds of seconds, which they feel could be a leap to lead to. And that's what we want to emphasize. This could be either project, if it becomes successful, it could lead to a few years down the road, the construction of commercial nuclear fusion plants,

Speaker 11: 26:44 And you a report in the, uh, in your story today, it was a 10 year project for general Atomics workers in Poway. What exactly did they build? What's their part of this? Uh, this project

Speaker 10: 26:54 Part of the eater project is this gigantic Tokamak, which is, uh, is basically this donut shaped, um, uh, chamber that creates a ionized plasma layer, a cloud that which you're able to, to generate these ionized particles and adrenaline Atomics. They've been building the very heart of this project at eater. It's called a central Solano it's. This is the central fill. And it is this incredibly powerful magnet and a general Atomics. They have built six modules, each of them, seven feet, tall, 14 feet wide, 250 pounds. They're going to ship them one by one to France. All six of these are going to be stacked on top of each other, into the heart of this eater project. It's going to be 59 feet high, this central solenoid. So that gives you an idea of the scale of this thing.

Speaker 11: 27:57 And, uh, what's this all cost, what's the eater project going to cause it's not cheap.

Speaker 10: 28:01 The original plan back when they came up with this idea and started this eater project was that the budget would come to about 6 billion euros, which works out to about 7 billion us dollars right now. And this project is just still four and a half years away from being completed. It's already at about 20 billion. And by the time everything gets done, it could be 10 times that original amount, that $6 billion Euro amount of money. So it is an expensive project, but that's really not that surprising when you consider that 35 nations are involved in this and you're talking about something that's well cutting edge technology, it's kind of an understatement.

Speaker 11: 28:49 And, uh, I think your story, uh, pointed out the U S a share that cost is about 9%. So if, if successful could nuclear fusion plants come online fast enough to make a difference regarding claims

Speaker 10: 29:02 The, whenever I've talked to the nuclear fusion people, they're always a little bit reticent. I think when they talk to journalists, because we're always asking very specific questions and maybe setting up expectations. Um, but the general feeling is that maybe within 50 years, you'd be able to get some nuclear fusion plants. If what eater does is successful, maybe within 50 years, you could have some applicable nuclear fusion commercial plant operational.

Speaker 11: 29:33 I've been speaking with reporter, Rob nickel, Leschi of the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks very much, Rob,

Speaker 10: 29:38 Thank you, Mark.

Speaker 11: 29:48 The Keeling curve prize is a big deal. It's awarded annually to 10 projects, determined to succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change the prizes name for the late climate science researcher, Charles David Keeling, who was affiliated with the Scripps Institute of oceanography here from the 1950s till his death in 2005. And one of this year's Keeling curve prize winners is a Cornetto based organization as part of coverage from our KPBS climate change desk, Mark Reynolds, executive director of citizens' climate lobby joins me now welcome to midday edition. Thank you. Well, congratulations on your award. First thing I'll remind listeners, Charles David Keeling invented the Keeling curve that measures the progressive buildup over decades of CO2 in the atmosphere. So tell us first about citizens' climate lobby. How are you organized? What's your mission?

Speaker 12: 30:44 Yeah, so our founders actually from Cornado California and he spent 20 years sending up microcredit loans around the world, initiated over a million microcredit loans. And then when he started to look into climate change, he realized that all his work he'd done to try and combat extreme poverty was going to be undone by climate change. And when he'd been working on microcredit, he'd been doing it in partnership with an organization called results that basically proved the grassroots efforts can be successful with Congress. So what he decided is in 2007 is what Congress needed is a chapter in every single congressional district who would work with our member of Congress on solutions to climate change. So that's essentially what we are, is a grassroots organization where we have volunteers in every congressional district, in every state who regularly meet with their representative and their senators to work on solutions to climate change. Yes,

Speaker 11: 31:36 The Keeling curve award was to honor your work on bipartisan climate change. Mitigation policies doesn't seem, there's been much success on that front from reading the headlines during this Trump era,

Speaker 12: 31:47 It doesn't seem like that, but we were able to create the climate solutions caucus in the house that had 45 Republicans and 45 Democrats who worked together on solutions. We were able to create the same thing in the Senate where we now have a Senate Republicans and Democrats working with each other. And one of the things that came out of that is the first bipartisan carbon pricing bill, the energy innovation and carbon dividend acting introduced last year, which was the first bipartisan carbon pricing bill in a decade. So while most of the noise is about how bad things are, if you're willing to do the work and you're willing to do it with local constituents, you can actually make progress, getting people to work together

Speaker 11: 32:26 And that, uh, energy innovation and carbon dividend act, what would that actually do if it were passed?

Speaker 12: 32:32 So if you talk to economists, what they will tell you is that the single most important that needs to happen to mitigate climate change is quote a price on carbon. So what it does is it takes anywhere where carbon pollution comes into the economy and has the true cost, what economists call externalities, what it's, what it's doing to damage society included in the real cost. So there's a steadily rising fee on coal oil, natural gas, but then what it does is it takes every single dollar from that fee and returns it back to American households, which we think is really, really important. Because if you do something to price carbon, the costs for American households will go up and if their costs go up and there's no way for them to mitigate it, they're not going to support it. And what we want is overwhelming support from American households. So we return all that money to American households would actually has most of them coming out with a little bit more money in their pocket. Then they're increased in cost,

Speaker 11: 33:29 A likelihood in this election year, in this Congress with this administration that this will pass, or is it going to have to wait for a change in Washington?

Speaker 12: 33:37 It's going to have to wait till next year. And, um, the fact that there's now 80 co-sponsors, which is the most co-sponsors any carbon pricing bill has ever had is a good indication of where things could go in in the future, but we want it to be established as clearly the route to success with climate change in the next Congress.

Speaker 11: 33:57 And the evidence that assessing fees works does it, has it worked in places?

Speaker 12: 34:02 One of the examples that economists constantly point to is cigarette smoking. You know, it used to be that over half of Americans smoked and now less than 13% do. And while economists will say education helped the real defining factor was a price. And so that's the kind of example that they constantly point to, to say that price is the easiest way to change behavior. If you want behavior to change quickly, simply make something you don't want more expensive. You know, one of the nice things about that is people sometimes say, well, wouldn't a fee on carbon, be regressive. And if all you took into account was energy costs, that would be correct. But most people's carbon footprint is actually created by what they buy. And so the people at the lowest ends of the economic spectrum are actually the people who do the best under this policy.

Speaker 11: 34:51 And how does this bill relate to the green new deal? Is it part of it or something different?

Speaker 12: 34:57 It's something entirely different. I think the green new deal has done a great job of drawing attention to action on climate change. What we're doing is saying, you know, the climate scientists tell us we've got to do something quickly. The IPC says we've got to get a price quickly. So we're taking a very specific, very scientific approach. We do what we do because the people at scripts tell us, we must do it. We offer the solution we do because economists tell it's it's the best solution. And then, then I think there's a third piece to that in 2011, there's a gentleman who's now at Stanford, who was at Berkeley at the time named Rob Willer, who wrote a paper called apocalypse CERN dire messages are counterproductive on warming.

Speaker 13: 35:38 And what has studies showed? And subsequent social studies have shown if you want people to work on this, if you want to bring people along, you've got to be solution oriented. So we focus on our solution and giving that to people. And I think that's the reason that our organization citizens' climate lobby has doubled or tripled in size every year for the last 10 years.

Speaker 11: 35:57 I've been speaking with Mark Reynolds, executive director of the citizens' climate lobby. Thanks very much. And congratulations on your award.

Speaker 13: 36:04 Yeah. Thank you so much. It's a big deal for us. We're a climate organization and there's nothing more, more prominent for us than, than something that ties itself to the queuing curve. So thank you so much for having us.

Speaker 13: 36:25 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Mark Sauer. This year's virtual Comecon has officially ended yet for the first time in its 50 year history. Anyone can still enjoy the programming. The panels continue to live online at the Comicon international YouTube channel KPBS arts reporter, Beth haka, Mondo consumed 70 hours of programming during the online version of the pop culture convention, Comicon at home. She is still watching panels now. Welcome that. Thank you. Yes. I can't stop watching. And with more than 300 hours available, I still have a long way to go well, in the past, talking about the best panels was almost cruel because with the exception of some Hollywood panels that a studio might post or illegal videos, there was no way anyone could see a panel after Comicon ended, but now anyone can watch for free. Yeah, it's really exciting.

Speaker 13: 37:24 I have to say comic con isn't promising that all these panels will remain up forever, but for now, and as far as I can tell, they're all still up there and available. And it's the silver lining to not having a physical convention this year. I mean, I wouldn't want comic con to exist only online, but I've never been able to watch this many panels and be able to share them. Did you have a favorite? Yeah, the Ray Harryhausen panel was my favorite. This was celebrating what would have been the hundredth birthday of Ray Harryhausen, who is famous for his stop motion animation in films like clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts. And because this was a virtual panel, his daughter, Vanessa got to do it from her home and she was able to just run off and bring a prop onto camera and let us see Perseus the shield or the head of the minute time.

Speaker 13: 38:14 And she had all these models that her dad had used in his stop motion animation. And she was just sitting there like petting the sabertooth cat that was in Sinbad. Like it was her pet cat, and it was just charming and delightful. But another favorite I had was completely unexpected. It was just one I signed up for because it struck my interest. It was called comic satire and the political cartoon. And this was just a really smart discussion that gave some wonderful insight into this particular brand of comics and cartooning. So Anne tallness of the Washington post talked about one of the many things that's appealing about doing political cartoons. It transcends class lines, you know, it's, it's, you know, even, even the filthy rich and can enjoy a cartoon, right?

Speaker 6: 39:05 Well, one of the things you appreciate about Comicon is its diversity from the filthy rich, authentic, what kind of panels could people find this year?

Speaker 13: 39:16 Yeah. You know, Hollywood's been scrambling to try and become more diverse, but Comicon, I feel has been diverse for a very long time. There've been LGBT panels since 1988 black panels since 1992. And this year there were panels focusing on Aztec culture through a new video game, queer horror, Afrofuturism art in the Holocaust, and even a panel on how issues of gender and race come through in comic book coloring. So race bending celebrated its 10th year of hosting the super Asian America panel. And this year there was a lot of discussion about racism towards Asians. And it was a great conversation that also gave us some history and insights into the Asian American experience. This has spoken word poet, bow fee.

Speaker 10: 40:03 The picture I'm trying to paint for you is I was this refugee, the youngest, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asians from the war were the first big visible Asian populations to come to the Midwest then mass. Um, and so we were seen by everyone as the enemy, uh, I was bookish, um, comic books, Dungeons and dragons books, libraries. They were my salvation and that's, that's how, who I am today. Star Wars, all of that stuff.

Speaker 6: 40:30 All of these panels, you were talking about sound really interesting, but hall H is always the big deal at Comicon with people waiting in line overnight to get into Hollywood panels. Were there any Hollywood panels this year? And what were they like?

Speaker 13: 40:44 Yeah, there were some, and I have to say, there's no substitute for being in a room of 6,500 people, reacting all at once to special preview footage of a film, but the online experience proved to be more intimate. So there was a great conversation with Charlotte therein that felt very personal and relaxed. Some panels like the boys season two had more than a dozen people. And they really tried to maintain this sense of kind of forced high energy as if you were in hall H but you know, it's a different experience, but I did love this panel that HBO hosted for their new show Lovecraft country, because it got to a serious discussion of race in America. And I'm not sure that that would have happened in a hallway or a ballroom 20 or one of those big venues. So there was discussion of a scene from the show in which a black man is pulled over by a, in 1950s America. But after Courtney B Vance recounted, how he recently had an incident with cops where they came on a call at midnight to his mostly white neighborhood. And when he came out of his house, this is what happened,

Speaker 14: 41:47 But I'm a black person and I get, and I've seen enough law and orders to know don't you say a word, Courtney, come out the house with your hands up in the air and get on your knees. And I said, I live here. Ma'am quietly. I live in, she was shouting at top of her lungs, midnight in this quiet little white air because I said, yes, ma'am, I'm, I'm just letting you know, I'm live here. My, my wallet's inside. If you want to, you want me to go and get it or you want to go in and get it? My children sleep asleep, they're three.

Speaker 13: 42:17 And then he asked the panel and those listening. So then he asks like, how long do we have to keep repeating the scene? When can we say, this is something from the past that we're done with. And what was interesting because this was a zoom meeting, not hall. H you could see visibly how this resonated for some of the other black panelists. And some of them were genuinely choked up as he recounted this incident. Wow. Well, you and I are both fans of HP Lovecraft. You terrified me when I first read it as a child. Um, and this show sounds interesting. So how is it presenting love craft? So love craft is a writer who was born in 1890 and his books came out in the early part of the 19 hundreds. He has a reputation for being misogynistic and racist. So it's interesting that this show is being produced by Jordan Peele of get out fame, and it focuses on a black family's journey through Jim Crow America.

Speaker 13: 43:13 So I'm very curious to see how Lovecraft's themes about race and hurted guilt nonhuman influences on humanity, the unknown, all these things get filtered through this particular narrative. I feel that love craft is someone who is terrified of change, terrified of the unknown and that manifested itself in racism and fear of foreigners and fear of the others. What was interesting about him is he channeled all of that through his art and translated those fears into these amazing tales of horror and dread. So I'm really interested to see how putting a black cast into a narrative involving love craft might play out in the present day today. So Beth overall, how do you rate this Comicon online experience? You know, it's a really conflicting thing because I do miss the physical experience of going and being with friends and being amongst people who share your passions and obsessions, but this was far more relaxing for me.

Speaker 13: 44:15 I wasn't, I didn't have to work running around the quarter mile exhibit hall or try to get from panel to panel. And it's also nice to be able to go to a panel, watch it for five minutes and go, you know, that's not really what I thought it is. And, you know, for the future, I, what this may foretell is that we'll still have the physical comic con experience, but maybe like some of these smaller panels about librarians, about teaching with comics in the schools, maybe those can always be kind of an online component because those panels have actually gotten, you know, upwards of 10,000 views, which not that many people would have ever seen them at a real comic con convention. I've been speaking with KPBS arts reporter, Beth haka, Mondo. You can find a complete list of Beth's favorite panels and recommendations on her cinema junkie blog@kpbs.org. Beth. Thank you. Thank you.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.