Episode 63: Alexis Madrigal on Sustainable Energy

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

When most Americans think of sustainable technology, they think of Jimmy Carter's solar panels or the windmills that are beginning to pop up across the country. But so-called "sustainable" or "green" energy has a history that can be traced back to the 19th century. In this episode of The Road to Now, Alexis Madrigal explains sustainable energy's deep roots in American history, and discusses the viability of green energy as an alternative to coal, oil, and solar energy production in the 21st century. 

                         Alexis Madrigal

                         Alexis Madrigal

 

Alexis Madrigal is technology correspondent at The Atlantic and Editor-at-Large at Fusion. His 2009 book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology was published by Da Capo Press in 2011. 

Links:
-Alexis Madrigal, "All the Promises Automakers Have Made About the Future of Cars, The Atlantic, July 7, 2017. 
-Alexis Madrigal, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology (Da Capo Press, 2011). 
-Alexis Madrigal at Fusion.net
Alexis Madrigal on twitter
 

Episode 62: Jim Clarke & Steve Krahn on Nuclear Energy

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

Since August 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the world has been aware of the awesome force that nuclear science could unleash. Using that force for energy production proved that nuclear technology could improve our lives, but nuclear energy has had a hard time shaking its association with destruction, and the catastrophes at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) & Fukushima (2011), have only heightened public concern over the safety of nuclear power.

In other words, nuclear power has a bad rap. But does it deserve it?

Not according to scientists Jim Clarke and Steve Krahn of Vanderbilt University. Both men have distinguished careers in the nuclear power industry that have spanned half the history of nuclear energy. In this episode of The Road to Now, Jim and Steve break down the risks and rewards of using nuclear energy, and argue that the public response to Three Mile Island and other spectacular events may have led us to poor conclusions about how we produce energy. They also remind us that nuclear energy produces no carbon, which makes it particularly valuable in the age of global warming.

                    Jim Clarke (left) and Steve Krahn (right)

                    Jim Clarke (left) and Steve Krahn (right)

Dr. Jim Clarke is Professor of the Practice of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Vanderbilt University. Jim has served as an advisor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and is currently on the NRC Advisory Committee for Reactor Safeguards and its subcommittee on Radiation Protection and Nuclear Materials. He has over 35 years of professional experience with approximately 150 publications and presentations.

Dr. Steven Krahn is Professor of the Practice of Nuclear Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University. He has more than 30 years of experience in his field and previously served in the U. S. Department of Energy as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Safety & Security in the Office of Environmental Management.

Both guests highly recommend that you visit the US Energy Information Administration website (eia.gov) for accurate and updated information on energy production in the United States.

We'd also like to thank Brenda Ellis in the Vanderbilt School of Engineering for her help in arranging our interview with Jim and Steve. 

List of Sources Complied by Jim Clarke and Steve Krahn

US Department of Energy:
-Energy Information Administration
-Office of Nuclear Energy
-Office of Energy Efficient and Renewable Energy
-Office of Fossil Energy
-Office of Environmental Management

Videos from the CRESP Fuel Cycle Course:
-Radioactive Waste Management - Dr. Steve Krahn
-Environmental Performance Assessment - Dr. Jim Clarke
-Reactors and Fuels and Nuclear Reactors - Allen Croff
-Quantifying the Risk of Nuclear Fuel Recycling Facilities – Dr. John Garrick
-Overview of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Its Chemistry - Dr. Raymond G. Wymer

Print Sources:
-The Reporter’s Handbook on Nuclear Materials, Energy, and Waste Management, M. R. Greenberg, B. M. West, K. W. Lowrie and H. J. Mayer, Vanderbilt University Press, 2009.
-Nuclear Waste Management, Nuclear Power and Energy Choices Public Preferences, Perceptions and Trust, M. R. Greenberg, Springer, 2013.
-Future Energy: Opportunities and Challenges, Thomas W. Kerlin, International Society for Automation, 2013.
-Fuel Cycle to Nowhere: U. S. Law and Policy on Nuclear Waste, R. B. Stewart and J. B. Stewart, Vanderbilt University Press, 2013.

Other Links:

Kate Brown, Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, Oxford University Press, 2013. 

 

This episode brought to you with support from Ramseur Records.

This episode brought to you with support from Ramseur Records.

 

 

Episode 61: Chuck Keeney on the History of Coal

 You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

In our first episode of the second season of The Road to Now, Bob and Ben speak with Dr. Chuck Keeney about the history of coal in the United States. Chuck explains the ways that the coal industry has shaped not only the physical landscape of mining towns, but also, through lobbying efforts and information campaigns, the way we understand our nation’s history. Chuck is uniquely qualified to tell the story of coal; not only does he hold a PhD in history from West Virginia University, he is the great-grandson of coal miner and labor organizer Frank Keeney, who was part of The Battle of Blair Mountain.

(The Battle of Blair Mountain was a 1921 shootout between coal miners and the coal companies that was the largest domestic insurrection since the Civil War. If you want to know more, it’s all in this episode. Or you could stop by the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum where Chuck Keeney is on the Board of Directors).

Chuck Keeney was featured in the 2017 NatGeo Documentary From the Ashes, which was directed by Michael Bonfiglio. We highly recommend you take the time to watch!

Links:
Chuck Keeney on twitter
 

  

Episode 60: Season One Finale with Matt Negrin and Alexander Trowbridge

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

May 19th was the one-year anniversary of The Road to Now, so we invited our good friends/RTN contributors Matt Negrin and Alex Trowbridge to join us in taking a look at where the road has turned since we launched in 2016. A year ago, Matt and Alex worked at Bloomberg Politics. Today Matt is a Digital Producer for The Daily Show and Alex is a Producer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. A year ago, The Road to Now was just Bob Crawford and Ben Sawyer, but now we have Ian Skotte. Also, we have a different President now.

Bob & Ben (via facetime) interview Alex and Matt for The Road to Now's Season One Finale

Bob & Ben (via facetime) interview Alex and Matt for The Road to Now's Season One Finale

We’d like to thank everyone for the support they’ve given us in this first year! We’re going to take a few weeks to develop ideas we’ve been working on, and to schedule some great guests for season 2. We’ll keep your feed going these next weeks with some of our favorite episodes from the last year, and we’ll be back with all-new episodes on Monday, July 10th.

In the meantime, please let us know if there are any questions you’d like us to answer, or if there’s a guest you think would be a great fit for our show. You can email us at RoadToNowCast@gmail.com or tweet at us at @Road_To_Now.

We look forward to sharing our new episodes with you on Monday, July 10th!

Other episodes featuring Matt Negrin and Alex Trowbridge:
Episode 3: Alexander Trowbridge and Matt Negrin on the Media
Episode 15: Live from Coney Island with Matt Negrin and Alexander Trowbridge
Episode 20: Debate Extravaganza!: The History of Presidential Debates and Media Spin
Episode 27: Matt Negrin and Alexander Trowbridge on Campaign Surrogates and Presidential Elections

Here's a bit of what Alex and Matt have been up to lately:

This episode was produced with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

This episode was produced with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

Episode 59: Mitchell Yockelson on the US and World War I

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

On April 6, 1917, the United States House of Representatives voted to declare war on Germany, bringing the United States into the brutal war that had raged across Europe since the summer of 1914. America’s entry into World War I helped turn the tide of the war, securing a victory for the US and its allies. And while the final shots of the war took place on November 11, 1918, the consequences of “The Great War” live on nearly a century after its end.

Why did the United States become involved in World War I after remaining neutral for so long? How did the war in Europe shape American society? And who actually won World War I? In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answers to these questions and more in our conversation with military historian and archivist Mitch Yockelson.

Yockelson pic.jpg
This episode brought to you with the support of our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

This episode brought to you with the support of our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

Episode 58: Sheena Greitens on North Korea

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

North Korea is a hard place for most Americans to understand. Kim Jung-un and his inner circle keep a tight grip on information, and what the North Korean government does share with outsiders can be hard to decipher. What is clear though, is that the current state of relations between Washington DC and the regime in Pyongyang is growing colder every day, and North Korea’s pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons makes resolving this conflict an urgent matter in US foreign policy today.

How did the standoff between the US and North Korea begin, and who is to blame for this conflict? How has the Kim family, now in its third generation of leadership, managed to stay in power this long, and what are the prospects of removing them from power? And how has our policy toward North Korea been shaped by its geographic proximity to China and Russia?

In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answer to these questions and more in our interview with North Korea expert, Dr. Sheena Greitens.

Sheena Greitens is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri.  She is also a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Center for East Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution and an Associate in Research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University. 

Links:
-Sheena Greitens' faculty page at University of Missouri. 

This episode brought to you with the support of our sponsor, Ramseur Records. 

This episode brought to you with the support of our sponsor, Ramseur Records. 

Episode 57: Margaret Talev on Covering the White House in the Age of Trump

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

On February 17, 2017, President Donald J. Trump tweeted that the American news media is the enemy of the people. This was an escalation from the rhetoric candidate Trump used along the campaign trail, continually rebuking the mainstream media as purveyors of fake news. The President’s disdain for the media made it no surprise when he announced that he would not attend last week’s White House Correspondence Association Dinner, which is a long-held Washington tradition that celebrates the free press of the United States and honors the work of journalists.

So what’s it like to be a journalist covering a President who is so openly antagonistic to your profession? Is Donald Trump’s disdain for the media as fierce when he’s behind closed doors as it is when he speaks at rallies? And what is it like to go from covering the Obama White House to that of Donald Trump?

In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answers to these questions and more in our interview with Bloomberg White House Correspondent Margaret Talev.

Margaret Talev is White House Correspondent for Bloomberg Politics, and Vice President of the White House Correspondent Association. She has covered the White House since the beginning of the Obama administration. The full text and audio of her May 1, 2017 interview with Donald Trump is available in the links below.

Links:
-"Transcript: President Donald Trump's Interview with Bloomberg News." Bloomberg.com, May 1, 2017. (Interview by Margaret Talev & Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg Politics)
-Margaret Talev stories from Bloomberg Politics
-Margaret Talev on twitter

 

This episode was produced with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

This episode was produced with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

Episode 56: Ben Green on the History of the Harlem Globetrotters

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

The Harlem Globetrotters are one of those great parts of American culture that almost everyone knows and loves. For most of us today, the Globetrotters are outstanding entertainers. But did you know that in the mid-20th century the Globetrotters were probably the single best basketball team on the planet? Did you know that they did travel the globe as agents of the US Department of State during the Cold War, but that they are not, in fact, from Harlem? If you want to know how all of this happened (and how the Globetrotters saved the NBA), you’re going to love this interview with historian Ben Green on the History of the Harlem Globetrotters.

                                                  The Harlem Globetrotters in 1950.

                                                  The Harlem Globetrotters in 1950.

This episode brought to you with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

This episode brought to you with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

Episode 55: Neil Hanson on the Mignonette and Everything Else

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

Neil Hanson is one of the most interesting people we know. He’s written books on World War I, the Spanish Armada, and the fire that destroyed London in 1666. He once teamed up with history’s greatest treasure hunter to tell the story of retrieving over $100 million in gold from a sunken Soviet ship in the arctic. He’s been the owner of the highest Inn in all of Great Britain. And, in 1999 he published a book called The Custom of the Sea, which tells the story of a shipwrecked crew that was put on trial in London after resorting to cannibalism. The ship, which fell victim to forty-foot waves off the coast of Africa in 1884, was named the Mignonette, and Hanson’s book was so good that in 2004 it inspired an album by an up-and-coming group of musicians called The Avett Brothers.

A sketch of the Mignonette  by ship captain Tom Dudley

A sketch of the Mignonette  by ship captain Tom Dudley

 

How could someone turn a gruesome tale of cannibalism into an inspirational work of history? How do you track down the sources that allow you to answer so many questions about history? And how does one individual accomplish so much in one life? In this episode of The Road to Now, we get the answers in our conversation with Neil Hanson.

                                        Neil Hanson

                                        Neil Hanson

This episode brought to you with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

This episode brought to you with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

Episode 54: Tom Price on the (After)Life of James K. Polk

You can download this episode and others by subscribing to The Road to Now on iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

“Who is James K. Polk?” If you’re asking this question to yourself right now, you’re not alone. In fact, “Who is James K. Polk?” was a slogan Polk’s political rivals used to mock him in the 1844 Presidential election. This made sense at the time; despite serving as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1835 to 1839 and Governor of Tennessee from 1839 to 1841, Polk lacked the dynamic personality that defines many of America’s great Presidents. Yet a late compromise in the Democratic Party and the changing mood of the American people thrust Polk from a failed Gubernatorial candidate in Tennessee to the White House in less than a year.

Who is James K. Polk? He’s America’s first dark horse President. He’s the Commander-in-Chief who oversaw the annexation of the southern portion of the Oregon territory, the admission of Texas into the United States, and the invasion of Mexico that forced the Mexican government to cede about half of its territory to the United States in 1848 (you know New Mexico? It used to be part of old Mexico). He’s the man who may have done more to transform the United States in a single term than any other President in American history.

And, strangely enough, he’s also the man whose corpse has been dug out of the ground more times than any other President. His current resting spot in Nashville is Polk’s third grave, but he may be moving again in the near future.

Ben Sawyer and Tom Price at the James K. Polk Home & Museum in Columbia, TN. The two paintings in the background were done two years apart by the same artist.

Ben Sawyer and Tom Price at the James K. Polk Home & Museum in Columbia, TN. The two paintings in the background were done two years apart by the same artist.

So how did Polk go from relative obscurity to President of the United States in such a short period of time? Why does his place in Americans’ minds fall so far short of his impact on American history? And why are lawmakers in Tennessee considering moving Polk’s body for a fourth time more than 150 years after his death? In this episode of The Road to Now we answer these questions and more in our conversation with the Curator of the James K. Polk Home & Museum, Tom Price.

Links:
-The James K. Polk Home & Museum website
-James K. Polk Museum on twitter
-"Historical Organizations Clash Over President James K. Polk's Remains," The Tennessean, April 10, 2017. 

This episode was produced with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.

This episode was produced with support from our sponsor, Ramseur Records.