Juice: Power, Politics & The Grid Is Out!
Our five-part docuseries on the fragilization of the electric grid is on YouTube. It’s free. And it’s terrific.
After finishing our first documentary in 2019, I told myself I was done making films. The process of making documentaries takes too long, costs too much, and involves too much friction, particularly when it comes to distribution.
But in February 2021, Lorin and I lost power at our home here in Austin for 48 hours. My colleague, Tyson Culver, who directed our first film, Juice: How Electricity Explains The World, also lost power. That blackout and the fact that the ERCOT grid nearly collapsed, convinced us that we had to do another film. And now, three years later, we accomplished what we set out to do. Our five-part docuseries, Juice: Power, Politics & The Grid, is now available for free on YouTube.
Rather than make a feature-length film, we decided to make this content as user-friendly as possible. That’s why we broke it into five episodes, each lasting about 20 minutes.
The series features 34 interviews that we shot in Texas, Japan, Vermont, Oklahoma, Colorado, California, Washington D.C., Illinois, Egypt, and England. Our cast of characters includes many of the world’s top thought leaders on energy, including political scientist Roger Pielke Jr., Grid Brief editor Emmet Penney, civil rights leader Jennifer Hernandez, author Michael Shellenberger, Canadian nuclear activist Chris Keefer, author Meredith Angwin, former IEA director Nobuo Tanaka, World Nuclear Association director Sama Bilbao, Campaign for a Green Nuclear Deal founder Madi Hilly, and many others.
I’m super proud of Episode 3, which features the Osage tribe’s battle with Enel over a wind project the company built by violating the tribe’s sovereignty. I have been reporting on this story for more than four years. I was thrilled last month when a federal court judge in Tulsa ordered Enel to remove all 84 of the turbines it built in Osage County. As I reported here on December 23, it’s a landmark ruling and an enormous embarrassment for Big Wind and Enel, a company that has endlessly touted its “green” credentials.
The Osage story has particular resonance for me. I have deep roots in Oklahoma. My great uncle, Ernie Rapp, was born in Fairfax in 1909 and was a member of the Osage tribe. Although he never discussed it with us, he witnessed the Reign of Terror in the 1920s, during which dozens of Osage tribal members were killed for their oil wealth. Ernie’s daughter (my cousin, Nora) owns an Osage headright.
Our goal with this project is not to make a bunch of money. That’s why we are making the docuseries free. Our goal is to change the conversation. We want to help alert people and policymakers about the dangers facing our electric grid and the importance of what Chris Keefer calls our “civilizational life support system.” Our goal is to help people understand how our grid is being fragilized and why we need fission to fix it.
You can help us by sharing these episodes with your friends, family, and colleagues. Our goal is to get millions of views. You can help by subscribing to our YouTube channel. You can follow us on Twitter and share our content by referring people to our trailer and our website, juicetheseries.com.
Before closing, I must give a sincere shout-out to my colleague, Tyson, who directed the docuseries. He did a fantastic job editing dozens of hours of video, stitching the interviews together, creating the trailer, managing the crews, coordinating the travel, and integrating all of the content with original animations (by Jacob Kern) and an original score (by Curtis Heath.) I also must acknowledge our executive producer, Ray Rothrock, and our co-producer, Ted Powers. Without Ray and Ted, this docuseries might not have happened.
As always, I sincerely appreciate your support. Here are the episodes. I think they are terrific. I believe you’ll agree.
In February 2021, millions of Texans lost power, and the state’s grid came within four or five minutes of a total failure that would have resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. It’s hard to overstate the importance — and complexity — of our electric grid. But how did our most important energy network get weakened? And what can we do to fix it?
Enron Corporation may have declared bankruptcy in 2001, but the company’s effect on America’s electric grid can still be seen today in states like California and Texas, where power prices are soaring and reliability is declining. The push to treat electricity as a commodity instead of a service is particularly punishing in California, where electricity prices are increasing three times faster than in the rest of the U.S.
The Osage Nation is in the midst of the longest-running legal battle against wind energy in American history. The tribe’s fight against Rome-based Enel is reminiscent of the themes in Martin Scorsese’s epic film, Killers Of The Flower Moon. But the tribe’s resistance against Enel’s rent-seeking is only one example of the backlash against alternative energy that is happening all across rural America.
The global nuclear comeback is real, even in Japan, where the accident at Fukushima Daiichi still looms large in the public’s consciousness. For proof of that comeback, we went to Canada, where a tall, Toronto-based emergency room doctor named Chris Keefer ignited a groundswell of support to expand and refurbish Ontario’s fleet of nuclear reactors.
America is plagued by short-term thinking, particularly regarding our electric grid. If we are going to be serious about energy security, energy access, and climate change, we need to make our electric grid weather-resilient, not weather-dependent. That will require thinking long-term. It will require embracing fission. It will require us to consider our nuclear power plants as the crowning achievements of our society. It will require us to see them, as Emmet Penney does, as “industrial cathedrals.”
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