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Episode Nineteen — Lord Grantham, You are ever so Taxing

Climate Stew
Climate Stew
Episode Nineteen -- Lord Grantham, You are ever so Taxing

In Episode 19 of Climate Stew we hear from a dishy South Africa who explains why he has hopes and discusses talks a way forward in cutting emissions. He also explains why he is concerned with climate change but is NOT an environmentalist. Dolling out advice, The editors of the Economist Magazine also weigh in urge the end of subsidies for energy producers and call for a tax on carbon and somehow get dragged onto the set of Downton Abbey. We also learn about the most popular and unlikely celebrities in the future. Climate Stew is available on  iTunes,  StitcherSoundCloud, or Listen here  on our site.

Notes and Transcript




Hi I’m Peterson Toscano and it’s episode 19 of Climate Stew and we have a delicious show for you. We do take global warming seriously here, but that doesn’t stop us from being cheeky about it. Timothy Meadows is back with another installment of That Day in Climate History in which we will learn about celebrities of the future. We also have a guest all the way from South Africa, well kinda. I’ll tell you more about him shortly. But first the news.


Our climate news story today is about the dramatic drop in the price of gasoline and oil. While some people take this as a sign to turn up the heat and run out and buy an SUV, others suggest that lower energy prices opens a window for making substantial changes in energy policy. The editorial staff of the Economist Magazine writes about this unique moment, and from their London offices freely doles out advice to world leaders on how they can seize the day.

“The plunging price of oil, coupled with advances in clean energy and conservation, offers politicians around the world the chance to rationalise energy policy. They can get rid of billions of dollars of distorting subsidies, especially for dirty fuels, whilst shifting taxes towards carbon use. A cheaper, greener and more reliable energy future could be within reach.”

I imagine the editors of the Economist Magazine in a wood paneled room with a roaring fire seated in comfy overstuffed chairs sipping tea or sherry as they sort everyone out.


“That’s correct. Let me add. The most straightforward piece of reform, pretty much everywhere, is simply to remove all the subsidies for producing or consuming fossil fuels. Last year governments around the world threw $550 billion down that rathole—on everything from holding down the price of petrol in poor countries to encouraging companies to search for oil.”

Their offices must have a Downton Abbey feel to them with Carson, the butler bringing up the tea and scones Mrs. Patmore prepared down in the kitchen.

“Thank you Carson. Oh, and we will have guests for dinner tonight. Lady Grantham has already spoken with Mrs. Hughes about it. Now where were we, gentleman? Oh yes, Governments have a legitimate role in making sure that energy is abundant, clean and secure. But they need to learn the difference between picking goals and deciding how to reach them. Broad incentives are fine; second-guessing scientists and investors is not. A carbon tax, in other words, is a much better way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases than subsidies for windmills and nuclear plants.”  (here here)

And like Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, who has the uncanny ability to infuriate progressive minded characters like Isobel Crawley, Tom Branson and oh poor departed Lady Sybil, God rest her soul, in a classic Economist Magazine move that will no doubt make greens see red, they also advise governments to throw open the doors for more pipelines and drilling believing that a tax on carbon itself will slowdown oil and gas extraction.

“By the same token, (oh, mother, I didn’t not realize you were in the room) , Well Robert I was installed here during the glorious reign of Queen Victoria, By the same token in the name of security of supply, governments should be encouraging the growth of seamless global energy markets. As I always say, scrapping unfair obstacles to energy investments is just as important as dispensing with subsidies. The more cross-border pipelines and power cables the better. America should approve Keystone XL and lift its export restrictions, talk to that American wife of yours, Robert, while European politicians should make it much easier to exploit the oil and gas in the shale beneath their feet.”

I think the editors at the Economist just want to piss everybody off. One thing is clear though, with cheaper oil and gas, clean energy options have a greater chance of competing in the energy market. Remove subsidies while taxing companies for the privilege to pollute, and we may just see a dramatic shift in global energy policy. In the mean time, I suddenly have a hankering for a nice hot pot of tea. Thomas? Mosely? Mr. Bates?

Main Interview with Glen Retief


Glen Retief


Our special guest today is Climate Stew Crew member Glen Retief, who teaches creative writing at Susquehanna University and is author of the Lambda Award winning book, The Jack Bank—A Memoir of a South African Childhood. Though raised in Kruger Park in South Africa, he now lives in the wilds of Amish Country in Central Pennsylvania with me. Not only is Glen smart, highly opinionated, and passionate about climate change, he is also my husband. I ask him why he feels so moved about global warming, how he believes we might address this crisis, if he even sees himself as an environmentalist, and most importantly is there still hope.

That Day in Climate History

I am Timothy Meadows. It is Saturday, January 26th, 2165 and time for That Day in Climate History. The 21st Century was the golden age of celebrities. Not only colorful personalities from the world of cinema, television, and music dominated  the news, but celebrity chefs, home decorators, and fashion designers with their colorful lives delighted and distracted the public from the growing fears and realities of a changing planet.

The most unlikely celebrities to emerge in the late 21st Century was the trio of engineers known as The Three Beans or Les Trois Haricots. The media dubbed them The Three Beans because of their unorthodox and inventive use of beanbag technology. Pierre Tremblay a civil engineer from Canada, Marcela Aquilar a structural engineer from Mexico, and Sunday Mwanamwabwa, an environmental engineer from Zambia, were responsible for some of the most ambitious and creative building projects of their time.

For example, their elegant and functional flood walls in Lower Manhattan not only protected the city from rising tides and storm, with these walls the Three Beans also built community. Whimsical benches designed into the levies created spaces where friends or strangers chatted. Large low round structures not only stored emergency supplies but also served as tables where families gathered for reunions, business professionals met, and activists organized.

The Three Beans also designed thousands of projects throughout Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Pacific Islands using and developing inexpensive materials to build shelters for disaster relief and permanent structures to withstand extreme weather.

The Three Beans also provided endless entertainment with their flamboyant fashion choices, often wearing matching outfits. Their lively interactions in public and the festive atmosphere they generated wherever they went, kept them regularly in the news for nearly 30 years. During the Parisian flash floods of 2073, standing in front of the Lourve, Pierre Tremblay famously cut off his and his fellow engineers’ trousers exactly 2 centimeters below the knee before dashing into the famed art museum with their patented inflatable waterproof containers thus saving priceless pieces of art. What were once called Pirate Pants became the fashion craze forever known as La Coupe de Pierre.

Wherever they went, the Three Beans injected play and beauty into their innovative and highly effective adaptation designs. On this day in 2165 we remember that day in Climate History.


Climate History is brought to you by Geico. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on disaster insurance. Ask about our Apocalypse Plan.


Thank you for spending time with us today. Can you do me a favor? Nothing big. Would you be so kind and share Climate Stew with three people you know. Just three. Thanks. You can find links to today’s show, transcript so that you can reenact portions of the show yourself, and more over at Climate Stew dot com. Our opening music is by Mark Chadwich, Closing Music by Poldoore, Segment music by Romo.

Special thanks to Glen Retief, Andrea McLaren, oh, and Joe G, Who is the Dowager Countess of the House of Audio.

Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

This post has 2 Comments

  1. Joe Gee on January 29, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I would have liked this better if your boy toy had given Joe Gee a shout-out. Just saying.

  2. Peterson Toscano on January 29, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    We will work on it for the next time. 😉

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