Vox: The Great Rebuild – Episode Three

In partnership with Omidyar Network, Vox reporters dive into reimagining how citizens of the United States can fight against the catastrophic events of Covid-19 and create a sustainable world for everyone. These are their stories. 

Saul Griffith knows the US energy system better than just about anyone on this planet. He’s an inventor, a MacArthur genius fellow, and the founder and CEO of Otherlab, where his team was contracted by the Department of Energy to track and visualize the entirety of America’s energy flows. I had Griffith on The Ezra Klein Show last year for our climate series to lay out what it would look like for America to decarbonize. It was an awesome episode, but it was just a start.

Last month, Griffith formed an organization called Rewiring America and released an ebook of the same name that details the path to effectively decarbonize the US economy by 2035 without forcing Americans to sacrifice their current lifestyles and without having to invent any new technology. Just as importantly — and this is why it fits our mobilization series — Griffith worked with economists to come up with an estimate of how many new jobs this kind of mobilization could create: 25 million over the next five years, they found. More than that, they looked at what kinds of jobs these would be and where they’d be created.

Griffith’s plan is just about the boldest I’ve seen — and there are real questions about whether our political system is up for the task. But those are, crucially, political questions; part of answering them is showing that they can be answered, and in ways that make working Americans better off rather than worse. We are in the midst of an unprecedented triple crisis: a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a climate crisis, each unlike anything we’ve ever faced. If there is a time to be bold, this is it.

An edited excerpt from our conversation follows. The full conversation can be heard on The Ezra Klein Show.

This podcast is part of a larger Vox project called The Great Rebuild, which is made possible thanks to support from Omidyar Network, a social impact venture that works to reimagine critical systems and the ideas that govern them, and to build more inclusive and equitable societies. All Great Rebuild coverage is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.

Listen to the full episode and read the transcript here