Today's guest is Senator Stephen Fenberg, a Democrat who serves as state Senator in the 18th District in Colorado where he's served since 2017. He also serves as the Senate Majority Leader.
A few years after graduating from CU, Senator Fenberg founded New Era Colorado, a nonprofit organization dedicated engaging, educating, and training young people in the political process. The organization has registered hundreds of thousands of young people to vote in Colorado and successfully passed several pieces of legislation related to election reform, student debt, and climate.
He has also served on the Board of Directors for ProgressNow, One Colorado Political Committee, and INVST Community Studies as well as the Boulder Housing Working Group and the city of Boulder Capital Improvement Taskforce. Senator Fenberg now serves as an Advisory Board member for the dZi Foundation, an international nonprofit providing development work in remote areas of Nepal.
Senator Fenberg is part-owner of the Bread Bar, a cocktail bar in the historic town of Silver Plume. Bread Bar resides at the site of a historic bakery from the 1800's.
In today’s episode, we cover:
Links to topics discussed in this episode:
Enjoy the show!
Jason Jacobs: Hello everyone. This is Jason Jacobs and welcome to My Climate Journey. This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help. Today's guest is Senator Stephen Fenberg, a Democrat who serves as state Senator in the 18th District in Colorado where he's served since 2017. He also serves as the Senate majority leader. This is the first elected official that I've had on the podcast and Senator Fenberg does not disappoint.
Jason Jacobs: We talk in this episode about his childhood and what led him to be politically active from such a young age. We talk about his college years and the friendships he made and this core group of people that ultimately started New Era Colorado, which is a leading voice for young people in Colorado politics and one of the most effective youth civic engagement organizations in the country. We talk about what motivated Steve to run for state Senate and ultimately to get elected. We talk about how he's found the job so far, what he's been able to accomplish, where he's been spending his time and why, as well as some of the most impactful things that he thinks that they could do in the state to combat climate change looking forwards, but also at the federal level, the role of the federal government, the stakes in the 2020 election, and overall some ideas for how to better tune the machine to help our democracy run smoother in general.
Jason Jacobs: Senator Fenberg, welcome to the show.
Senator Fenberg: Thanks for having me, excited to be here.
Jason Jacobs: This is our second take because we got two minutes in and I forgot to hit record. It's a bummer because we had such an authentic, unscripted, warm, humorous open and I don't know how we're going to replicate it this time.
Senator Fenberg: Well, now we know each other a little bit. Broke the ice.
Jason Jacobs: That's true. So, the episode's only going to be that much better because of those special three minutes.
Senator Fenberg: Right, that no one will ever know about.
Jason Jacobs: But what we did talk about in that open that didn't record is I was saying how you're the first elected official that is coming on the show, so you're very brave. And you were saying that, actually, you've experienced real bravery but it's not coming on this little dinky podcast.
Senator Fenberg: I didn't say dinky, I don't think those were my words. But, yeah. I mean, look, this issue that we are facing is, I think at the core of it, a political issue. And elected officials, policy makers need to be a part of this conversation for solutions because they have to be part of the equation. And I would hope if there are future politicians or elected officials that are considering coming on the show I think they would quickly realize that they have probably been in more adversarial opposition situations than this one.
Senator Fenberg: So, I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to be [inaudible 00:03:03] and hopefully many more folks follow me after.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah and it seems like if there's any guinea pig to talk to from an elected official standpoint, you're kind of a safe place because when I look into your background prior to the show, I mean, you're not a career elected official. You kind of came up the ranks looking a lot more like probably a lot of the other guests we've had on the show than your typical politician.
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, you know, I think about it all the time. I sort of straddle two different worlds. I really think of myself as an activist or someone kind of on the outside pushing the people on the inside to do more and to be more bold, especially on issues like climate. That's my background, I come from the nonprofit management world and sort of activist world. My degree is in environmental policy. That's kind of where my passion has always been ever since being a kid. But now I'm in this weird position where I go to work everyday and I put on a suit, I go to the Colorado capital, and I play the role of senator.
Senator Fenberg: In some ways I feel like I've got one foot in both worlds, but it's actually a place I'm comfortable being. I sort of like being the politician person that doesn't take himself too seriously, but also someone that is very much pushing to do big things rather than just create a political career for myself.
Jason Jacobs: And I guess two things I'd love to know more about are when you were an undergrad you were very politically active, I'd love to know if you go back in the way back machine how that came about, and when that came about, and what the first step was that led to that? And then similarly, I mean, you've been very active in terms of climate activism so I have that whole set of questions in terms of how you came to care about that, when you started to care about that, why you started to care about that and how that manifested as well.
Jason Jacobs: So, whichever order you want to take it those were both fascinating topics for me.
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, you know, being in this line of work people ask me all the time, "How did you get into this? What made you want to be in politics?" Or whatever. I don't have a very specific, tangible, here was the aha moment. But I guess what I could say is it's just who I've been for my whole life. I knocked on my first door for a political candidate at the age of seven. I would go door-to-door with my mom and volunteer for candidates we cared about. I think I pretty much grew up with the noise in the background being my mom yelling at the television, so, it's who I am, it's in my genes, it's in my blood, it's how I was brought up. I think, you know, I just always had this sense of wanting to make sure my life was committed to creating justice and moving in what I see is a better direction for the world.
Senator Fenberg: It's kind of one of those things that you can never solve, you can never get to a place that's perfect. You can never create a society that doesn't need to improve more but you can dedicate your life striving towards that. I think at a young age that's just what I knew I wanted to do. But when I came to college it's really...
Senator Fenberg: So, I'm originally from Ohio, from Dayton, Ohio. And to be honest there wasn't that culture, that environment for me to be who I really wanted to be and the work I wanted to do. And then I came out to Colorado, I spent a bunch of summers out here backpacking, sort of just falling in love with the state.
Jason Jacobs: Can you just touch for a minute, so what was it about Ohio that made those opportunities not exist?
Senator Fenberg: Well, have you been to Ohio? I'm just kidding.
Jason Jacobs: I think I did a layover there on an airplane if that counts.
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, right. Well you've probably seen it then. No, I'm just kidding. I mean, Ohio has a special place in my heart, obviously, it was a great place to grow up. I actually think Ohio is an incredibly interesting place because it's one of the states that really, I mean, the cities in Ohio built America in the way that we know America today. NCR was based in Dayton, the Mead Corporation, General Motors had a major plant there. The Wright Brothers are from there, it is a place of innovation and a place that I think in a lot of ways had this incredibly important set of people and innovations that charted the course of American history. But now when you go there it feels a little, in some areas, it feels a little dead.
Senator Fenberg: I say that with love because that's where I come from and it's in a lot of ways my home still. But, you know, it is kind of in some ways that those cities are the epitome of a world that has moved on but the city and the physical structures themselves have sort of stayed what they were. After the recession hit the GM plant closed and then the opioids just came in by the truckload. Frankly, if you go back to Dayton, Ohio now it is a struggling place that's frankly quite sad. And growing up maybe it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't a place where it felt like there was a lot of hope and a place where people were working together to create positive change. I think in a lot of ways people were just trying to get by.
Senator Fenberg: I think every city is different that faces these types of downturns and depressions, but in a lot of ways that's just where I was. There was a lot of struggle and some places react by organizing and mobilizing. I think, generally speaking, where I come from that wasn't where people went. But we could probably talk for days and days about the evolution of a city and its community, and how it fights to survive.
Senator Fenberg: But when I came up to Colorado, I think in a lot of ways I saw the complete opposite, where I saw people that were active, I saw a natural surrounding that was not only gorgeous, and incredibly diverse, and different from where I grew up but something that people respected. And I think in a lot of ways, years ago people spent the money, and had the foresight to preserve, and to understand that that is the asset for Colorado, our natural surrounding. And yeah, some of that means natural resources and money, but some of it just means preserving it for the sake of preserving it so future people can enjoy it.
Senator Fenberg: I think it was just a very different culture and when I came here I think I really just sort of immersed myself in that and wanted to just eat up everything I possibly could. I was involved in a lot of activism, a lot of politics. I kind of just jumped on whatever campaign I could find every single day. I was involved in anti-sweatshop work, I was involved in environmental work, and climate work, and human rights work. I ended up being in the student government, which is as nerdy and dorky as it sounds.
Senator Fenberg: It was a pretty eye-opening experience because as a young person, especially one that came from a place where I felt like I didn't have much of a voice, I felt like for the first time in my life I had a seat at the table, and I had some power, and I was able to put together the tools to use that power effectively. That was a huge learning experience and when I graduated college I think I was a little naive and I thought that's just how the rest of the world was going to be from that point on. I sort of found my path and realized that once you're out of college, and you're in the so-called real world it's different again. You no longer really have a seat at the table as a young person, you were sort of expected to just get a job, and fall in line, and follow that path and be that part of society.
Senator Fenberg: I wasn't satisfied with that and so I created an organization with some of my other friends in college that basically meant to be a vehicle for young people to have that seat at the table to shape their communities, and to shape the state that they're inheriting. That organization is called New Era Colorado. I started it with my good friend, Joe Neguse, who's now a congressman, my friend, Leslie Herod, who's now in the House of Representatives in Colorado with me in the legislature, and my other friend Lisa Kaufmann, who is the Chief of Staff to the governor here in Colorado now.
Senator Fenberg: The four of us were college friends. We wanted to do some big things and started this organization. I was the executive director for 10 years and oddly enough we are all still very good friends, and we work together just about every single day. It's been a lot of fun, it's been a weird ride, but it's exciting to sort of look back at what we've done, how we were just sort of stupid kids for a while, and now we're oddly sort of in charge of things. Which is a little bit of a scary thought, but I think also just shows the culture that Colorado has and how it can be welcoming to people that want to jump in, and be helpful, and be part of the solution.
Jason Jacobs: Can you talk a bit about the work that organization did and does?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, so New Era started, as I said, it's really meant to be a vehicle for young people to be involved in state level politics. So we did all kinds of things, we made tons of mistakes, we didn't know what the hell we were doing. We were starting a nonprofit entity and had never really started anything before in our lives. So we made a ton of mistakes but we learned a ton real fast. And we were scrappy, we sort of treated it as a startup but it was a nonprofit with a mission. Our goal was to make sure that young people were a very serious voting block and that their issues, and the values, and the things they care about were at the forefront of Colorado politics.
Senator Fenberg: We registered voters, we engaged them, we turned them out to vote, we educated them on what they were voting on. We've, to date, registered hundreds of thousands of young people to vote in Colorado. So, I think very easily one could say it has shaped Colorado's political landscape over the last decade or so and I think it had a very big impact on elections whether candidate, electoral elections, or issue-based elections like ballot measures and things like that.
Senator Fenberg: It's had a huge impact, it's the largest state young voter mobilization organization in the country now. I left obviously a few years ago but it's kind of grown and it's bigger than ever and it's super successful right now. And really is sort of like the core of how I really truly understood the halls of power and how change can happen.
Jason Jacobs: One campaign that I read about that it'd be great if you could touch on and that's around the video and the Xcel Energy stuff. But then, I guess, secondarily, if there's any other work or campaigns that you did that are illustrative of the things that you're most proud of during your time there. It'd be great for you to touch on those as well.
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, so we have this campaign that we just sort of stumbled upon in a way. The city of Boulder, it's a progressive city, people think of it as a place that's kind of a hotbed of environmental activism and thought, was at this crossroads where their franchise was up, their contract with the big utility was up for renewal. And in Colorado, every state's different, but in Colorado a city basically has two options. They can re-sign with the big monopoly utility and there's only one, it's Xcel Energy here. Or, they can be a municipal utility and run their own electric utility and make all the decisions for themselves. 29 cities have already become electric municipal communities in Colorado and there are thousands across the country, including Los Angeles, but very, very few cities have made that transition in modern time.
Senator Fenberg: In Colorado most of those happened in the early 1900s when the landscape was just very, very different. So, where most cities are sort of entrenched in this problem, this situation where they're only allowed to shop from one vendor, and that's the big utility. That's state law. There is no competition and that utility isn't really allowed to provide one city something different than what they provide the other cities. It's this captured market where no one really has any freedom and there isn't any normal consumer choice.
Senator Fenberg: So, we made the weird, bold, crazy decision to say, "Maybe we should actually be one of the first cities in a long time to break off and show how the city has control of its own destiny, what it can do on the energy and the climate side of things." And not because we thought Boulder becoming 100% renewable would change the world or solve the climate problem, we're a pretty small town. But because we wanted to be sort of a laboratory to set an example and to learn to be able to export those types of experiences to other cities and other areas for policy makers to learn from.
Senator Fenberg: We ran this campaign to break off, obviously Xcel was not happy about that. They did not want to lose the city of Boulder as a customer. I think it's about $30 million a year that they make just off of the city of Boulder, again, which is a pretty small population base. But more importantly they didn't want this to be a trend. They didn't want this to sort of be the first domino of other cities breaking off. It was a big threat to them.
Senator Fenberg: They spent a lot of money against us, we won just barely. It was sort of a David versus Goliath type of fight. We were just scrappy young people that were organizing this grassroots campaign versus a very large campaign invested by this utility. And we barely won. We put together a campaign video, just sort of like with some friends. It went viral. We became this sort of like moment in time where a lot of people around the country were watching us, and watching our success, and rooting for us, and donating to us, and just helping where they could. We had people literally coming in from around the country to volunteer in the last couple of weeks of the election.
Senator Fenberg: We pulled it off. It's been something that after we won that we've had many ups and downs. It's a long, arduous process to break off from a big utility, but it's actually moving in the right direction right now and I think we're be successful in actually pulling the plug and flipping the switch on having a municipal utility. I will say Xcel Energy is one of the better utilities out there. I would argue it's kind of a low bar, but they are at the top in terms of being responsible and having a cleaner energy portfolio. But again, this is such an existential crisis that I don't think a utility that is towards the top of a pretty weak list is good enough.
Senator Fenberg: So, I stand by what we did. I would do it again. It's exciting to watch sort of the progress that's happened and the stories that have come from it. That's one thing I'm super proud of and something that I think made me realize how big of a political problem this is, climate. There are just a ton of interests involved. There are people that want to do the right thing, but frankly sometimes it's not even that they want to make money it's that they are so invested in this old system that it's incredibly difficult to change midstream. That's where the utility sector is. I think the utility sector in some ways is agnostic. They just want to keep doing what they do. They're kind of agnostic about where the energy comes from but they're so invested in the old way of making energy that they can't pull out now without losing tons and tons of money.
Senator Fenberg: There are structural problems that I think I woke up to in that fight that I take with me now every day in all the different smaller fights that I have on a daily basis.
Jason Jacobs: Well, I feel like this discussion is at a fork in the road because, I mean, there's two different important topics I'm dying to get into, one of them is you mentioned that there's this existential crisis and I'd love to spend some time either now or later in the discussion talking about what type of crisis it is in your view, and from your seat. I know you're not a scientist in the lab, but what do you see? How have you framed the problem in your mind? But then the second whole thread, which is you started out this idealistic, grassroots activists that's had some real successes and is a real beacon of hope. But then, how did you find your ways into the Senate, and how did they let you in given that it's such a... I don't know. It's such a weird time, because there's people like you that are this beacon of hope that are fighting for everything good and just, and then there's also just a bunch of crap that's kind of mucking the waters and making it harder for us to move forward as a society and make progress.
Jason Jacobs: So, those are very different directions but I think they're both important. Where do you want to start?
Senator Fenberg: Well, I guess maybe we can jump into sort of my experience in the Senate and then maybe get into some of the policy stuff.
Jason Jacobs: Yeah, so how did that come about? What first gave you the idea? What was the first move, how did the campaign go? Any color around how you got into the seat you're in would be fascinating.
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, so, as we've been talking about, I was working at this organization, I was running New Era Colorado. It's goal is to engage young people in the political process. And after about 10 years I realized I was sort of the oldest person around in the office and it was sort of this realization where I was like, "Oh, huh. Maybe it's time for me to move on. Maybe I'm like the creepy old guy that is hanging on still." You know, so I kind of knew that I wanted to do something different. And I wanted to make sure New Era was in a place where I could hand it off in a way that it would continue to be successful.
Senator Fenberg: So it wasn't like I just wanted to walk away, but I wanted to sort of like close that chapter from my life but open it up for other people to be able to continue it while I moved onto something different. I wasn't totally sure, to be honest, I never thought I would be the one to run for office. I always thought I was more behind the scenes. I don't think I would have run if I was in a district where it would have been this tough, kind of swing district type of race. I work with those people, I work on those campaigns pretty much every day. That's kind of my job is to help those types of people get elected now, but it wasn't the kind of life I wanted for myself. I don't see myself as someone that is able to walk that line and constantly be moderating what I say, and thinking about every vote that I take and how it's going to impact my next election.
Senator Fenberg: I wouldn't have done it if I was in that type of position. But, you know, I lived in Boulder. And I had this moment where I realized, "Okay, it's time for me to leave New Era. I'm the only guy with some gray hairs around here. I've got to something different. I want to continue on this path and I want to have an impact in Colorado on state level politics and on the issues I care about." And at that point the person that held the senate seat was retiring. We have term limits in Colorado so he was forced to retire after two terms. Just about everything in politics, I think it's like 99% timing, and this seat was open. And it was an opportunity where people were asking me to run for it. I had to sort of rethink that whole notion of elected politics isn't my thing. I had to sort of train myself to be like, "Maybe I could be the person that is in that office. Not just the person that is pressuring the person in the office."
Senator Fenberg: So, I decided to jump in. And it was a pretty big life decision. It's a weird thing to do to yourself, to put yourself in that position to open yourself up to those attacks, to essentially go around your community and ask people if they like you, and ask them to support you. It's kind of an unnatural thing to do to oneself, but it was a lot of fun. It was a huge growing experience. I actually ended up not having a primary, and that is really the race in a safe democratic district, is the primary.
Senator Fenberg: I in some ways was lucky, in some ways got off the hook. In other ways I think I was handed this immense responsibility because of that and I had a general election, I had a Republican opponent, but it wasn't a super difficult race. I won and immediately realized, "Okay, my job is to help other people in more vulnerable districts get elected so we can make progress." And that's what it's about. I can be impactful, I can give a speech on the Senate floor, I can introduce bills, but it's only going to be effective if I have colleagues that agree with me and hopefully add up to a majority of my colleagues that agree with me.
Senator Fenberg: I immediately pivoted and worked to help get a majority. The Republicans had the majority at the time, obviously, I don't think this should be a deeply partisan issue but we've seen that it is. So I wanted Democrats to get the majority while I was there so I could be more effective. That was 2016. I think just like everyone else in America pretty much I thought we would wake up the day after election day with a very different country from the top on down. Same thing happened here in Colorado where I thought we would regain the majority in the state Senate, the one chamber that the Republicans held, but we were not successful. We lost it by one seat.
Senator Fenberg: So, the next two years in the legislature before the next election I was in this situation where I was representing a very progressive community that wanted bold action on things like climate, but I didn't have the majority votes to really get big things across the finish line. I immediately had to pivot once again and say, "All right, well what do I do? How do I use this situation to get as much done as possible, or at least to position us and myself to be effective when we do get the majority back?"
Senator Fenberg: I spent two years basically building relationships with Republicans and with my democratic colleagues that I felt like I needed to get closer with and build trust. And I got some stuff done, obviously it was everything I wanted to get done right away but we got some energy policy done. I worked with some Republicans where we could agree on a few thing and we got some big things done. I feel like I sort of gained a lot of friends and respect, across the aisle and on my side. And then basically gave up my life and committed everything I could to get the majority back in 2018. We were hugely successful and we got the majority by two seats.
Senator Fenberg: Now we are in a position where we've just had our first session with Democrats in charge of not only the Senate, but of the House, and we have a new governor who's wanting to do a lot on climate. And so we have a trifecta of, essentially, of a pro-climate majority and we want to use every minute we've got while we're in that position to move the ball forward significantly. In this past year we've made huge progress on climate any many other issues, I mean, climate obviously is only one of the big issues on our agenda right now.
Senator Fenberg: But we've had a hugely successful year. We are just about to go into our second session of this majority and there's a whole lot more to get done. So we're looking forward to getting back at it.
Jason Jacobs: I have a lot of questions about that, but maybe we can switch gears temporarily and just talk a bit about the nature of the existential crisis that you mentioned about climate. So, from your seat, how do you think about the problem?
Senator Fenberg: Well, in some ways it's the way I look at the problem is really what we need is bold action at the federal level, but we're not getting that. So that means we have to, you know, kind of I guess a theme here is that we need to have a plan B on just about everything. Not everything goes according to plan. If we are not going to tackle this problem at a federal level, and I would say it would be one thing if we're just not tackling it, but we're actually moving backwards at a federal level and that's incredibly damaging. If that's going to be the situation we have to be extra aggressive at the state level in the states where we can be. And I think Colorado needs to be one of those states that's leading the way.
Senator Fenberg: Really that's where it comes down to. The federal government's not acting, it falls on the states. Our government, our country was sort of set up to allow for that. We have these small little laboratories. We have 50 laboratories of democracy that are supposed to sort of debate, argue, create solutions to problems that other laboratories can learn from and develop and sort of tweak to effect their state. And hopefully we either create a movement across the country of those types of solutions and, or eventually it goes to the top and the federal government finally wakes up, and gets a backbone, and takes on the fight.
Senator Fenberg: But the last thing we can do is just wait for the next federal election over and over again. We have to be doing things on a state level. Obviously we can't solve this on a state level, but we can make a whole lot of progress and change the landscape, I think, pretty fast. That's the other thing about it on a state level, you can do things faster than you can at the federal government. The federal government's obviously just a big, slow-moving beast. The states are much more nimble and I think we need to use that to our advantage in these states where we can make progress. That's what we've been doing in Colorado.
Senator Fenberg: So the way I look at the problem is that it is our responsibility as a state to take on this fight at this moment in time. And what do we do? Well, we need to prioritize how we take it on. I mean, we need to look at, frankly, the biggest sources of emissions, the biggest problems, and we need to attack them. And we need to do that one by one, and we need to do it diligently. But we have to do it in a way that is not just cleaning up our backyard, is not just cleaning up the air in Colorado, but hopefully doing it in a way that can be replicated in other states. Because I think that in a lot of ways is the real challenge. It's one thing to shut down some coal plants in Colorado, it's a whole other thing to create policies to create sort of a landscape that can be replicated in other states and have a much bigger impact than just Colorado.
Jason Jacobs: So, putting aside your job and even the job of government overall, if we're just talking about the problem itself, when people frame the problem as, "We have 12 years to act." For example. Did you agree with that framing? Is that the framing that you've got in your head as well?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, I mean, I don't think we have 12 years to act, I think we have to act now. We have 12 years until we have an absolute disaster. We need to act now, this is absolutely an existential threat, it's a human threat, it's a worldwide threat. It's not just something that is impacting us as humans but it's impacting the entire world, the entire globe. It is serious, it is something that we have to act fast on.
Senator Fenberg: And it's really difficult and frustrating when so many of us believe this in a fundamental way, but then there are people that don't even believe or acknowledge that it's occurring. Or, some people acknowledge that it's occurring, but don't think we're the problem and therefore we're not the solution.
Jason Jacobs: Do they really believe that or is it more just that they're not comfortable with any of the proposed solutions on the left and therefore they just deny the problem outright as an impulse reaction, like defensive?
Senator Fenberg: I mean, I don't know to be honest. I think some of them know that there's a problem but they realize politically they have to oppose the solutions. Some of them I think genuinely don't believe there's a problem.
Jason Jacobs: Them being Republican elected officials?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, largely. In some ways I prefer to not say, "Yeah, Republicans are the problem." But it's real hard these days to not say that. I'll be totally honest. I mean, from the top on down there are not very many republicans willing to take this fight on. And that's a big problem, maybe the problem in moving the ball forward in coming up with solutions that can last. But, yeah. I've built relationships, I consider many of these, my Republican colleagues, friends. They're who I spend just about every day with, I've gotten to know them, I have conversations with them. I go out to dinner or I get a beer with them. A lot of them actually don't believe it, they think it is kind of a hoax. Some of them think that it's just scientists run amok and it's group think, and they all just quote each other but they haven't realized that maybe they're wrong.
Senator Fenberg: I don't understand how you can go home at night and truly believe that, but I do think many of them do. And then there are some that know there's a problem but just don't see any of these solutions as roles that the government should be playing.
Jason Jacobs: Given that there's so much science involved in terms of understanding the problem and then understanding what levers are going to be highest impact in terms of solution. I'm not a scientist, you're not a scientist. I make podcasts, but you are actually making policy or proposing policy. So, where do you and your colleagues turn to for the education on the underlying knowledge that's necessary to know which solutions to be championing?
Senator Fenberg: I mean, that's where you just have to lean on the science. You have to find trusted sources. In Colorado we have, I think, per capita the most climate scientists in the country. We have a lot of people that care a lot about this issue and really study it, and know their things on it. We have the federal labs, NOAA, NREL, NCAR that we can rely on and that do play a role in the policy making process here.
Senator Fenberg: So that's what we got to do. And not only rely on the science but we have to also look at, essentially, the math. If we need to get to X, what do we need to do to get there? And if you look at a pie chart of where all of our missions are coming from you've just got to go one by one and you've got to start with the biggest chunks of the pie. And I think that's what we've been doing. It's not because the smaller pieces aren't important. If we're in an emergency situation, which I think we are, you have to treat it like an emergency room, and you have to triage, and you have to say, "Well, the guy with the bloody nose can hang out for a while because meanwhile we've got a gunshot wound over here and we've got to fix that."
Senator Fenberg: And the gunshot wound is our electric supply. It's our coal plants and things like that. Once we get those under control, once we get that person stabilized, we have to move onto the smaller fights that are, in a whole, just as important if not more important. But will take longer and will be more frustrating to solve one by one. So we have to start with the big pieces. Willy Sutton was asked why he robs banks, his answer was, "That's where the money is."
Senator Fenberg: We have to go after coal plants, why? Because that's where the carbon emissions are greatest and then we have to move on down the line until we get to individuals' cars and people's homes, and how they're heating their homes and things like that. In the mix, probably somewhere in there in the middle is things like oil and gas. As an industry it emits huge amounts of emissions in Colorado, but it's harder to tackle and they are literally hundreds of thousands of wells in Colorado. And we need to go after each and every one of them but it's much easier to start with the five coal plants rather than the hundreds of thousands of wells.
Senator Fenberg: And that doesn't mean you can only do one thing at a time, but it does mean you have to sort of treat it like an emergency and prioritize things and make sure we are stopping the bleeding from the major wounds first before we try to make the perfect the enemy of the good.
Jason Jacobs: The tricky thing for me is I think conceptually, of course we want to reduce emissions and then conceptually, whether we can or we can't with what we got we want more breakthrough innovations. We need to pursue carbon removal, because why wouldn't we, given how far behind we are and how aggressive the timelines are in how much entrenched interests and inertia are inhibiting our ability to make progress. But, for example, should you employ carbon capture at point of emission in a coal plant? The proponents would argue that of course you should, because like it or not we're going to be burning coal for several decades to come regardless of how quickly we can divest. But the opponents would argue that by doing so it's essentially giving the big oil an excuse to keep right on digging.
Jason Jacobs: So, in that example I guess it'd be interesting to hear where you come out. But, also, that's an example of where there's gray area and the decision's not obvious and it really requires a level of technical analysis that I know I'm not equipped to do. So I'm just interested if there's so many scientist in Colorado, is that knowledge transfer occurring? Are there formal vessels for that? And is there anything we could be doing structurally to help arm you guys so that you feel more empowered to know where to put your weight behind from a policy standpoint?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, we should not do policies that slightly improve things but perpetuate the core of the problem. I think it would be a mistake to focus primarily on those types of approaches. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do things that incrementally improve the problem, I just think we need to make sure that we're not doing more damage than good if we put in some new policy about carbon capture but it allows coal plants to operate for the next 100 years.
Senator Fenberg: Because then, you know, this is a problem where small improvements basically is the same as failure. If we know we need to get to a certain point in terms of emissions or else we have basically disastrous situations, getting halfway there really doesn't help much. You need to get all the way to avoid the major, biggest ramifications. So we need to think about that, where, yes, we need to make small improvements if there are opportunities but we have to start with the huge improvements that we can make that get us a large portion of the way there if we have any hope of getting there in the time that scientists say we have.
Senator Fenberg: So, yes, carbon capture, but also shut down coal plants. Every state is going to be different. In Colorado we have a lot of old coal plants that are nearing the end. The question we are having is okay, this coal plant is expected to retire in 20 years. How do we make sure it retires in five years? What can we do to get it there faster?
Senator Fenberg: And then on the one coal plant that was built, I would say, very mistakenly a few years ago, what can we do to make that the cleanest coal plant in the world? If we literally cannot shut it down, financially speaking, what can we at least do to stop some of the bleeding from that coal plant that we know is going to exist for a bit longer? But meanwhile we have to be shutting down these other coal plants, these older ones that are emitting every single day and really don't need to be because we have the technology to replace it.
Senator Fenberg: I mean, that's the frustrating thing, right? Is that we actually do know exactly what we need to do, we have the technology. It's not like there won't be breakthroughs, but we could change everything overnight almost. We just don't necessarily have the political courage or the will to do it. And I don't want to say it's easy, but we could do it. We could transform our economy if we truly wanted to.
Jason Jacobs: Is that one or two big moves that we don't have the political courage to do or is that like a long tale of a ton of little things that all help turn the big tanker in the right direction? And tanker is a bad example, so, some other form of electric-powered ship.
Senator Fenberg: Well, I think it's both. There are a couple of big decisions we don't necessarily have the political courage to do that we could do.
Jason Jacobs: Like what?
Senator Fenberg: Well, I mean, like literally we could say, "We are changing the power supply." I mean, we have a regulated monopoly utility. So in some ways that's horrible because there's no competition and we know consumers want cleaner energy but the utility doesn't really need to respond to that pressure. But on the flip side it's like having an authoritarian government. China can make quick decisions and move on a dime because they just say, "This is what's going to happen." And then it happens. Whereas in a democracy it's sloppy and it's slow. So, if the monopoly utility model is authoritarian government, we can flip a switch and change things pretty quick. It's going to cost money and some people are going to lose money. But if we really believe that this is the threat and the crisis that it is, it needs to be worth it.
Jason Jacobs: So that's a mandate to the regulated utility industry? That's how that would come about structurally?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, I mean, it's going to be different in every state, how the regulations occur and what the landscape is. But in Colorado we have a utility that's willing to play ball for the most part, but I would say they're not going to get there fast enough. I would like them to move faster. So, yeah, we could say, "Hey, you've got to shut down those coal plants the next three years. We don't care what you were planning to do, you need to make it work and you're going to take a loss. That means your shareholders will take a loss." Maybe it will result in a little bit of an increase in rates for rate payers, but first and foremost we need to be okay with these large corporations that really have gotten us into this problem because they didn't see the writing on the wall and they didn't move fast enough. If they are an investor on utility there's going to have to be some pain to go around. We have to be willing to say that and have that hard conversation.
Senator Fenberg: So far we've always said, "Yeah we need to solve this problem. The utility needs to be a partner." But they need to be made whole. They shouldn't really suffer because it's not their fault. It's all of our fault, and if you're the utility provider it is absolutely you have a lot of blood on your hands, and you need to be part of the solution, and probably need to feel some of the pain.
Jason Jacobs: You mentioned before that states can move faster than the federal government and also how states can be a role model, not only for other states to follow but also kind of proof of concepts, if you will, that ultimately make their way to the federal level with enough critical mass in the states. Can you talk a bit about the tension between speed and durability?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, yeah, things can move fast at a state level which is a good and a bad thing. You look at a state like, I don't know, North Carolina, and maybe not around climate but just on progressive policies. Moving in the right direction and then after one election basically all just comes crumbling down because there's a new governor, there's a new legislator, et cetera. And you have things like redistricting that if the wrong people are in charge at the wrong time they can basically change the rules of the game and rig it for the next, at least, decade.
Senator Fenberg: So, yeah, things can change quickly, they can change back quickly. They can move backwards quickly as well. So I do think you're right, we need to think about the policies that we're putting in place in a way that can be durable. And one thing I would say is, you know, one of the biggest bills that we passed this last session was a reform of the oil and gas industry in Colorado. We're a big extraction state and yet we also care about climate, and the environment, et cetera and there's this sort of kind of problem that we're facing where oil and gas, the technology has gotten better and better and our population has increased. So the technology is able to access resources where we never were able to access them before and it's right where the population is booming.
Senator Fenberg: So we have this problem where neighbors living next to oil rigs and they never really did in the past. We clearly have to do something about this. We passed a comprehensive bill, it was my bill, Senate Bill 181 to reform the oil and gas industry and how we do things. One thing I was thinking about was how do we do this in a way that it isn't just going to get changed when someone else is in charge? This is a big deal, we haven't changed our oil and gas laws in about 50 years in Colorado. And everything has changed over the course of those 50 years.
Senator Fenberg: So I wanted this to last. One of the things I kept in mind was how do you, not just write a policy that can make sense and isn't just going to get deleted by the next administration or whatever, but how do you do it in a way that maybe the industry's not going to like it, I mean, they're definitely not going to like it, but in a way where it's not in their interest to roll it back, either.
Senator Fenberg: And this is going to be different for every fight but in the oil and gas industry so much of it is based on investment. The number one thing that they actually want as an industry is stability. They don't want a ballot measure every year, they don't want a new bill every year to change the oil and gas regulations. They want what they had the last 50 years where basically nothing changes for 50 years so they can go to their investors and say, "This is a safe bet. We know where our resources are, we know how to get them. Here's what we're going to do over the next 30 years to make sure these wells produce the maximum amount that you can expect." So, in some ways I wrote that bill and worked with stakeholders in a way that the industry would not want to roll it back because it would just create more instability for their investors. And then the investors would go to Texas or whatever.
Senator Fenberg: So in some ways you have to think about it just not like who's your enemy, who's your opposition, and how do you pound them? But how do you do it in a way where they're not going to be happy about it but they're probably not going to want to roll things back if the political landscape changes over night. And that's a really tough tightrope to walk. But it's also about building relationships and it's about being honest where you disagree and where you're going to diverge in major ways but also being able to still the next day have a conversation about how to solve problems together.
Jason Jacobs: When you look forwards at the... I mean, you mentioned before I thought was really interesting, that sometimes it makes sense to plow ahead and get policy in place because you feel confident that the kind of macro political landscape, if you will, is set up in a way where you can get things to the finish line and other times it makes sense to retrench and try to spend your time on the machine itself. Right? To put yourself in a more favorable position before trying anything bold. When you look at where you are today you mention within Colorado there's a favorable landscape, which is great, so you'll be full speed ahead there.
Jason Jacobs: But the bigger macro landscape, we have this 2020 presidential election of course and then there's The House, there's The Senate. At the federal level what are the hot buttons for you in terms of the most important areas that we need to focus on from the machine's standpoint if we want to make meaningful progress? How much of it's wrapped up in the presidential election versus other things? And if there's other things, what are they?
Senator Fenberg: I mean, yeah, we could do the whole semester college course on this question, right? The machine is important, but also you need to strike when the iron is hot and I think the Republicans have been really good at that over the last 10 years or so. But there are some major fundamental problems in our democratic process right now and it would be a mistake to not go after them. But I also think you need to think about the time horizon and how fast things can move to create the change that we're going to need. The presidential election is incredibly important, not even just from like... I mean, for one thing it sets the tone. It sets the stage for basically every other political conversation and debate in America.
Senator Fenberg: But there is so much happening at a regulatory level that people don't even know about that is disastrous. And that has to do with, you know, the other day Trump is rescinding the waiver for California for having their own emission standards for cars, which actually impacts Colorado because we adopted the same standards. Things like that, that are not, frankly, things that most Americans even know are happening. But they happen because of who's in charge at the federal level. So we can't take our eye off of the big prize of the president, because it matters.
Senator Fenberg: But we do absolutely need to regain majorities in the state Senate. I mean, sorry, in the U.S. Senate. And I would say that's a machinery question, that's a question of how do you get into the trenches and think about which states are important and who you can move? I think we at times as progressives have lost [inaudible 00:48:16]. We sometimes focus only on the machinery and then we get the majorities, and all of the sudden we're like, "Oh my god, how do we get all these huge ideas done?" And then you have 2010 happen, where it's a bloodbath for Democrats because they weren't ready to act, and maybe dropped the ball a little bit and couldn't do multiple things at once.
Senator Fenberg: So we need to have a built-out infrastructure from both. We need to be better about winning elections in the trenches and we also need to be better about governing to prove that once the voters give us that opportunity to govern then we can actually deliver.
Jason Jacobs: So as a concerned citizen and to any listeners that are also concerned citizens, and the odds are given the nature of the podcast there's probably a lot of them, how, other than just making sure to vote, what should they do? For example, are there organizations that you think are doing a particularly good job at working on the machine itself to further progressive causes or are there ways that as an individual I should pick off critical races in swing districts, for example, to support? Or, how should I think about it, how should others think about it that are concerned about this issue?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, I mean, it's an interesting question because there's no right answer because we need all of it. Sometimes people get into these academic debates about direct action versus being the squeaky wheel, versus being the guy that puts on the suit and lobbies. The answer is we need it all, one is not better than the other but we actually do need a healthy mix of all of those options on the menu. The folks that do direct action sometimes direct it at me. It's frustrating at the moment, but that's what we need. I mean, they are doing their job, they are playing a critical role in the democratic process to move change.
Senator Fenberg: And yes, things are not moving as fast as they would like, they're not moving as fast as I would like, and we both need to be rowing in the same direction even if we have incredibly different ways of rowing. So I would say, to be honest, the answer is you just have to do something and you have to do what you are most comfortable at. If you're comfortable being out there screaming at politicians and shutting down meetings from time to time, then go for it, frankly. But if you're much more comfortable having deliberate conversations with people that you maybe don't even agree with then I think you need to do that.
Senator Fenberg: The only thing you cannot do is just sit out and watch, and read The New York Times every night, and just hope somebody does something. That's the thing you cannot do, that is not an option right now. We need all hands on deck. And it will look different for every person, and I think it should. Some are going to create a podcast, some are going to run for office, some are going to blockade a street for a fossil fuel divestment campaign or something.
Senator Fenberg: And I do actually think we need all of it. We can't let people think that this is simply just another policy problem. We need to have people in the streets creating havoc for people to realize and remember the crisis that we are facing.
Jason Jacobs: So let's pretend it's January of 2021 and there's a Democrat in the office of the president. They call you up and say, "Senator Fenberg, we know you've been active in Colorado on pushing an agenda in this area and have been successful at getting things to the finish line, so please come see me. This is an important issue for me, but I want to know what are the things that I can do at the federal level that will make your life improve the most in this area." What would you tell that person?
Senator Fenberg: The president or the administration?
Jason Jacobs: Yeah, the new president. The incoming president who turns to you for advice for what they can do at the federal level to support you and your efforts in Colorado to clean up our act as a planet.
Senator Fenberg: Well, I would say, "Madam President, I love the fact that you're in the White House and ready to do bold change." And what I would say is there are several options. I think we need to re-look at some of the failed efforts from 2009 that got started but never got across the finish line in Congress. I think we need to think about a national carbon tax and maybe a cap and trade system, maybe one or the other, maybe both? But I think a carbon tax is absolutely something that we should be looking at and probably needs to happen at a federal level.
Senator Fenberg: I think having emission reduction standards as a country, not just state by state, not just one sector or another, but actually having enforceable goals that the EPA or other agencies can enforce. We have air quality standards, a lot of places aren't meeting them, including Colorado; Denver does not meet the EPA air quality standards. That's a shame, so we should enforce what we already have on the books.
Senator Fenberg: But I think we need to have not just air quality stance, we need to have emission reduction goals that are enforceable by law. We need to actually say this is where we want to be by such and such date, and we need every single state to have a plan, and we need to enforce those plans, and there need to be ramifications if you don't accomplish those plans. And we kind of had that until the 2016 election and things started falling apart. We need, I think, to just not skip a beat and get right back at picking up where we left off four years ago at this point.
Senator Fenberg: But those are some of the big things we need to do immediately. We need to have CAFE standards, emission standards for cars, for vehicles, for power plants. We need to take aggressive action at a federal level and empower the states to do it, and make sure that they are not getting waivers left and right for implementing those plans but that they actually have to accomplish them in a very short time horizon.
Jason Jacobs: So one final thread I wanted to talk to you about which is just that we've talked a lot in this podcast about the role of government and what's happening at the state level, what's happening at the federal level. But if you look bigger picture at the climate problem one thing we haven't talked about it is the market and is the role of capitalism overall and whether capitalism in its current form is the right vehicle to carry our economy forward into the next chapter, or if there's any tweaks we need to make to live in more harmony with the natural resources that our civilization, and species, and all lifeforms on this planet are built upon.
Jason Jacobs: Is that a topic you've thought much about? And if so, I'd love to hear how you think about that?
Senator Fenberg: So the topic you're asking about is the end of capitalism? How much more time do you got?
Jason Jacobs: I mean, I want to know... We talked a lot about government's role but what is the role of the business community other than just to do as their told?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah. I think that's a good question, I think the market, the business community, innovators, absolutely need to be playing a role. But I think the government absolutely has a role to play to encourage that. So, yes, there are some things where the government needs to use the power of the government and tell some of these sectors what to do, and we need to regulate them, and we need to get their emissions under control. I think that is a fundamental role of the government, right? Is to regulate, to ensure that everyone is acting in a way that protects, frankly, public health, really, in a lot of ways.
Senator Fenberg: So, yes, the government needs to play that regulator role. But the government can also play a role of saying, "You know, this is the direction we want to move in. So what can we do as a government to incentive the market to go there faster?" And there are all kinds of things. The government has played a role in incentives for electric vehicles and I think that has been enormously helpful. It doesn't mean the government is saying everyone all of the sudden now overnight has to only create electric vehicles, but there was something that the government did that created a jumpstart for that industry. I think more of that absolutely needs to happen. I don't think we should shy away from incentives and from government intervention in the market in order to make sure that the market moves where we as a society want it to move. Because markets aren't perfect.
Senator Fenberg: We also, I think, when we get into this academic debate we often talk about the market will solve the problem. In some of these areas, we don't have a market. Regulated monopolies are not a market. It is essentially a for-profit company blessed by the government to be a monopoly. So, maybe there are some areas where we need to get out of the business of being involved, such as the utility industry, and say, "You know what? This is a model that worked 100 years ago, we clearly have bigger problems on our hands and frankly government probably can't solve it in this structure."
Senator Fenberg: So, yeah, I think we probably do need to break up monopoly utilities and say the market needs to go to town and compete. We are in a place where we think consumers actually want cleaner energy, not just because it's clean, but also it's cheaper. Per kilowatt hour it is cheaper. There are areas where the government is actually in the way because it's not willing to give up these old models and I actually think the market or a version of a market can solve that problem. And we're seeing that in some states and not in others.
Jason Jacobs: Well you mentioned that clean energy is cheaper which brings up an interesting thorny topic which is that if you look at the emissions of, let's say, coal or natural gas versus something like nuclear, which is zero emissions, then I think investing in nuclear would help us get off of coal and natural gas much more quickly. At the same time, though, I think critics, one thing they talk a lot about is that nuclear just can't be competitive from a cost standpoint at least at a point in time snapshot today.
Jason Jacobs: So is the crisis such that we should put economics aside and do anything and everything to get to zero emissions whether the math works or not? Or should we only invest in things where from a market standpoint they win other than pricing the externality of carbon emission?
Senator Fenberg: Well, I think that's a good question. I don't think price should be the only thing but I think we should use it when it's to our advantage to be totally honest. I mean, if the price of solar is cheaper than coal or whatever, then by all means we should exploit that to create more solar. Now, some as you were saying would say, "Well, nuclear theoretically is even cheaper. Why aren't we incentivizing or going after that?" And the reality is if we truly have 10 year, 12 years, whatever you want to say it is getting a nuclear plant up and running is at least 20 year. Maybe 25, maybe 30. And dependent on the political and regulatory environment it could be longer. So maybe nuclear is something we should throw on the table to discuss, but it's not something that could be turned around fast.
Senator Fenberg: And so that's one reason why I don't think it's worth a lot of our time to be discussing in terms of policy makers, but also people don't want a nuclear plant in their backyard. It is just not something that I think people will welcome with open arms. And third, we have alternatives that don't create problems like solar, like wind, storage. Why would we potentially solve a problem by creating another problem down the road such as dealing with the nuclear waste or a potential health impact of something going wrong?
Senator Fenberg: I think if we know what the right solution and I think in some ways throwing nuclear out there as a discussion can be used as a tactic just to confuse people and to slow things down. I would say if we know what the answer is, we know what the cleanest possible solution is, we do know it's cost effective or at least competitive, there's really no rational reason to not go after it full speed ahead.
Jason Jacobs: So I guess my last question is, obviously, climate is only one issue and people need to look at the full picture when they're figuring out who to vote for in the presidential campaign. But there's this whole stack of democratic candidates and all of them are better than what's currently in office, but I guess what tips do you have for someone that is coming at it like me from a very climate-motivated place, where it's not my only issue but I care a lot about it and do believe it's an existential crisis? Everyone's using the same words or a lot of the same words when they talk about what needs to happen. So what advice do you have for how to translate as a regular voter to try to figure out who is going to actually be poised to have the biggest impact assuming they can take office?
Jason Jacobs: And I guess related to that is the difference between who has the boldest ideas, but also the ability to actually get them into place? Because if someone has the strongest platform but the weakest execution once they're in office then it's not going to do us any good either. So, I guess, how do you think about that trade off and go about figuring out where to put your chips?
Senator Fenberg: Yeah it's a good question. Like you said it's kind of like, well, they all would be leaps and bounds better than where we are right now. But you're right. We can't just settle for not Trump. We need to make sure we're doing it right because this is probably, frankly, our last opportunity to do the right thing and get on the right path. I think in some ways it's not just the talking points that they talk about but what are their concrete solutions that they have that they are offering and willing to put their shoulder into and really get done?
Senator Fenberg: And also who are they going to hire to execute? I think Obama had some of the best and the brightest people around him. He was willing to bring on people who were contrarians that didn't agree with him on everything. I think that made him a better president. But he also embraced science in a very real way. Ask a candidate or whatever who's going to be their chief person in charge of the climate crisis. They should have an answer for that, who's the team that they're going to put together, what are the first things they would do within their 100 days in office, what are the concrete things they will do and who's going to execute those plans?
Jason Jacobs: My last question is a personal one which is just that you talked about having gray hair and needing to maybe move on and find a next adventure that led you to the state Senate, but from my seat you're a pretty young guy and you're obviously ambitious. So when you look at the future, I guess, where do you hope to have your biggest impact longterm over the long arc of your career?
Senator Fenberg: Well, yeah, I'm 35. I'll be 36 soon. I have a baby on the way in a couple of months.
Jason Jacobs: Congrats. Very exciting.
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, it's exciting and incredibly scary.
Jason Jacobs: Nothing changes, don't worry about it.
Senator Fenberg: Yeah, yeah. After we just talked about doom and gloom for an hour. I don't know where I go next. I'm actually still in my first term, so I'm up for reelection in 2020 and could do another four years after that through 2024. I'm planning to run for reelection, but we'll see. As I said before, politics is almost 100% timing and if an opportunity arises where I think I can have a bigger impact, I'll it in a heartbeat. That's not to say I don't love what I'm doing but I don't see my job as advancing my own political career, or myself, or my image. I never wanted to be an election official, sometimes I'm pretty uncomfortable doing it still.
Senator Fenberg: I'm not ruling out running for office again in the future, but it's not my plan. I'm not making votes and I never want to be someone who goes to the legislator every day and looks through the lens of, "How is this vote going to help me in my run for Congress?" I think that is what's wrong with politics in a lot of ways. I don't want to do that. My role is, in a lot of ways, is I'm an activist. I try to create as much change as I can on the issues I care about. That may be running for office again but it may not be. And I'm definitely not in this to be a politician for the rest of my life. My wife absolutely doesn't want me to do that. So eventually I won't have a choice.
Senator Fenberg: But I want to do what I can do to create the most change. That could be running for office, it could be staying in the state legislator for another several years. It could be working in a cabinet or an organization. In some ways it's scary because I have no idea what the hell comes next and in another way it's incredibly exciting and I kind of like the idea of being a free agent and just seeing what opportunities come my way.
Jason Jacobs: And for anyone listening that that resonates with how you think about things and how you're going about things in office and wants to see more candidates cut out of your cloth representing them wherever they are in the country, how do we make that happen?
Senator Fenberg: [crosstalk 01:05:25].
Jason Jacobs: How do we get more people that are cut out of your type of cloth into elected seats in whatever capacity?
Senator Fenberg: Well, I think, for some of you it means you should run for office. A lot of people don't think of themselves as someone who ever would do that. I didn't. And it doesn't mean you have to run for state legislator, you can run for city council or a county commission seat or something like that. But I think more importantly it's also not about not everyone should run for office, but everybody probably knows someone that should. And I think sometimes when election season is around the corner, it's good to sort of do an inventory of who's in your life. And a lot of times people won't ever run for office just because they want to run for office. But somebody needs to ask them to do it. I think that's true for people of color, I think that's true for underrepresented groups, for women. Sometimes they need to be asked and sort of pushed into it a little bit.
Senator Fenberg: But I think it's true for everybody. So if there's somebody in your life, there's someone you know, a scientist or someone who just has a good head on their shoulders and has the right heart and the right direction, maybe you should ask them if they want to run for office. They're probably going to say hell no. But maybe then you get somebody else to ask them also and you sort of put the pressure on and get them to realize that they could be a leader even if they're not the best public speaker, even if they're not necessarily an expert. Those are the types of people sometimes that I think make the best elected officials. They're not the people that will always go on to run for Congress and then maybe run for president, but we don't need more of those people. That's for sure. We have plenty of those types of politicians. We need people that are just simply doing it for the right reason.
Senator Fenberg: There are people, the old saying is, that run for office to be somebody and then there are people that do it to do something. We need more people that are wanting to do something. And I think that means people from all walks of life need to get in there. And then when they do get in there you need to support them. You need to dig deep and write them a check, you need to host a house party, you need to reach out to them, and if you're a scientist offer to be be their science advisor.
Senator Fenberg: So I think there are all kinds of roles people can play. Some should run for office, not everyone should. But most importantly identify those people that want to do something rather than be somebody and encourage them to get involved in a more meaningful way.
Jason Jacobs: Well this has been a long, winding, comprehensive discussion. Is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have? Or any parting words for listeners?
Senator Fenberg: You know, I don't think so. I think really the parting words are we have seen the last couple of years that fear is contagious. That conspiracy theories are contagious, but I think we also have to remember that hope is also contagious and there's only one clear way that we are guaranteed to fail and that is if we give up hope. Maybe the odds are against us, even, I'll be honest. But I think if you have hope and you dig in, I think there's a real chance that we can solve this and come ahead. But the only way to do it is if we work together and actually keep that hope alive and look for solutions.
Senator Fenberg: The last thing people should be doing is giving up their hope and giving into the fear that's out there right now.
Jason Jacobs: Well, Senator Fenberg, thank you so much for coming on the show. And thank you so much for working so hard to represent our interests as well. I'm really inspired by the work you're doing and by your outlook. Personally, I hope that there's more elected officials like you that are representing us in whatever capacity. I found this discussion really great.
Senator Fenberg: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. And thanks for having me.
Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone, Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey you can visit us at myclimatejourney.co. Note, that is .co, not .com. Someday we'll get the .com, but right now .co. You can also find me on Twitter @Jjacobs22 where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear. And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.