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Wait, the Russians are making MORE money on oil?
Apr 28, 2022
Episode 652

Wait, the Russians are making MORE money on oil?

Despite sanctions, Russia's war chest is growing.

President Joe Biden has asked Congress for an additional $33 billion to help Ukraine. His call for funds comes amid reports that Russia’s revenue from energy sales has almost doubled since it launched the war on its neighbor. We’ll dig into why that’s happened and the role sanctions play. Then we shift into a serious conversation about the extreme measure one climate activist took to protest the lack of action on climate change. (Gentle note to listeners: This story talks about suicide.) Later, we’ll reflect on the successful completion of the James Webb Space Telescope, and we’ll finally get some ducking answers.

Here’s everything we talked about on the show today:

Join us Friday for Economics on Tap. We’ll be livestreaming on YouTube starting at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time, 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, anxiety or depression, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Here’s how to find help outside the U.S.

Make Me Smart April 28, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal: Hey everybody I’m Kai Ryssdal welcome back to Make Me Smart making today make sense is what we do on this pod.

Kimberly Adams: Do we though? Do we?

Kai Ryssdal: Well, I like to think so.

Kimberly Adams: Yes, we try. I’m Kimberly Adams, thank you for joining us this Thursday. We’re gonna do some news. And then we’re going to wrap things up with some make me smiles which we’re definitely going to need after what I want to talk about. So let’s start with the news. And Kai, why don’t you go first?

Kai Ryssdal: I’ll go first mine’s a quickie. And I, you know, you could choose gross domestic product today, you could choose this and that. The thing I want to do is just do a little context on one of the big stories of the day, which is the White House going to Congress saying, Hey, we didn’t another $33 billion for Ukraine. I almost said Afghanistan. How about that? Another $33 billion for Ukraine, right? Because this war is gonna go on for a while, Blinken and the defense secretary, were there this weeken. I mean, clearly United States is is digging in deeper, weapon wise. But so yes, that. Here’s the other part of this equation, though. And it is this since the invasion on the 24th of February, right. And this is research from the Center for Research on energy and clean air. It shows that since the invasion on the 24th of February, Russia has basically doubled over a year ago, the amount it has taken in in oil and gas revenues, $66 billion. And look, I know that gas was in the news this week with Poland and Bulgaria. And I know that the Europeans are largely making moves toward weaning themselves off this geopolitical trap that they’ve gotten themselves into. But $66 billion is a lot of money. And it’s going toward in part, the Russian war machine. And I just think we had a we got to keep that in context. I just want to say over what

Kimberly Adams:  I don’t understand. They’re making more money off oil and gas than they did before the sanctions?

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah. Because before the sanctions, oil was what was it 65, $70 a barrel, West Texas Intermediate today 105. It’s been as high as $130 a barrel. So even though they’re selling less, it’s more expensive. And so they’re getting more money.

Kimberly Adams:  Man, what a, what a cycle. So the sanctions pushed up the price of oil, which made it so that Russia needed to sell less oil to make the same amount of money and more. Ugh.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, how about that? How about that.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, well, I guess sort of related oil, fossil fuels and climate change. Two kind of related stories for me, and one of them is pretty grim and graphic. So just a flag if you have little ears listening. So the first one is there was a scene, I guess it was maybe last week or the week before. From “Good Morning Britain,” which is basically a version of like, the U.S. morning shows, but it’s like a morning talk show in Britain, where these people were on talking about this stop oil, stop using oil activists, right. So it’s this activist group called “Just Stop Oil.” And they’ve been like protesting and disrupting oil supply at oil terminals in England, and trying to block the use of it. And so they had some of their activists on the show, talking about the climate crisis, and just how bad it was. And the host were being, like really dismissive of the issues that they were bringing up, including at one point, of the hosts as the woman who’s talking, “well, aren’t you being hypocritical because the dress that you’re wearing is in some ways, you know, because of oil?” And she’s like, “We’re about to face global food shortages in a decade. And you’re asking me about my dress.” The reason I bring this up is because lots of people compared this scene to a scene in the movie, “Don’t Look Up”, where these scientists in the movie are trying to warn everybody about this comment that’s about to destroy the planet, and nobody takes them seriously. So Mendi Hasan, who has a show, Mehdi Hasan, who has a show on MSNBC, actually lined those scenes up side by side, so that you can see what the scene in the movie which was, you know, a satirical movie look like, and the scene in real life, and it is uncannily similar. So a medium, light hearted take on the climate crisis, but still very, very serious. The woman who, who was, you know, the subject of this, had an article, I think, in The Guardian, where she talked about it, she actually hadn’t seen the movie, before all of this happened. And one of the points she made, she said, you know, if as many people as we’re sharing and tweeting about how this reminded them of the movie, actually took action on the climate crisis, it might do something. All right now for the really grim take on this, or unless you had something to say on that first, did you see it? No, no, I got nothing to say, go ahead, because this one’s important too.  On Friday, to coincide with Earth Day, there was a man named Wynn Bruce, who sat down outside of the Supreme Court Supreme Court and set himself on fire. And he later died of his injuries. And, you know, self-immolation has long been used as protest. And his father and many people who know him say that the reason that he did this was as a protest against inaction on the climate crisis. And the Washington Post has an obituary of him that’s really powerful. And gets into his life, some of the traumas that he experienced, and what some of the things that led him there, and he’s spoken out about the climate crisis in the past, and, you know, obviously felt some connection to protesters of the past who use self0immolation as a way to demonstrate the seriousness of an issue, whether it be the Vietnam War or something else. It wasn’t the first time he tried to demonstrate in this way.

Kai Ryssdal: Oh is that right? I didn’t know that.

Kimberly Adams: No, no, he tried it before at the United Nations. But people were able to put him out beforehand. One of the lines in this is really strong, because it talks about, I’m going to try to find this because I didn’t scroll through. Basically, the idea that this is a really painful way to die, extraordinarily painful way to die. And one of the reasons that this has been used as a form of protest is to demonstrate how serious people are about things.

Kai Ryssdal: So effective, for sure.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, this gentleman was also Buddhist. And he in the center that he attended, said that they didn’t have any idea about his plans, and they would have stopped him in any way possible. But in their statement, this is what it said. “We have never talked about self-immolation. And we do not think self-immolation is a climate action. Nevertheless, given the dire state of the planet and the worsening climate crisis, we understand why someone might do that.” This is, this, I think it was last month that you had all these scientists like literally chaining themselves to banks, and throwing, you know, blood red paint on the Spanish parliament. And it’s, you know, that IPCC report that said, we’re basically at the point of no return. And this This just made me wonder what stage of you know, I don’t even know how to say it. Like, what where are we? That this is what people feel like they need to do to draw attention to this. That’s what I’ve got on that.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah.

Kimberly Adams: It’s a beautiful obituary, and worth reading.

Kai Ryssdal: And we will, we’ll put it on the show page. And we’re going to take a beat and make a really awkward turn here. But you know what? Hang on a minute. Let me back up.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah.

Kai Ryssdal: Yes, this turn is going to be awkward. But the news that Kimberly just shared with us is really important. And, and that’s what this podcast is about. Maybe you missed it in the firehose of news. And we take 15 minutes and do this. And then we try to, you know, talk about other stuff. That’s it.

Kimberly Adams: And actually, before we before we make that turn, I also just want to take this moment because very important topic, if you or somebody you know, is in distress, and needs help, they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, that number is 800-273-TALK, that’s 800-273-8255. You can also text a crisis counselor at 741741. So if you or anybody that needs you, or anybody else needs help, those resources are available. Now we can take the turn

Kai Ryssdal: Now. There you go. All right, you go first.

Kimberly Adams: Yes, since I brought us down, I’m going to try to bring back up with something I guess, related to science and climate sort of its NASA. Today was a pretty great moment for our ongoing obsession, the James Webb Space Telescope. Webb is now in full focus. They’ve done all of the little tweaks and maneuvers that they need to get the telescope ready to go. And now they’re ready to start turning on the various instruments on the telescope. Why is this important? We’ve got new pictures, and the pictures are awesome. And they’re like, just really cool looking. And this is it shows all these different ways that they were, you know, checking the alignment, including like the Fine Guidance Center, and then all these other acronyms for machines that I don’t know what they are, but it looks cool on the website for NASA. I don’t know what an NIRspec is, or NIRcam. But the pictures are below These acronyms are very lovely. So that link to that is also going to be on the show page. And I’m excited to see that now they can turn on the instruments  what we’re gonna get next and some of these instruments have like, unique lenses, masks, filters, and so much science. Yay, science.

Kai Ryssdal: The incredible part is that it’s all working. I mean, watch me jink, knock on wood. But it’s all working. It’s a zillion miles away.

Kimberly Adams: A million miles away!  A million.

Kai Ryssdal: It’s incredibly complicated. A million, fine, you know what I mean.

Kimberly Adams: Yes.

Kai Ryssdal:  But yeah, it’s it’s, and it’s working. Are you kidding me?

Kimberly Adams: It’s working.

Kai Ryssdal: Oh, hey, by the way, by the way, speaking of space stuff, are you the one who told me to watch “The Expanse.”

Kimberly Adams: I think multiple people told you to watch the expanse but I also told you to watch “Neverending Story.” So I kind of dismiss anything I told you in that regard.

Kai Ryssdal: You’re killing me. I set it up to give you a compliment and you knifed me in the back. All right. Anyway, here comes mine. God, unbelievable. Alright, so some props to Tony Wagner who put this or maybe it was Ellen. I don’t know. It was Tony, who put this in the newsletter. I think yesterday, I saw it yesterday morning. And I was gonna use it. But we don’t do that on Wednesdays. But this is amazing. So if you’ve ever had an iPhone, and AutoCorrect something on you specifically, certain very, very pungent words that you like to use perhaps a lot in your texting and it translates it into something else. This little moment is for you. So let’s hit that tape and then I’ll explain.

Joanna Stern in Wall Street Journal clip: The technology you created has linked this poor creature to a certain obscenity. What do you have to say to it?

Ken Kocienda in Wall Street Journal clip: I’m very, very sorry. I never meant it. But it’s all my ducking fault.

Kai Ryssdal: So the Wall Street Journal, the tech reporter for The Wall Street Journal, went and actually investigated why just for instance, the iPhone always corrects that expletive to ducking and it’s great and it’s like eight minutes long with the guy who wrote the software and you should just take it out because, honestly, how frustrated have we all been? Because you’re like the phone, the phone knows where I am within a frickin meter like every bleeping moment of my life, but it can’t understand what I’m trying to say in this text that I say all the time. Sorry, anyway, check it out. We’ll put it in the show notes.

Kimberly Adams: I don’t know what you’re talking about Kai, I never have this problem.

Kai Ryssdal: Anywho, it’s on the webpage, eight minutes of your time. It’s really interesting. It’s really interesting and props to the Journal for going and digging this one out. Honestly.

Kimberly Adams: Yes.

Kai Ryssdal: And there we go. We’re done. We’re done. Rant over.

Kimberly Adams: This is like, throw you under the bus multiple times today.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s right.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, well I was supposed to talk that’s it for us today we’ll be back tomorrow for Economics on Tap. And that is the day that we have a drink, talk about the news play a game and it’s all streamed live on YouTube if the internet gods cooperate, and we would love for you to join us at 3:30pm Pacific Time that’s 6:30pm here on the East Coast where I am.

Kai Ryssdal: Which Kimberly and I haven’t done, we haven’t done a Friday in like three weeks maybe even a month.

Kimberly Adams: I know, I know.

Kai Ryssdal: But it’s been probably longer Bridget probably knows anyway. Meanwhile send us  your thoughts your questions fo Whaddya Want to Wednesday comments on what you hear on this podcast or anything else you want to tell us about anything really our email is makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a message 508-U-B-SMART, and we’re out of here.

Kimberly Adams: Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera and Maeque Greene with help from our intern Tiffany Bui And today’s episode was engineered by Charlton Thorp who always gives us a warning before he hits the music at the top.

Kai Ryssdal:  He does indeed. Bridget Bodnar is the senior producer this podcast and some others actually. The director of On Demand is Donna Tam.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer