Our founder, Stephen Porder, who’s also the Provost of Sustainability at Brown University, has some ideas. He just got back from living in France for a year and he noticed some differences in the ways that country approaches energy and transportation. 

Welcome, Stephen!

Stephen Porder: Hey, Megan, it's great to be back. How are you doing?

Megan Hall: I'm great. So what were you doing in France?

Stephen Porder: I was on sabbatical working with some geochemists on some of my science and finishing a book and eating a ridiculous amount of bread and cheese.

Megan Hall: That sounds lovely. What does France do that we should consider trying here in the US?

Stephen Porder: Well, I was living in Paris, which as you know, is obviously an urban environment. And the first thing that caught my eye almost on day one, was how many electric vehicle charging stations there were just on the side of the street, sort of like parking meters. So you'd go every couple of blocks, there'd be five or six cars plugged in. Those were personal cars, rental cars, whatever.

Megan Hall: Why does it make a difference? I mean, don't people usually just charge their car at home or on the highway?

Stephen Porder: So charging on the highway still takes a long time. I just got an EV and it takes almost an hour to charge. And most people aren't on the highway a lot, especially in cities, people are driving short distances less than four miles at a time. And then the other thing is that not everyone lives in a standalone home in a suburban setting. If you live in an apartment building, or you live in a rental, you might not be able to put a charger and you might not own the property.

Stephen Porder: But if you can pull up to work park on the street and charge there come out at the end of the day, you're fully charged. 

Megan Hall: What's something else France does that the US should try to copy? 

Stephen Porder: Well, I'm not sure the US should try and copy it. But France gets most of its electricity from nuclear power. And while nuclear has many issues associated with it, one thing it's really good for is not emitting co2 during electricity production. Now in the US, we've been shying away from nuclear for quite some time.

But France has a point we need an electricity grid that doesn't generate greenhouse gases. So yes, it's great to have electric vehicles. But we also want a way to charge them that doesn't produce any emissions. So what should we do here in the US instead, here I think the path forward is through offshore wind and solar and onshore wind in windy places like Texas, in the Midwest,

Megan Hall: If you were to give advice to the people who are designing this infrastructure plan, what would you tell them?

Stephen Porder: There's a lot we can learn from a lot of different places. And you know, I'm no way saying that France is better than the US or perfect or anything like that.

But there are some things about what they're doing that I think we could really learn from this problem of climate change is so vast and is going to require so much creative thinking that I don't think anyone has all the answers. And so looking around for bits and pieces we can pull from different places is clearly going to be critical in moving forward.

Megan Hall: Now that you're back, do you think you're going to do anything that's more French?

Stephen Porder: Well, I'm hoping to learn how to bake some bread because I'm definitely jonesing for French bread now that I'm home.

Megan Hall: Great. Thanks, Steven. It's great talking to you and welcome home!

Stephen Porder: Thank you, Megan. It's great to be back and great talking to you as always.

Megan Hall: That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and the Public’s Radio.