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Q&A: Bret Kugelmass, Energy Impact Center

Last April, the Fastest Path to Zero Summit assembled research and policy leaders to explore climate change mitigation. This April, with help from Kugelmass, we plan to do it again.

Energy Impact Center, the research initiative founded by Bret Kugelmass, is the largest contributor to the Fastest Path to Zero initiative. The nonprofit is focused on exploring nuclear power and its role in deep decarbonization. Bret graciously agreed to sit down with us and discuss what he loves about Fastest Path.

When did you first get involved with FPZ? What attracted you to the cause?
My intro to Fastest Path to Zero came through Todd Allen. I had seen all the work he’d been doing throughout the world and with Third Way. He went out of his way to get me a tour of Idaho National Lab. I was inspired by everything extra that he was doing so over the last couple years I’ve built a relationship with him and I see him as a mentor with see how nuclear energy can be important to the world.

What other causes do you support? How do they compare to FPZ?
I run the nonprofit Energy Impact Center which focuses on deep decarbonization. We believe that nuclear is a key enabler of deep decarbonization. We’ve given to different organizations that advocate for nuclear power such as Generation Atomic but Fastest Path is the largest contribution that we’ve given. The efforts that Fastest Path is making have the ability to make the most impact. We’d like to leverage the work they’re doing to increase prominence.

What has the FPZ has accomplished so far? In the near future? In the long term?
One of the things Fastest Path does well is how it addresses a nuanced argument in the climate change debate around what is necessary to truly tackle emissions. People might think it’s good enough to reduce emissions, but reduction is not the same as actually addressing climate change. Fastest Path keeps the convo focused on what is really necessary to tackle climate change rather than just play into whatever narrative is friendly to audiences. The connection between nuclear energy as a key enabler of our climate change goals is something that Fastest Path does very well and we don’t see that in other organizations.

What do you hope is the lasting legacy of FPZ?
I’ve been so impressed with the Fastest Path leadership because they understand we’re passed the point of small measures. We need to really be able to accept unconventional ideologies to tackle a problem as enormous as climate change. By bringing me in as a heterodox opinion, I hope to see a true moonshot conversation emerge. We have to do better than we’ve been doing and radically change our approach to climate change and cultivate an environment where that is the focus. We need a true overhaul of the way we’ve been tackling this problem.

Support what you 💙 about NERS. A gift on Giving Blueday (12/3/2019) to the Fastest Path to Zero supports 21st century nuclear energy discovery and encourages interdisciplinary exploration across technology, business, policy, design, and art—and U-M College of Engineering will match your gift.

The Fastest Path to Zero Initiative is a cross-campus team of interdisciplinary experts formed by U-M Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences and U-M Energy Institute to tackle difficult research questions about how policymakers, researchers, and communities can work together to meet ambitious climate goals in Michigan and across the nation.

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