10 October 2019

On today’s show, we have MIT-trained physicist and entrepreneur Peter Fiekowsky who is committed to leaving behind a world he is proud of. Peter’s passion for that goal drives his leadership in multiple climate initiatives, including volunteering for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and founding the Climate Restoration Alliance (CRA). He is also founder and president of Automated Visual Inspection (AVI) LLC and a board member of Zynergy Capital Inc. He holds 27 patents.



  • How much support does the United Nations currently give for the environmental effort?
  • What are possible solutions to rid the world of the CO2 problem and how much will these solutions cost?
  • What is the future of power?
  • What is ColdFusion?
  • How do crypto currencies like bitcoin, and all the energy that it takes to mine them, affect the environment?

We would like to give a special thanks to Sunil Bhaskaran who is the founder of “The Global Business Mastermind” for connecting us with Peter Fiekowsky. Without Sunil, this interview would not have been possible.


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Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

Shawn Flynn  00:02

On today’s episode we sit down with MIT-trained physicist and entrepreneur, Peter Fiekowsky, who is committed to leaving behind a world he is proud of. Peter’s passions for the goals drives his leadership in multiple climate initiatives, including volunteering for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and founding the Climate Restoration Alliance. He is also the founder and president of Automated Visual Inspections, and a board member of Synergy Capital. He holds 27 patents. We talked about cold fusion, and what technology out there is there to lower the CO2 in the environment. How much would it cost? And how would it be applied? We talked about the technology coming out of Silicon Valley that may change our future, and much, much more. This is a fascinating interview. I know everyone out there will get a few nuggets of amazing information. So enjoy.

Intro  00:57

You are listening to Silicon Valley by The Investor’s Podcast where your host, Shawn Flynn, interviews famous entrepreneurs and business leaders in tech. Discover how money is made in Silicon Valley and where tech is going before it gets there.

Shawn Flynn  01:20

Peter, thank you for taking the time today to be on Silicon Valley. And it’s very fascinating because I uncovered that… Correct me if I’m wrong, you are the inventor of the blinking bicycle light.

Peter Fiekowsky  01:32

I haven’t been accused of that before. That’s probably true. The 70s was an amazing time to be an undergraduate. And we’re getting LEDs and all sorts of things. And I thought, you know, I want to have a blinking bicycle. I could save batteries. I decided not to patent it. It’s interesting because things are so different now, almost 50 years later. The things that people invent are actually more interesting, but perhaps less useful but definitely more interesting. And I really enjoyed my career. It has come through. I was an undergraduate in physics. And I ended up doing astrophysics.

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So I was… I worked here at NASA, just a few miles from here for a few years, got bored, went to do artificial intelligence. And I did the first demo at the Fairchild AI Lab. And Fairchild was making semiconductors back then it was 64k DRAM. We were making 64k memory chips. And they needed to inspect them. So I designed an inspection machine. And then they started going out of business. And so I asked if I just could take that out on my own and decided after a little while, but that wasn’t going to work, that KLA-Tencor had a lot more money than I did and better marketing. That started my career in semiconductors software. I ended up doing volunteer work in working with the UN, working in Congress for poverty reduction. And that’s sort of where the fun part of the saga begins.

Shawn Flynn  02:56

So how long have you been working in the humanitarian field?

Peter Fiekowsky  03:00

Well, I got started there in ’87. They work with volunteers around the world, getting funding for poverty issues. And what was amazing was back in the mid-80s, the head of UNICEF asked us to get funding to immunize the world’s kids. Because at the time, it was just Europe and the United States that immunized all of our kids. His advisors told them well, “This is the Reagan administration. That’s not going to happen. 

Why don’t you see if someone else gets elected, because then we could probably get money.” And our organization said, “We’re just going to make this happen.” So we talked with members of Congress. We talked with the media. In eight years, the immunization rate went from 8% to 85%. Almost everyone on the planet gets immunized. And ever since that, about 92%. That was okay. Yeah, we didn’t know that that was ridiculous. The next thing… The big thing we took on was micro finance. The leader for microfinance. Muhammad Yunus was on our board. He’s the one who got the Nobel Prize for microcredit, micro finance. We said what would be a goal worth working on? We said, “Okay, let’s get half the people living on less than $1 a day access to microfinance.” So it was 100 million loans in 10 years, we didn’t make it, it was 11 years. If you figure five persons per family, that was a half a billion people in 10 years, we had access.

Shawn Flynn  04:20

How did you implement something to have that scale?

Peter Fiekowsky  04:24

Well, it was interesting that first we thought we’d have to do a lot of work. But it turned out that people love banking. The trouble was, how do you find those people that again, have less than $1 a day. So after about three years, all of our focus was working with universities, working with USAID, putting together the infrastructure so that they could actually find those people. Because if you imagine you’re making less than $1 a day, we’re all the same. You want to hide. You don’t want people to see you because you’re embarrassed because you’re not making any money. That was where almost all of our effort went.

Shawn Flynn  04:58

So then how were you measuring success through that?

Peter Fiekowsky  05:03

Well, we decided that very simply, we had a very clear goal, hundred million loans to people living on less than $1 a day. And that was the measure of success.

Shawn Flynn  05:13

But for the humanitarian field, do you find that sometimes these lofty goals of “we will do this, we will do that,” but no actual metrics on how to measure it?

Peter Fiekowsky  05:23

Yes. You know, obviously, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. And on the other hand, you know, my main project, which we will be discussing is climate restoration. Probably everyone listening to this is very familiar with what’s going on with the climate, with global warming. The fact that everything is collapsing, our forests are collapsing, our coral reefs are collapsing. And then you say, “Well, what do we do about it?” Exactly the right question. Make a specific goal, and then something that you can achieve. Because just with the immunization project, it was to get all the world’s kids immunized by, and I forgot how many years it was. And then microfinance was the hundred million loans in 10 years. Once you say what and by when, things happen. That we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing right now. President Kennedy was brilliant. He said, landing on the moon, bring him back safely by the end of the decade. And so we knew exactly what and exactly when. And of course, we just did it. The technologies developed there were the key to almost everything we do today, almost everything here in Silicon Valley got started in that 10-year Apollo program. The microchips, computer languages, a lot of plastics, velcro, everyone knows velcro. Everywhere you look, things started there.

Shawn Flynn  06:46

Would you say that because of the cut in NASA or the budgeting for NASA, and maybe some improvements have slowed down in Silicon Valley?

 Peter Fiekowsky  06:54

That’s a good question. The key thing is, what are you trying to achieve? You were really addressing that with you first question, like with humanitarian efforts, what are you trying to achieve? This has been one of my passions in the last 10 years is to ask, now that we’ve made all this progress in poverty reduction, the third big thing that we did in our humanitarian work was turn around the AIDS epidemic. Those of you who are around in the 80s, and the early 90s, it was so hopeless, no one knew what we could do if we could do anything. And yet we got that turned around, we got the funding for AIDS treatment. And now, AIDS is on its way out. This will be the last generation with a transmission of AIDS.

 Peter Fiekowsky  07:31

The question I asked is, “How would we measure success in this humanitarian work? Or what does it mean to eliminate poverty, extreme poverty?” Because really, you want to look at the work that we’re doing on the climate. So by 2010, a bunch of the people from the poverty group results have gone off Citizens’ Climate Lobby which is another lobbying group for climate work. I was advising them, I asked them, “What is your goal?” Same question you asked, what and by when. And they said, “I don’t know. We want to put a price on carbon so we can smartly reduce our carbon footprint.” I said, “Well, that’s nice. That’s a means to an end. What’s the end?” Then they said, well, the executive director said, “Well, Peter, that’s your job. Now figure out what is the goal?” Because he knew I had a little bit of background at this point in my career, and I went to the top scientist to Jim Hansen, who is the really the father of climate science, he’s on our board. And so I had lunch with him. And he said, “I don’t know what the goal is.” I said, “Well, there has to be something.” He said, “Well, I don’t know. Well, how about by the end of the century, what could we achieve? And you know, maybe we could get back to 350 parts per million.” And I’ll explain what that means later. But it’s a goal. 

And I said, “But Dr. Hansen, that would be really the end of humanity, we probably can’t survive that. That’s why you pick that level of 350.” He says, “Yeah, but if we do achieve it, then we could really go on from there and maybe do something better.” I thought, that’s a losing proposition. And it was at that point that I decided, I said, “That’s when I gave up.” And then I went back home, my daughter came back from college. And I realized I couldn’t give up because I could see which way the ship was going, or the ship of state, and it was not going in a good direction. So I decided, “Okay, I’ll figure out what is the goal.” Interestingly, it turned out the light came on for me. When I had dinner at one of the climate conferences with a bishop, the bishop convinced me, that took two glasses of wine, and I’m a lightweight, he convinced me that climate is a humanitarian issue. It’s a moral issue. It’s not a science issue. Yeah, I’m a scientist, I have 27 patents. And then I realized, science doesn’t care. Though it’s actually really interesting to watch the planet disintegrate for science. You get so many papers about it. People say, “Well, we want to save nature, you know, nature is probably going to be happier and more diverse after we leave this planet. The extinction rate will go way down, new species will come up like crazy.” So then you say, “Well, then why are we working on the climate?” 

And the answer is, well, because we’re human. Our DNA is designed to survive from generation to generation. Our behaviors are designed to take care of future generations. In a sense, that’s our only reason to be here is to take care of future generations. There you go. That’s the reason we want to work on the climate. And then you say, well, then the goal is very easy. Because we know if the planet is too hot, we won’t survive. If it’s too cold, we won’t survive. So we want that Goldilocks point in the middle. And that is what we call getting the CO2 level below 300 parts per million, by setting a goal 300 parts per million, which is the level that humans have lived through in the past as the highest level that the human species has ever lived through. So 300 parts per million by the year 2050. And we’ve pretty much picked that because it sounds good and if we wait much longer than that, then my generation says, “Oh, you know what, let’s let the next generation work on it. I’ll do the research. I’ll write the scientific papers.”

And that’s not good enough. Turned out that was a good decision on our part, because the climate is falling apart much faster than people had expected. And so the bottom line there is pick a goal that’s meaningful. One of the keys is to realize who your customer is. And this is true, I think it’d be applicable for the audience here that to succeed in the business, you got to know your customer. And in the climate area, people hadn’t asked who are we doing it for? They thought, “Well, we’re doing it for God, we’re doing it for nature, we’re doing it for science.” And none of those really care. It’s just for our grandchildren. This is the ones who care. Once you know who your customer is, and what then you figure out what they want, the goal becomes clear. Your audience may or may not know this, but we actually can get all the carbon back out of the atmosphere to get back to the safe level. It’s just no one had set a “what by when” goal before this.

Shawn Flynn  11:58

Are there current methods or ways that could solve this problem? How many are there? And can you talk about the different benefits of each of these methods that might be possible?

 Peter Fiekowsky  12:08

Oh yeah. Well, there’s actually… In one sense as a lot, in another sense, there’s about two. So once we set the goal, and we said, “Okay, we have to remove a trillion tons of CO2. We have to do it about 50 billion tons a year.” And I went to the experts and asked them, “What methods do you have that remove 50 billion tons a year?” This was about two years ago. They came up with eight different methods. Most of them were maybe not too practical. You can purify the CO2 and you can pump it underground. You can take rocks and aerate them because rocks, well a lot of rocks will absorb CO2 into their chemistry. After a while, we realized that it has to be economic.

And so we came up with three criteria for any solution we want to pay attention to. The criteria are that it has to be scalable. Again, with any product, if it can’t go to scale, for one technical reason or another, then really don’t pursue it, you’re not going to succeed. It’s got to be scalable. It’s got to be financeable and permanent. The key solutions… the first one that a lot of people know about is, as I said, purifying the CO2 and pumping it underground. They’ve been demonstrating that in Iceland for a couple of years. The good news is it is scalable and is permanent, because it goes underground turns into rock. The bad news is it would cost almost the global military budget to do that. Now, we obviously have that budget, but we’re already spending it. And if we wanted to survive, and that was the only option, we could probably convince our governments to do it. I don’t know how we would but we could probably do that. So it’s pretty cool. We have a solution in hand right now that could save the climate.

Peter Fiekowsky  13:44

But a lot of us are skeptical about the government at this point. Another alternative is to do commercial solutions. And there are two. One is we buy rock at such a volume right now. We are building roads and buildings for the concrete and road beds and so on, that if we replace quarried rock with synthetic limestone, then that actually would pull all the excess CO2 into the air by the year 2050. Because limestone by weight is almost half CO2. There’s a company here in Silicon Valley called Blue Planet Limited. And they’ve taken the chemistry that plants use to make that their lightness show, which is basically limestone. And they’ve just put it into a laboratory, which is… it doesn’t take a lot of machinery. It turns out a lot of patents, fortunately for them, a lot of machinery, and they’re beginning to work to scale up. They’re opening their first production plant, commercial scale plant in the second half of this year. And so that’s very cool. Because we have the budget already for building these roads and buildings. We know that financiers will finance those. So it’s just a matter of transitioning from quarried rock to synthetic. Pretty much, I think it’s sort of guaranteed we have a lot of work to do for incentives, and so on. But all of it looks like a pretty light lifts. Because we require high energy efficient cars, for example. So requiring carbon negative building materials is really easy. The governments that we talked to are eager for us to do it. And there’s a bunch of stepping stones we have to go through to get there. So that’s very doable.

Peter Fiekowsky  15:11

The other one, which is doable right now is ocean restoration. So the ocean… You know photosynthesis, everybody knows is the fun way to get carbon out of the air. You convert the carbon into trees, or whatever. The trouble with trees, of course, is that they die and rot. And then the carbon goes back up. But in the ocean, a lot of the bio carbon will actually fall. So the dead fish, dead seaweed, dead plankton, a lot of it ends up falling. And if you play your cards right, it turns into essentially limestone bones, limestone exoskeletons, which then fall and just they sequester carbon on the bottom of the ocean. And so we sort of know how to do that. It’s been demonstrated. It needs more development.

But to restore the productivity of the ocean, it turns out to be very inexpensive, that the limiting nutrient in most of the ocean is iron. And it takes like 10 pounds per square mile. And so now that we know what the goal is to get the CO2 back below 300, we could use that method and for probably $10 billion, get all the extra carbon out over the next 30 years. So we’re working on that. The interesting thing is it takes changing the goal. Again, that was your first question. The trick is going from the scientific goal, which is that the scientists said, “Well, let’s try to get CO2 warming below two degrees.” You know, the emphasis is on try. Trying is the opposite of succeeding. And so if you tell someone to try to drop the pen, and they dropped the pen, is it, “Oh, no, I said try to drop the pen.” And they’re struggling. And that’s how we’ve been about the climate, shifting from that scientific goal. But trying is what scientists love to do. It’s like, let’s try this. Let’s try that. We sort of put the climate in the wrong category there. Anyway, yeah. So those are the three solutions. One pump the CO2 underground, where you can’t sell it, but governments could pay for it, or create that rock aboveground and sell it in the construction industry, which is great. The third one is restore ocean productivity. And then you sell the fish and use the fish sales to pay and to restore the health of the ocean.

Shawn Flynn  17:17

So you had mentioned working with governments, how much support does the United Nations currently give for environmental efforts?

 Peter Fiekowsky  17:26

It’s like, that’s a really good question. People sometimes ask that. One answer is very little. Another answer is a lot. Financially, for example, the UN does not have a lot of money. The UN is a convening organization. It’s sort of like the IEEE, which is a big deal here in Silicon Valley, where the IEEE does not put a lot of money into much of anything, but they have a huge impact, because they put on the conferences, and that’s where you meet your buddies, come up with new ideas, in the same way that we wouldn’t have electronics industry without the IEEE. We wouldn’t have most of what we need, without the UN. No, they don’t spend much money on these things. On the other hand, the organizations they work with do put a lot of money in. A lot of it is now shifting to commercial. So they’ve realized that governments are less and less engaged, that at least Western governments are less and less engaged in long term planning. Like in our country, though, the infrastructure is being abandoned, and stuff like that. It’s really up to businesses to pick up the slack and philanthropists. And so the UN has been more and more emphasizing empowering entrepreneurs and philanthropists to pick up the slack and do what the governments would normally be doing

Shawn Flynn  18:36

So then all the funding for the nonprofit you’re currently working with, who’s donating the money so you can do what you’re doing?

Peter Fiekowsky  18:43

Well, mine is, currently mostly my business is financing it. So I have my software business that does image analysis for a semiconductor manufacturing. And there’s three of us, but it’s what they call a cash cow with the stage of the game, right? We started in 1984. It produces enough money to hire a few people. And we’re doing well. We’re hoping to get a few million dollars in this year, and hopefully $10 million next year. So it’s surprisingly hard. It’s great to be here in Silicon Valley because getting a business like mine is not all that difficult to do if you’re patient.

Shawn Flynn  19:17

Who is Fairchild for the people at home who are not familiar?

Peter Fiekowsky  19:21

Oh my gosh. Who are 60 year old Silicon Valley guys or gals? Fairchild is what was one of the first semiconductor makers. So before Intel before well… the National Semiconductor is gone, too. Yeah. So it was really the mother of semiconductor manufacturing.

Shawn Flynn  19:36

So from Fairchild segue into what you’re currently doing.

Peter Fiekowsky  19:40

So they opened up an artificial intelligence lab, and they said this guy, yeah, he’s never studied AI. But he’s pretty smart. They hired me and I learned how to program and see but I ended up programming a nice system for finding defects on the 64k memory chips back in 1983. They work pretty well. And I thought that’d be a fun business to do. After they closed down the project, I left and with their permission started on my own. I closed it down after a while because as I mentioned, KLA-Tencore had a better edge than I did. My goal was to have fun. After a while, a semiconductor matchmaker came to me and said, “Hey, we’ve got these defects, can you find the defects on the photo mask?” So that’s been my niche for the last 24 years.

Shawn Flynn  20:23

And let’s go back to environmental tech, what does that sector look like?

Peter Fiekowsky  20:28

Oh well, there’s two parts to it. The conventional side is energy. And most people think that climate is all about energy, which I would argue is not true. But just… if everyone thinks it’s true, that sort of makes it true. I love Tesla and their efficient cars and their solar panels. Yeah, there’s a lot of technology happening in batteries and a wind generation and solar generation. I have a friend who’s working on cold fusion. It looks like it’s going to be a big deal. There was an article about a week ago, a couple of weeks ago from Japan. It showed that he was getting about 3000 watts from a cold fusion cell. I have a friend who’s done even better. And so hopefully in the next few weeks, we’ll be able to show a demo of that.

Shawn Flynn  21:11

So I have to stop you there. Cold fusion?

Peter Fiekowsky  21:12

Yeah. What’s cold fusion? Well, people, most people know what nuclear energy is. And nuclear energy is, conventionally what you do is you take a atom of uranium, it splits into something else, and produces a lot of energy. Fusion is where other parts of for very light atoms like hydrogen, when it combines to form helium, it produces a lot of energy. You know, if you heard of hydrogen bombs, those produce energy by fusing hydrogen and helium, but it’s obviously a little bit dangerous. You can lose a city or two that way. Cold Fusion, it turns out… that there’s a lot of physics, which has not been well understood until now. 

But it’s a little bit similar to superconductivity. Like how can you have electrons going through a wire with exactly zero resistance. It has to do with wave functions and stuff like that. In a similar fashion, you can get proton and electron to combine into a neutron. And that’s not actually accurate. It’s a picture to the listener of what’s going on. And so you take a hydrogen, proton and electron, you get another neutron. So you start with the hydrogen atom, which is a proton, and you combine another hydrogen atom, and you get two protons, but you got to turn one into a neutron first by adding electron. I don’t know what’s going on. But the point is, with these kinds of wave functions, you can actually do it at room temperature, or in this case, 500 degree celsius or so. So at reasonable temperatures, you don’t need a big laboratory. The physics is being understood.

Right now, people are filing patents and writing papers to understand the physics of it. It was demonstrated 30 years ago, and because it’s a little bit weird, over the 30 years, experiments would work sometimes and not work other times. And the scientists would come and say, “Listen, if it’s not reproducible, it’s not science,” which is arguably true. There are a number of companies that are working to steadily increasing the power output. What’s nice about it is you can produce pretty much unlimited power. So for $1, you can produce this pencil size, sort of amalgam of metals, saturated with heavy hydrogen, to activate it. You can produce the 100 or thousand watts for 1000 years for $1 or something. So stay tuned. This will transform a lot of the energy industry.

Peter Fiekowsky  21:51

But here’s the thing is, it’s all about marketing. Again, I think what our audience cares a lot about is how do you get something like this to succeed? Why has it failed for 30 years? My friends who are working on it, I would watch them over the last five or 10 years, I realized they were trying to do the science. And science is great, but it’s not marketing. We’re developing the marketing for this to just sell it for cookstoves in Africa. The idea there is since there’s no money to be made, people are not hungry, they’re not going to sue you for every little thing in order to try to steal your technology. And so we’re actually bringing it in on the nonprofit side, or that’s the plan, assuming how things turn out the next month or two. And it looks like it’ll work because there’s no one trying to kill us off. Whereas all the competitors, all the other people working on it, there’s these, you know, 10 million, hundred million dollar suits, which sort of slows progress.

Shawn Flynn  24:19

So if this were to succeed, pretty much people around the world would have unlimited access to energy, what would the results be?

Peter Fiekowsky  24:27

Not much. That is… Obviously, a lot of people make millions and billions of dollars. Solar energy is getting so inexpensive, that yes, cold fusion will compete in a lot of places. So you can use cold fusion to replace the coal in coal plants. So you can keep using a coal plant, but rather than burning coal, you would just be using the heat from the cold fusion to run the process. The same thing with a natural gas pot, you could replace the natural gas with the cold fusion, that’s good. But it’s not profound because those plants are all going to be gone in 30 years anyway. So it’s good, but it’s surprisingly unprofound. Now, the flip side is restoring the climate is a big deal. So our big thing is lining up the world so we get the CO2 back to livable levels before the economy collapses, before the environment collapses. That’s a big deal. Everywhere you go, you can see things changing. Here in California, we had these huge wildfires for the last several years. I’m sure we will again in the fall, after things dry out, we had a wet winter this year. The idea that we can actually design the future we want. The “who” and the “we” is that’s wanting is actually future generations. It’s a very interesting shift from sort of our capitalistic perspective. In the past, we’ve been thinking that “I’m my thoughts, I’m my feelings, I’m my money, I’m my car,” even though the Tesla car…. genetically our DNA is designed to survive in the future generations. And once you get clear about that, then preserving our planet for them becomes fun.

Shawn Flynn  26:07

What about other types of technology, such as smart cities, autonomous cars? How are they going to impact pollution and the environment?

Peter Fiekowsky  26:16

Oh, the good news is it is going to happen. Smart Cities, autonomous cars, electric vehicles, we are going to be off of fossil fuels in 30 years, pretty much no doubt. Now whether it’s 28 years or 39 years, who cares? On the one hand, that won’t make much difference if we don’t get the carbon back out of the atmosphere, because the sea levels are rising pretty much minimum of two feet by the year 2050. If you live in a coastal flood area, the next 30 years, you should plan to sell your land and move because it’s going to be underwater. By the end of the century, it’ll be probably eight feet or 10 feet and or two meters for those of you outside the US. If you read the news, the environment really is collapsing. The number of insects globally is down 70% to 90%. If you’re my age, when we went on vacation, you’d be cleaning the bugs off your windshield twice, three times a day, if you’re on a long trip. Up until about five years ago, when you go on a long trip, you don’t clean your windshield anymore. It’s not because anyone’s sprayed the insects. It’s because the environment is collapsing. You know, and then if you listen for birds, the birds that eat the insects, they’re also down by about 70%, and that’s already. The profound thing is restoring the climate, restoring the planet so that we keep living here as human beings.

Shawn Flynn  27:38

So then other than CO2, is there some other chemical we should be aware of, especially with new technology? Will something change or will it just be CO2 in the future?

Peter Fiekowsky  27:48

When you’re doing a project you want to focus. Focus is important so that we want to focus on CO2 now. And we want to focus on getting it out, reducing emissions is not so important, then people will shoot me for that. Unfortunately, they won’t see me so I’m safe. The reason reducing emissions isn’t so important is that we’re going to do it anyway, right? Who’s not going to buy an electric car? I don’t know anyone who when the price is right will buy an electric car… The price is going to be right by 2025, probably by 2021. That’s going to happen. Buses are already switching to electric almost everywhere you start seeing them. Electric bill heating and so on, that’s going to happen anyway. Focus on what’s critical, and that’s getting the carbon back out. And then once that happens, the next critical thing is restoring the ice in the Arctic. And that’s because the permafrost, the frozen area there is beginning to melt. And there’s one critical area, and that’s in the shallow water north of Siberia. Because when that permafrost melt, it’ll melt really quickly and emit enormous amounts of methane. And methane is 150 times more potent for warming than CO2.

If we let the ice melt in enough that methane gets released, we don’t know how we can survive that one. And that could happen in 10 years, it could happen 30 years. Once we get on the path for removing the CO2, and our intention with the UN is to get that happening by a year from now. Now we’re not gonna actually going to have built the machines by then. But you know, when you’re building a house, once you figure out where you want to build the house, what kind of a house you want to build, and you know who’s going to finance it, it’s almost done, you got a lot of things to do. But you don’t worry about, “Oh my god, I wonder if it’ll happen.” It’ll happen. So we’re doing the same thing. We’re figuring out which are the key technologies we’ll start with. And just like with the house, you make your plans. But as time goes on, you realize, “Then we will use a different water heater. We will use…. The technologies have changed. We will use a different window type. It’s not a big deal.” But you start with whatever plan you have. So by a year from now, we’ll be at that point where globally we will be saying, “Okay, we’re going to get this CO2 out. And then we’ll be focusing on restoring the Arctic ice.” And you’re probably going to ask how do you do that? I’ll let you ask that.

Shawn Flynn  30:00

Peter, I’m not really sure what my next question is going to be. How would you do that with the ice?

Peter Fiekowsky  30:08

Well, good question. It sounds crazy, right? We’re sitting here, you look at the globe and say, “How can we store the ice in the Arctic Ocean?” And the answer is by increasing the reflectivity of the sun. And so by reflecting sunlight in the summertime, you can stop the ice from melting. 

And then there are a whole bunch of ways you can do that. Now the interesting thing sociologically, only one of them is getting funded. They’re only getting $200,000, maybe $300,000 a year funding, because we haven’t decided to do it yet. It’s sort of like, you know, if you’re building a house, until you decide to build the house, you’ll spend money on coffee, to meet with your friends, to figure out what kind of house to build. But then once you say, “Okay, we’re going to do it.” Then you start spending the money. So we’re at that pre-coffee time with restoring the Arctic ice. You can increase reflectivity on the ground. This group here in Silicon Valley, there’s a very fine sand, essentially glass that’s made with tiny bubbles that floats. And they can be sprayed over critical parts of the Arctic in the winter. And then in the spring when the sun’s beating down, right, because in the Arctic, you get 24 hour sun, you get more total sun in the Arctic than they do in the equator in the summertime, because it’s 24 hours. When the ice starts melting, the sand floats on top, and it makes it look like ice the whole summer, or at least the whole spring. You know how ice is really dark, and gets, you know, melts really quick. So this prevents that dark slushy stage. They estimate they can restore the whole Arctic for $5 billion a year or something like that. So that’s one method. Is that cool?

Shawn Flynn  31:47

I’m just kind of curious, when you have something that has a global impact, will countries argue who will pay for it? Or will they actually come together and say, “Okay, I’ll do 5%, I do 5% off.” Maybe even Google or Amazon say, “Okay, this is gonna be my good deed for the year.”

Peter Fiekowsky  32:04

It could be any of those, my crystal ball does not tell me. I’m planning on all of those, figuring that three of them will fail or two of them will fail and one of them will succeed. We’re working with the UN. We’re thinking about putting together a grand bargain with different countries, because there’s interest in that. We had an initial talk, conversations with oil companies, because they already work in the Arctic. They know how to do this. This is like rolling off a log for them. Politically and PR wise, it takes a lot of work. That’s all… Not yet even started. You know, Google and Apple, they get supportive as well. We haven’t asked them. I hadn’t thought of that. Actually. Thank you for the idea.

Shawn Flynn  32:44

Admit it, if you’re a billionaire, how great would that be as “Oh, Jeff Bezos’ legacy is he saved the Arctic.”

Peter Fiekowsky  32:50

Yeah, well, Jeff, if you’re listening, you can find us at

Peter Fiekowsky  32:58

Another question about technology. Bitcoin mining. There’s so much energy being used to mine cryptocurrencies. As an environmentalist, what’s your view?

Peter Fiekowsky  33:09

I think it’s temporary. But I’ve read about it, I understand that it. When it’s a problem, we’ll do something about it. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Because with solar going down in price rapidly, wind going down in price, cold fusion, probably happening or not. There’s so many ways to produce that energy for free. If nothing changes, we could do it. But the whole thing is an artifact. Right? It was just totally created by some security guys who said, if we want to do cryptocurrency, here’s a way we could do it, we could require this mining, which takes a lot of energy. They did that before energy was such a big issue. It could be redesigned.

Shawn Flynn  33:45

Tell us a little bit more about the next six months, next year or two for you for someone in the UN and everything else that you’re working on.

Peter Fiekowsky  33:52

The critical thing is figuring out what you want to do and by when, and that comes from, “Who’s your customer?” When we’re working to shift the climate paradigm from energy and emission to restoring the climate. So trying to do something right? Energy and emission is about trying to do something to a goal that humanity can be saved by. We’ve partnered with the UN, we have a summit coming up on April 17. And then that will morph into a request from various nations. And we’re working to get those nations to go to the Scientific Committee, which is called the IPCC, which is the authority on climate, to get them to talk about restoration. And after that, the crystal ball is a little bit hazy. We’re working in Congress to get incentives for carbon negative building materials. There’s no market bigger than building materials in terms of weight and carbon.

So once you create an incentive for people to always use carbon negative, that using the limestone that came from the CO2, from the air, there’s almost nothing else you can do that will hold a candle to that. And then we’re working on a consortium for the Arctic, as you said, “How do you get the countries to work together for that?” The key thing, my key focus is getting Russia involved. Because the way people are is if they’re excluded from your club, they think that you’re the enemy. You know, if you remember from playing baseball, or football when you were a kid, right? If they didn’t invite you onto the team, you thought you just felt in your heart that you’re the enemy. So we’re getting the Russians involved. We haven’t made any invitations yet. But we’re working on designing a canal across the North Pole, so that the Russians can still do their shipping because the Russians love the melting Arctic because they can do shipping. But no one wants to be first. And so we have the big advantage of being a very small organization. We don’t mind embarrassing ourselves and being first. We’re not actually being first. We’re trying to be in the background, making it look like everyone is getting on the train together. So no one has to feel embarrassed. Be the first one onto the train.

Shawn Flynn  35:55

Right, Peter, that’s some amazing advice. And thank you for your time today in Silicon Valley. If people want to find out more information about you, how should they go about doing it?

Peter Fiekowsky  36:04

Go to our website:

Shawn Flynn  36:13

I’d also like to thank Sunil Bhaskaran for making this introduction to Peter, which allowed this interview to happen today. Sunil’s contact information and what he’s working on will be in the show notes. And Peter, once again, thank you for being on our show and we look forward to having you on again in the future.

Peter Fiekowsky  36:29

Very good. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure and an honor.

Outro 36:32

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