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The Climate Aristocracy

Robert Bryce

Monday, February 13, 2023

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back to the podcast. Today I'm joined by returning guest Robert Bryce, accomplished writer. Saab Stacker, author of five books. Film Producing

Robert Bryce  0:12  

six now don't short don't shortchange me here right at the beginning Keever six books come on now,

Chris Keefer  0:17  

you know, that's why the self introductions are better. Robert, you taught me that you've been on even on so long and I think there's enough of a crossover in our listenership. You can keep it Ultra brief, but I'll do what you do to your guests to you. Take a moment, Robert, introduce yourself. Oh,

Robert Bryce  0:33  

sure. Well, first glad to be back. Dr. Keefer. Always a pleasure to see and talk to you. I live in Austin, Texas. I'm the proud father of three kids. Marry Michael and Jacob proud husband to my wife, Lauren Bryce. She's, we've been together for two years. She's an amazing, amazing woman, artist, photographer, teacher. I live a charmed life, I report on and write about the energy and power sectors and do my best to report on it honestly. And frequently.

Chris Keefer  1:00  

How's that? Absolutely. Frequently, I can attest to that. And as someone who follows your work very closely, in our pre chat, you're saying it took a weekend off? It sounds like that's the exception to the rule. Pretty busy on the on the speaking circuit as well understand.

Robert Bryce  1:13  

Yes, I'm very fortunate that way. I'm booked already. It's we're in February, I've got 11 paid engagements already on the calendar. This year, I'm going to speak at SMU with our mutual friends, Mark Nelson and MADI hilly, we're doing a panel at a Southern Methodist University, we next week on resurgence in nuclear power, kind of the then the young younger generation embrace of nuclear in America will have

Chris Keefer  1:37  

to get shipped to Canada one of these days soon. So, Robert, the reason I wanted to have you on, you published a very interesting investigative piece on your substack recently, everyone should go and head over there and subscribe and understand you move from MailChimp over to over to substack. And you found that to be a good fit. But yeah, this piece, you know, I was I was very impressed. Very thorough investigative journalism don't see a lot of that, particularly on substack. And the title was the billionaire's, behind the gas ban. And you have charted the story of a, you know, a brand new foundation, the climate imperative Foundation, and you've you've looked at some of the the numbers behind the forces arrayed on this kind of energy transition battle of ideas, and hadn't seen a lot of that hadn't seen a lot of, you know, precise figures put to this, you know, often talked about the kind of David and Goliath battle between, you know, this group of merry men and women, kind of Robin Hood's of, of nuclear energy advocacy up against some very large and well established environmental NGOs, who, you know, make it their their calling to score own goals on themselves on the climate front. But wanted to have you on to discuss this article. So can you can you tell me how the genesis of it I mean, I thought this would come together quite quickly. But I think you've been working on this,

Robert Bryce  3:04  

actually been collecting string on a collect string on a lot of different topics, and I, you know, put them in a folder, or I'll draft part of an article, and then I'll set it aside. And I'm hoping to get one out tomorrow on high voltage transmission, which is an issue I've written about many times, but I'm going to put it on substack. But I've been collecting string on it for, you know, years, this article, the billionaires behind the gas bands, which is on my substack Robert I first noticed that this group climate imperative in an article, very short piece that was published on Axios. And then it was carried in Yahoo, that just kind of this casual mention over there's this new, this new group called Climate imperative. And they have a budget of $1 billion over five years. And I read that and then I read it again, and I read it again, I thought, a billion dollars over five years, that's to my math is pretty the divisions here, pretty simple. It's $200 million a year, out of the gate, this group is going to be bigger than the Sierra Club and almost as big as the American Petroleum Institute, which is on the other side of the issue here. But of API has been around for over 100 years. So I mean, just I looked at the the just the staggering amount of money that this group was getting. And I emailed them to what can you tell me? Oh, no, we're not doing interviews. Right. And so that was like from the beginning the effort by this group and the team than the two key people who are the founders, Marianne hit and Bruce Nilus. Were at the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club had gotten was spending most of the money coming from Michael Bloomberg further beyond coal. There was started there beyond coal campaign became their beyond carbon campaign. But what intrigued me as well was okay, so here's Michael Bloomberg giving $500 million to the Sierra Club. And here's the climate imperative, apparently getting the vast amount of their money from Laurene Powell Jobs and John Stewart to billionaires. But they wouldn't answer the question about nuclear because I thought, well, if you're serious about climate, as you know, and I Chris, we talked about this many times. If you're gonna take carbon dioxide and anti nuclear, you're pro blackout. Well, I'm anti black I've been pro nuclear for, you know, more than a decade more than saying the same things for 13 years. And but they wouldn't answer even that question about what are you pro nuclear? So I thought, well, this is truly screwed up, right that here's a group that's operating, operating with it clearly trying to keep their intentions secret, what they're operating, why wouldn't they be more open to a reporter like me? Why are they hiding? So, anyway, that's a very long introduction to why I finally published the piece because it was timely then after all these headlines around the gas bans. And one of the punch lines is that you look at these top five, anti hydrocarbon, anti nuclear NGOs, climate imperative, NRDC, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Institute, Environmental Defense Fund, they're spending on the order of one and a half billion dollars a year. That's three times three times.

Chris Keefer  5:47  

That's something I wanted to clarify. Because I mean, these are enormous numbers. So they have they have, you know, an endowment, I guess they've got money in the bank. And what you're just to be very particular, when you say they're spending, you know, on the order of 200 million a year, I think the term is annual gross receipts, this is money spent?

Robert Bryce  6:04  

Well, okay, so this is the part where it gets a little a little tricky. And I'll be honest, that you know, these numbers are may be somewhat higher, may be somewhat lower. But GuideStar, which is the entity that tracks the nonprofits in the US publishes what they call gross their gross receipts number. So this would be as the closest comparable to annual revenue. So when I say they're spending that, yes, I mean, that's one of the rules with with nonprofits, you have to spend what you take, no, you don't have to spend every dime, but you're not allowed to just lay this money around, you've got to put it to work, right. And so this is part of the thing that is key, what is the was looking, I looked up, in fact, the how this idea, this law firm, how they decided to find gross receipts, it's a the number, that is the total amount an organization earns per year from all sources without subtracting any expenses. So it's the it's comparable to revenue, but it's a nonprofit number. So this is just a staggering number. And compared to the top five NGOs that are pro hydrocarbon, pro nuclear, so nei western states, petroleum society, petroleum engineers, American Gas Association, API, there's their revenues, roughly 500 million. So just the top five groups, if you compare them side by side, it's a three to one cost differential. And the part that to me is so important here, Dr. Keefer, is that forever, the left has been saying, Oh, the Koch brothers, you know, Exxon, they're, they've got so much money, and they're they're thwarting our, our traction on climate. It's just the exact opposite, that pro hydrocarbon groups are so far out spin, it's not even close.

Chris Keefer  7:39  

But I think what's what's even more interesting there is, you know, certainly prior to digging into this myself, you know, there's Greenpeace, for instance, you know, they're always out fundraising. You know, they're beating down my door a few times a year, certainly asking for donations. And I think as a result, the lay public would assume that these organizations are funded in a in a grassroots manner. Certainly, you know, movements on the left side of the political spectrum, like to think of themselves that way. I mean, Bernie Sanders, I think, did a pretty good job of of having, you know, all kinds of small donations running that campaign, and that had an impact on the kind of messaging he was able to bring forth. Not all of which I agree with. But um, you know, I think this is this is very interesting, because, you know, you looked into who the key funders were, with, you know, the climate imperative foundation. Can you tell me a little bit about those individuals? I mean, how many people are we talking about, behind this movement? How organic, is it?

Robert Bryce  8:33  

Sure. Well, that's the key question as well as that it appears that nearly all of their money or is coming from two sources, which had John Doerr who's a billionaire based in Silicon Valley, a venture capitalist, and Laurene Powell Jobs, who has Steve Jobs widow, together, if memory serves their their net worth, according to Forbes is something on the good combined is something on the order of, of $30 billion. So these are these aren't just the elites. These are the super elites. Yeah. Forbes estimates Dewar's wet net worth at seven 12.7 13 billion Forbes flit pals, pal jobs net worth at 17 Point 7 billion. Well, the other people who are on the board of the climate imperative, I've never heard of any of them and neat none of them appear on Forbes list of the richest people in America so and people that I know and are familiar with the funding on this group said the money's coming from door and jobs. Well, the here's the part that just grinds my gears. As my late brother John Bryce said, Nina grills my cheese. These are the super elites. You're right. And as well as we want to talk about Jeff Bezos, who's giving money to the NRDC and Rocky Mountain Institute and, and Bloomberg who owns 12 houses and flies on you know, they fly on jets. They have multiple homes all over the world, but Laurene Powell Jobs, she flies around in a Gulfstream G 650 That burns 600 gallons, I'm sorry, 500 gallons of jet fuel per hour. And yet these are the people the billionaires who are funding the groups who say you Can't use natural gas in your home because it's a it's a threat to the climate. I mean, it. There's, I think it's an outrageous example of how the super elites, the super, the super mobile, super elites are telling the essentially the poor and the middle class. No, you may not. You may not use natural gas, never mind that it's the last form of affordable in home energy that you can access. You are going to be required to electrify your home. It's not a beneficial electrification. It's forced electrification, even though the Department of Energy's own numbers show that requiring people to use electricity in their homes for home heating in the US in October they printed this number 46% more expensive. I mean, there's just it reminds me of what Joel Joel Kotkin says this is this is about class. I mean, this is fundamentally a class issue.

Chris Keefer  10:52  

I guess, before we get into that question of, you know, can the grid even handle that degree of electrification? You know, you've had Jennifer Hernandez on a number of times. She's I believe, launching a class action lawsuit regarding some of the climate policies in California on the basis of class discrimination, essentially. Can you walk us through a little bit of that angle? You've touched on it now, but in terms of the impact that these policies have on, you know, poor and racialized people?

Robert Bryce  11:18  

Well, I think that the the regressive nature of nearly all of these climate policies, and I do I say that as a blanket statement, but I don't, I don't see anything that counter that can contradicts that that point. When you look at electric vehicle mandates, who buys electric vehicles today? Yes, some of them are coming down in price. But that's the bins and beamer crowd, the in the US the average household income for an Eevee buyer is on the order of $140,000 a year. That's the median household income, that's twice the US average. So it's not the working class that are buying these luxury sports cars. And that's exactly what they are, is generally speaking, yeah. But when you look at more fundamentally about in the home, and this is one thing where I look at this from a historical basis, what was the the push for rural electrification in America and I can't speak to Canada, but in America, it was really, you know, a few members of Congress in the Senate who had bought been born in rural America. Sam Rayburn, it was born in bottom, Texas in rural poverty. Lyndon Johnson, who got to Washington after the Rural Electrification Act had passed in 1930. He got robbed in 37. But, you know, Burton Wheeler, George Norris, they were motivated from rural electrification, because they saw rural women struggling to make it right, they were having to haul water they were having to, you know, cook with with woodstoves electricity, fried these women and having a cheap, abundant, reliable power, freed them from the pump the stove in the wash tub. Okay, so, but it allowed them more freedom in the home. But this movement that's afoot now, it's going to restrict women's ability to use the cheapest fuel to dry their clothes, heat their water, and cook their food and heat their home. And I just think that's fundamentally wrong. And it's further I think it's dangerous from just a pure energy security standpoint, that, you know, relying on one network that can't even handle the load that's on it now, and they're saying, Oh, we're gonna put even more load on it. That's just I don't want to get too crazy too technical here. That's crazy to

Chris Keefer  13:18  

Yeah, I mean, there's there's very real consequences as you live during the Texas blackouts that last February, the February two February's

Robert Bryce  13:25  

ago, but remember, I'm in Austin, and just this morning, I looked there still 27,000 People in Austin today who don't have power, because the distribution system here got got slammed by the ice storm. So this wasn't in winter storm theory that was a generation problem. This blackout, these blackouts here in Austin, our distribution problem, but still it both. Both instances underscore the fragility of the electric grid. And so the idea that we should put all of our energy our most and make our most important sources of energy dependent on one network. Well, that's just foolish. We need diversity in our fuel supply. And I'm, I recognize the issue of climate change and in climate change is a concern. But it's not our only concern, we have to balance it against the issue of energy security and affordability.

Chris Keefer  14:11  

Well, it's interesting where electric heat has has been economical. And that certainly hasn't been by following you know, an Amory Levin's soft path approach or by feeding tariffs for wealthy homeowners to put solar panels on their roofs. I mean, these are massive infrastructure projects, like in you know, my neighboring province in Quebec, the the James Bay hydro project, you know, which built enough you know, low cost, it was a high capital investment, certainly, but low cost hydro, but the heat that province with electricity or the French nuclear build out where, you know, much of their heating is electrified, you know, but I always say, you know, if you want to electrify everything, you better be damn sure that that electricity generation is ultra reliably. And you've done a lot of work looking into the increasing fragility of the grid. I believe you're making a film on that topic. Tell us a little bit more about about some of the findings, you know, and some of the trends towards unreliability of the US electric grid?

Robert Bryce  15:09  

Well, I think all you need to do is look at California. I mean, this is the poster child for what not to do. Where it's a state where Generac, the standby generator, company, they see California as their big growth market. They also see it as Texas. And so you have California you can look on PG and E's website are they blackouts across the state daily, I mean, it's not a some time occurrence. It's an everyday occurrence in the state. We were there last summer shooting interviews, and we talked to a guy, you know, these new developments that are being put in with high rises or condos, they're automatically putting in a standby generator. I mean, it's as a matter of course, because they recognize the the, the unreliability of the California grid. And further, you can look at the number of standby generator permits the permits for standby generators in and around the Bay Area, they've skyrocketed. So you know, people aren't, you know, consumers are not stupid, they're going to make sure that they protect themselves if they can afford it. But again, Chris, this takes us back to the class issue. You know, I don't have a standby generator. I know a lot of people, you know, people I'm acquainted with who have them, but they've spent 20 grand on this or more 20 3040 grand, the people who are rich can afford to have that backup system for their home. But not the kids in the body or the you know, the working class, the people are working at Starbucks, they're not able to afford that they're renters, they can they're gonna have solar panels in Tesla's they're just barely scraping by. So again, the whole of this issue is about class and the fact that these billionaires are the ones that are pushing this class divide and prohibiting the use very carefully, and very lavishly funding these campaigns to prohibit the use of natural gas. It's just flat wrong.

Chris Keefer  16:53  

I'm reminded of, you know, Marie Antoinette's line of, you know, let them eat cake. Sure. But let's let's talk a little bit about the sort of climate aristocracy his impact on policymaking? You know, there's a phrase about the nonprofit industrial complex in the United States. You know, I understand that there's a certain amount of tax avoidance benefits to starting large foundations. So do you have any sense of, you know, the the overall scale of the nonprofit industrial complex, but I guess even more interestingly, how that integrates into the political process. You know, famously, Gina McCarthy of the Natural Resources Defense Council was, I believe, climate envoy for Joe Biden. How does this sector interact with the political space and exert its influence over policy?

Robert Bryce  17:42  

Well, that's a really good, I liked that line, that climate aristocracy, I'm gonna steal it. But I'm working on another sub stack that I'll publish in the next week or two on the anti industry industry. And this is what the US has, has what and you helped me with some numbers and just pointing me to some outfits in Canada, where you have a different tax structure for these kinds of entities. And I in fact, I looked them up. I've been making spreadsheets and I'm all about spreadsheets. I'm kind of like collecting them all the time. But you're in Canada, you have the David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club, Canada, Greenpeace, Canada, Toronto atmospheric fund, Environmental Defense, Canada, their budgets are just tiny compared to the these similar NGOs in the United States, those five according to the numbers that I just downloaded just the other day, $33 million total, that's 33 million Canadian. Well, in your, you know, your, your cute little Canadian dollars. And you know, it's not worth as much as we translate the US, US dollars, you're talking about 25 million. Now, you compare that to the numbers I've already given you on those top five, you know, climate works environment, I mean, look at in climate imperative foundation by itself is 10 times larger, $221 million. I mean, it's staggering the scale of this and to your point about this NGO industrial complex and what an NGO and climate and corporate industrial complex are, that's the term that I've coined about it, that there's a revolving door between these groups, the NRDC, academia, government back into academia or back into the NGOs, or into industry. And it's just it's, as my friend, Chuck Spinney, put it he calls it the self licking ice cream cone, right that you have these tightly networked people who have the same kind of networks of of influence, that they go into government, they come out of government, they go back, and this is part of the way Washington now works. But the numbers that I'm collecting for this piece on the anti industry industry, you'd look at the top 20 or so NGOs that are involved in climate advocacy that I would typify as anti hydrocarbon and anti nuclear, their budgets, their annual revenues exceed $4 billion a year. It's just a massive amount of money.

Chris Keefer  19:55  

And I mean, so this is spending, you know, I think what we think of as billboards and campaigns means. But I mean, this money is going into, you know, large number of employees into, you know, developing those human resources into creating functionaries into building a whole professional managerial class. You know, it's funny, I mean, you mentioned the even population adjusted the impact of these organizations, I shouldn't say the impact the funding of these organizations is much lower in Canada. But, you know, our prime minister, you know, his chief of staff has his members of his Prime Minister's Office, several of them are from the World Wildlife Fund. And they've certainly been a pull pulling our federal governments away from nuclear energy, for instance. You know, it's, it's, I think, the kind of more I don't want to say Deep State impacts. But if your staffer, you know, gained their experience, and you know, the reputation, I guess, I'm curious about the sort of mechanisms by which, you know, more, not so much the campaigning, but the human resources that are developed, and then work their way into the political process, you know, often not as the candidate, but as the key staffers of their office, I think that's a really subtle kind of policy impact, but a really important one with huge implications.

Robert Bryce  21:10  

And maybe it's not subtle. I mean, maybe it's really quite, you know, in fact, overdone that it's, it's clear how this revolving door works. But I think it's also indicative as I look at the so when I look at where are these entities based? These e NGOs that we've been discussing? San Francisco, New York, New York, Washington, San Francisco, Boston, San Francisco, Oakland, Washington, none of them are in Des Moines. None of them are in Waco, Texas, right. None of them are in, you know, the middle of the country. They're these are in fact, the coastal elites. And who do they care about? Well, they care about the coastal elites, right? They are insulated from the people who I respect and I want to represent and who are those people that people who turn wrenches? I've thought about this a lot, who do who are my people, I'm for the people who fix cars and make them run and drive buses and work, you know, have to be who aren't in the keyboard economy, as Jennifer Hernandez says, but they get no refer these people don't know, this professional managerial class that you point out, is critically important because they're not accountable. Right? All they it's in effect, this is something I think we chatted about the other day, and that's offline. But this is an asymmetric fight, Chris, in that these policy groups, all they have for a win for them is they go to the Berkeley City Council and say you should ban natural gas in this city councilors in Berkeley, that's a really good idea, we're going to ban natural gas. And so for them, that's a win, that little policy move is a win, that they can then use to get more funding. But therein lies the problem is that the companies and entities that have to provide electrons and molecules, they have to continue providing electrons and molecules no matter what happens. And yet these policy groups, all they have to do is pass policy. Well, that's a much easier lift than actually providing gas in the home or providing electricity. So it's not a it's not a fair fight. And I don't use fair, you know, in it's a symmetric I guess is the better way to think it's an asymmetric fight. And the the traditional energy producers are getting their butts kicked. It's been so bad. It's, it's, I'm not gonna say it's entertaining to watch. It's rather horrifying to watch because there have been so completely back footed and they don't realize how badly outgunned and outmanned they are.

Chris Keefer  23:33  

So in terms of the political actions that groups like the climate imperative Foundation are working for. I mean, they're alienating, you know, the people essentially a working class base by, you know, fighting for policies, which make life frankly, unaffordable. What are the sort of mechanisms in place? I mean, it strikes me that this is, you know, hyper elites engaging with an elite level of politics, not grassroots in any way. So, you know, we've heard a lot of boats, you know, gas stove bans, you know, electric vehicle mandates. You know, these are all potentially nice things if you can afford them. But, you know, you hear a lot about, you know, the sort of economic refugees leaving California because it's unaffordable. Tell me a little bit about the policy proposals that are being generated and supported by by some of these environmental NGOs.

Robert Bryce  24:27  

Well, I wrote about it in the piece on substack Robert The billionaires behind the gas bands Doomberg said promote the substack so I'm doing Doomberg told me I'm doing what you told me is it's hype the substack so substack Robert But in California alone, the Sierra Club and Rocky Mountain Institute have they on their website, the Sierra Club, listen, there are over 60 communities now in California that have banned the use of gas in future homes and businesses. They will implement a statewide ban I believe, beginning I believe in 2030. On new appliances in the home, we'd seen similar bans in New York City in Seattle, there was an effort to push one statewide in New York that I think has been stalled for the moment. A similar move afoot in Massachusetts, where I think they're going to the state is going to allow 10 communities to use to implement these gas bans. So in I'll argue with you on the grassroots part of this, because here's the thing that I think is one of the things that's so insidious about this is that climate imperative, and the Sierra Club and Rocky Mountain Institute, they're helping fund local community groups to push these bands. And that appearance, of course, is that, Oh, these are local activists who are climate activists, and they're on the front lines here. And we're going to implement a gas ban because of climate change. Nevermind that cooking with gas in the United States, it represents four tenths of 1% of total gas consumption in the United States, it's insignificant in terms of the overall story. But I think that there is this cloak this, this, the secretive and interconnected campaigns that are afoot here, these massive foundations with hundreds of millions of dollars, are funding local community, local activists to push these, these policies. And so it looks like it's all locally generated, but the money is actually being it's a lot of it, I will use the word dark money, or the phrase dark money, because I think that's what it is. They're purposely concealing the interconnected nature of these campaigns, and making it look like their local grassroots, when in fact, their money is coming from these big multinational with these big NGOs that are getting funding from some of the richest people in the world.

Chris Keefer  26:30  

Yeah, no, it's incredible, you know, working in this bizarre space of nuclear advocacy, and just the absolute penny pinching that's required, the DIY nature of our, you know, graphic design and our little pamphlets that we're making in our spare time. You know, and that has a big impact. Having a kind of mother organization that's able to help you organize, it's able to provide you with, you know, graphic design templates, you know, even just pay your print shop bills, you know, this, this is potentially very impactful. At the same time,

Robert Bryce  27:01  

that it gives you a different kind of ability in the marketplace of ideas that they can't, you know, they can try to attack you and say, Oh, well, where's your funding coming from? Who you said, well, here, look, that's me or, you know, but it's, there's a level of credibility here. That's important. But I think it's also important to see how the media has responded and the media immediately and I say this legacy media, you know, where Rocky Mountain Institute puts up this, this flimsy study, not even worth the paper, it's printed on claiming 12% of all asthma in the United States is due to gas stoves. And the Washington Post prints it as though it's fact. And then you have this big kerfuffle. And then Rmi, start immediately walks it back and says, Oh, we're not claiming causality here. Well, wait a minute, you know, what are you doing, but they are the difference. And I think it's a similarity in terms of the gas ban issues. And the nuclear issues that you're fighting is that the media, the media outlets, the legacy media outlets are far more disposed to report the the the story, according to the narrative being promoted by these NGOs, then they are the ones that are than the entities that are pushing traditional forms of energy or nuclear?

Chris Keefer  28:08  

Yeah, it's interesting. When people claim a certain percentage behind a malady, the numbers often don't add up, because you start getting into the 500% range. Once you try and tally and every every variable people are bringing into it. I want to talk a little bit about you know, the the blowback from this as this potential blowback is the blowback already happening in terms of you know, the affordability crisis, and the ways in which these policies are, frankly out of step with with the needs of the majority of Americans. You know, we talked a bit about Jennifer Hernandez and that that class action lawsuit, you know, how is this being felt? Because I mean, even you know, if you are sincere in your climate concern, alienating the majority of your population is not going to help your cause and in the long term. So what sort of things are we seeing developing in terms of in terms of blowback here?

Robert Bryce  29:00  

Well, it's very much partisan. And I'll just add one, one quick point there. And in the litigation that Jennifer has has has filed on the behalf of the 200, which is a coalition of Latino groups in California, I don't think they're seeking class action, their class status in federal court, they're they're merely pursuing this on behalf of their their plaintiffs and the Latino plaintiffs that are that they represent. So I don't think it's a class certification thereafter, but they have sued over over the air quality met over the climate impact issues and also the mandates over electric vehicles. But as far as you know, jumping back to the gas ban issue to me, what was fascinating was several things were fascinating about it. One was, once this came out, and there was, you know, claims that the Consumer Product Safety Safety Commission was going to ban gas stoves, the Biden administration, the White House, I mean, he said over the President is not in favor of banning gas stoves, because I think they saw it and realize, wait a minute, you know, we're going to alienate a lot of people if we push this policy because a lot of people like to cook with gas right there 47 million American homes, roughly, you will not quite have something like 40% of American homes, people cook with gas. In California, 80% of California homes heat with gas. So there is very much a realization by politicians on both sides that they have to be careful here. And so you've seen the Democratic politicians trying to walk it back where the Republicans are trying to push this and say, See, we told you then, and there's a part of this, too, that I think Chris is really important to note, which is the and I say, this is a nonpartisan, I'm not a Republican, I'm not a Democrat, I'm disgusted, but that the Democratic Party has become the party of the elites. And the Republicans are increasingly the party of the working class. And there's a very good article in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago talking about this very thing by Gerald Baker talking about this very thing, something like 60 or 65%, of white, non college educated males vote Republican now, you know, that the group that would you think would be the union members that would be voting Democrat? No, no, they become Republicans, because the Republicans are speaking up more on a working class issues. And the gas stove issue is one that they can point to and say, See, these are the elites that are pushing this kind of policy that's going to hurt you, and your affordability of, you know, your your ability to pay your bills, and even your any of your liberty, I mean, your liberty in the kitchen, right? What are you What fuel you're going to be allowed to use? Which just goes to? I mean, I don't I don't beat that drum very often or that but there is something about this idea of what you know what you're going to be allowed to use?

Chris Keefer  31:33  

No, I mean, definitely, I think the there's a great piece by Roy Teixeira as well, about the five Deadly Sins of the left. And, you know, when you when you understand the kind of abandonment of the factory floor, you know, which used to be the organizing place for labor type political parties, and that transition into academia, it's really no surprise that that's becoming untethered. And, you know, really untethered in a durable fashion. This isn't just political loyalties shifting on one election cycle, but you know, this, this is potentially very significant in terms of those realignments, I mean, I shake my head, and I can't tell who's left and who's right anymore based upon where they were 40 years ago, when it comes to these these political parties.

Robert Bryce  32:16  

And that's what and that's one of job Calkins points where I did the battle isn't so much left, right. It's top versus bottom. Right, that it is a class divide. And I see it as Yes, I think it's class, but I think it's also urban rural, as well. And that what you know, the you have where do you know, where why are all these e NGOs? We talked about, you know, the 20 summit with you know, budgets of $4 billion a year, where are they located? They don't they're not in rural America, they're not in the center part of the country, that part of that's flyover country for them. So the, the divide, particularly when it comes to issues around renewables, right, which is the other big part of this whole discussion, and high voltage transmission, it's a we're going to force these local communities to take projects that they don't want. And you've seen the dynamics of this, of course, in California, in Canada, and in Ontario, where you have pushback, major pushback from small communities across Ontario saying, We don't want these wind projects, but that that urban rural and and the class divide that I think is something very worrisome I see in the United States and something that I don't see being resolved anytime soon.

Chris Keefer  33:21  

Well, I mean, there's also this issue. I mean, you know, I'm glad you brought up rural electrification, you know, you know, the Tennessee Valley Authority, building massive pieces of infrastructure, if you were serious about an electrify everything agenda, you would need to be creating sources of very cheap, abundant, affordable power. And I just don't see that. And so it feels like there's this kind of game of chicken being played by by politicians making commitments, for instance, for internal combustion engine phase outs, for electrification, when the generation is simply not going to be there. And it's already showing showing signs of fragile lysing. And I don't know, how much longer those those commitments can be made. Do you think, you know, you know, x is going to happen by 2030? is just going to be endlessly put off further into the future? Or do you think there's a reckoning a moment of reckoning, when you know, these promises speed into the wallet 100 kilometers an hour? And there's, there's an impact?

Robert Bryce  34:18  

That's a good question, Chris. I, I don't think it's going to be that, you know, this cataclysmic like the, you know, I mean, we could see a massive grid failure, right. And, and we saw, you know, big failures of the grid earlier in January when we had that big cold snap around, or rather in Christmas time. But, you know, was the way I see it, as you look at the politicians that are in office, now they can say, well, we're going to do this by 20. They're not going to be around when 2030 rolls around, right? So it's easy for them to say this, we're gonna push this policy, but they're not the ones that are going to be the ones that have to implement it. And further, I think that it's, you know, from a simple macro political standpoint, they can save, look, we push this, the utilities didn't do it, those damn utilities they pushed back right that blame them, right? And that's what we see over and over, you look at what's the worst job in America, maybe the CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric, you know, oh, you're required to electrify everything and you have to you can spend your money in one of three different ways you can spend it trying to fireproof your distribution and transmission system, you can spend it on renewables, or you can spend it on expanding the transmission network, and you're the CEO, and they're going to trial for manslaughter. And where would you spend your money, it would be making sure you don't cause any more stupid fires, right? But there's a company that's gone bankrupt twice in 20 years. And so, you know, the utility is always the easy scapegoat for any of these problems. So I think it's, you know, from a simple political calculus, it's easy to, you know, pound the table and, you know, to, you know, make platitudes around these issues, but that politicians aren't the ones that are gonna have to implement it, they can blame someone else for not doing so.

Chris Keefer  35:59  

I mean, the other brick wall that that's being sped into, you know, by by these organizations, which are, I assume, very pro renewable, I want to chat with you a bit more about, you know, any of the other campaigns or themes that, you know, groups like the climate imperative, in particular, since it's such a new organization are pushing for, you know, but that recent report by Siemens, Gamesa, Europe's largest wind turbine manufacturer, I mean, no new orders for offshore wind in the last quarter, and prices rising 40%? I mean, are we seeing the momentum of renewables deployments slowing down? And, you know, to what degree are these organizations going to be able to, you know, push for policies of increasing subsidy to make up for that to keep the whole Rube Goldberg machine deployments on schedule? Well,

Robert Bryce  36:46  

that's, that's a really good question. And a lot of issues there that are at play. You had Lee gearing on your podcast a few months ago, and I had his colleague, Adam Rosenzweig, on the power hungry podcast as well. And I think they make a very good point, which is that renewables boomed over the last decade over a period where we had very low interest rates or even you know, effectively, in many cases, zero interest rates, interest rates at zero and low commodity prices. And now we're not seeing that right, we're seeing commodity prices go up. We're seeing fragile supply chains that are largely dependent on China. And we're seeing interest rates skyrocketing. And so here in the US on the Eastern Seaboard on the East Coast, you've had numerous offshore wind projects announced, we're going to delay or we're going to seek a higher power purchase agreement, because we can't make money at the deal that we signed just a few months ago, because the landscape has changed. So there are a lot of things that are coming together that are affecting the growth in renewables. And, of course, one of my issues that I've now been tracking for over a decade, land use, right that we're seeing, in fact, these constraints on land use and the availability of land for new wind, new solar, I O County, just was in touch with some people in Otoe. County, Nebraska last night, they their county commissioners just implemented a new set of rules that effectively stops the development of of a wind project that NextEra was pushing called Panama wind. So you add in the constraints on high voltage transmission, you add in all these other issues around, you know, the availability of turbines. It's there are many things that are creating more friction for renewables. And what I hope and I know you do, as well as that this accrues to the benefit of nuclear, and that they will see a resurgence in nuclear. And I think we are I think Western Europe is proof of that. You know, your work, great work in Canada. You know, it's synergizing and energizing that the moves by Ontario Power Generation to refurbish, Pickering. You know, we're seeing some very positive momentum in that. And I think that are we at an inflection point. I'm not going to call it yet. But I think there is a growing realization that all these factors, including reliance on China, that are coming together that are taking the friend of mine said a long time ago, the bloom off the rose and renewables

Chris Keefer  39:06  

in terms of your investigative journalism on these organizations. You mentioned you can't get interviews and chat with them

Robert Bryce  39:14  

not accountable limited. If they don't, then they're only going to talk to people that are friendly to them and then are going to ask him any hard questions and and there's no the big media outlets aren't really looking at him. I was looking at the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation last night Rockefeller Rockefeller Brothers Fund, they've been funding the NRDC since the 80s mean that the Rockefellers funding this anti nuclear anti hydrocarbon group that effectively shut down Indian Point that these people are guilty of being, you know, committing terrible climate policy and with no accountability, no understanding of what is actually happening and it grinds my gears,

Chris Keefer  39:50  

because I mean, the numbers are shocking, they're very large, but I mean, I hope you know, maybe yourself or other investigative journalists are going to be able to unpack a little bit of began about exactly how it's being spared. We spent, we mentioned sort of the development of this professional managerial class, which I think has an outsized influence on politics. You know, my group, you know, in terms of making our case, we have, you know, history 2.2, we have, you know, the massive Canada deployment. You know, here in Canada and France, they can reference actual, you know, historical build outs that have occurred, you know, proven decarbonisation efforts. But so much of what the popular discourse hinges on these days are things like modelling studies, which are, frankly, you know, out of the affordability of organizations like myself to pay for. So it'd be interesting again, just to understand, you know, more of how this money is spent, how it circulates. Do you have any hope that that work even can be done?

Robert Bryce  40:47  

Well, I just found this one clip because I've been doing my homework on the anti industry industry. And I'll just read you this one. This is from the Rockefeller Rockefeller Brothers Fund website, I'm quoting in the 1970s. The fun began supporting the environmental law movement through grants to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Lawrence's son, Laurance Rockefeller, attorney, Laurance Rockefeller, Jr. Jr. Worked at NRDC for over 25 years and continues to serve as an NRDC trustee in 2016. So, you know, the, the amount of money, the media money and momentum is behind these anti hydrocarbon anti nuclear groups. I mean, you know, the media is fully behind them. I mean, that unquestioning like you we saw on there in the, in the gas stove article, is there some counter movement? Yes, there is. And, you know, your your work is a clear example of this clear path breakthrough, I'd say third way, you know, some relatively small think tanks in the United States compared to these other big NGOs, that are making some headway, and we're seeing some progress with Congress and in providing new subsidies under the inflation Reduction Act of $30 billion or so. So there is some progress. But let's make no mistake, Chris, I mean, the, the battle here against these moneyed interests, and it is big money, I mean, massive amounts of money, where you have big law firms, Wall Street firms, Wall Street, big investment banks, you know, JP Morgan, funding or, you know, doing billions of dollars with NextEra Energy, the big NGOs, and then the corporate interests, many of them foreign, including Swedish firms trying to force a solar project in Cambria, New York. I mean, there's just an incredible amount at stake here billions of dollars at stake, let's make no mistake, and there's so these entities that have the money, they have the natural advantage, because they have so much money, and they have the sympathy of the media, if not the outright support. I mean, just outright, you know, favoritism.

Chris Keefer  42:40  

I'm gonna have to wrap up pretty shortly because I've got to get off to work soon. To that other job. I do. But

Robert Bryce  42:46  

oh, we want to save lives and all the rest of it key for saving people from dying in the emergency room would

Chris Keefer  42:54  

make me blush here. But you mentioned the substack project. Yeah. And I think we've we've flirted it's talking about the film that's, I think going to be coming out this year. You know, it's I think it's topical. What how much can you give us in terms of, you know, you don't have a trailer for us here we can, we can send but in terms of a sneak preview of what's to come.

Robert Bryce  43:18  

Sure. Well, thank you. Just a little bit of background. So yes, I've written six books. I did a documentary with my colleague, Tyson Kovar called the Jews how electricity explains the world that came out a couple years ago. Very proud of that documentary. And but it was really hard to make. And I thought I was done with making documentaries. I thought, you know, it's just too much friction, that cost too much. But I'm called to make this film. And it's called burning down the grid. And what is the film going to do, we're going to tell the human story of the electric grid, how it got in Ronde, and what we must do to fix it. And it got in round with a lot of bad policy, a lot of bad money that much of the roots of that came out of the Enron Corporation, that failure of Enron, but that policy still lives on both here in Texas, California, UK, Enron was very active in all of those places. And then what we must do to fix it, we have we have to have more robust government intervention, we have to have nuclear power. You know, you can talk we can argue about climate change. We're not arguing climate change in this film. We're saying if we're serious about affordability, resilience and reliability, we have to go nuclear, we have to go nuclear in a big way. And we're proud that you're going to be in the film where the Canadian story is an integral part of the story. interviewed some of the people we've already talked about MADI hilly among them, Emmet Penney. I'm very hopeful about nuclear I my clear eyed about the challenge. Damn right. You know, there are a lot of challenges yet but this is a film that I'm called to make. And Tyson has been doing a great job and we've been very successful in raising the money for it and we're going to make it happen and planning to have it out by the second quarter of this year. And maybe we'll come up in Toronto and do a screening up there.

Chris Keefer  44:51  

I certainly look forward to that, Robert, it'll be great to see in person again. Thanks again for making the time and for doing what you do. This is really valuable contribution. You I'm certainly putting some numbers on this. And as I said, I'm really excited about the possibility of more investigative journalism you know, someone even writing a book again, if they're able to get to sneak behind the curtain and see how this money is spent what what those mechanisms are just, I think it's a fascinating topic. Thanks again, Robert, I hope you don't get blacked out again by by this ice storm and the transmission issues. I know that was a traumatic experience for you a couple of years ago that I looked

Robert Bryce  45:27  

through it and it provided a lot of the motivation for what I'm doing now. But saying back to you know, a big fan and you know, always loved being on the D couple podcasts. So, but yeah, tell everybody about Robert Do your mind. But also if you want to look at I've been updated the renewable rejection database, it's on my website, Robert It's now searchable by keyword by year by by state so I put a lot of effort and a fair amount of my own money and getting that updated with our mutual friend Brian get. So that's been that's new and is up and ready to go as well. So I'm working as hard as I can, my friend but I know you are as well. So look forward to talking more.

Chris Keefer  46:06  

All right. Wonderful. Take care, Robert.

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