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Welcome back, everybody. We're going to talk about the environment today. It is a hot topic, as you can imagine. And listen to this podcast. If you're a long time listener and you've already given me five stars, and if you haven't, I don't know what you're doing with your life. But if you have, then, you know, I talk about this issue a lot being from Houston now on Energy and Commerce Committee. So and when I'm on the Environment Subcommittee, so this is a really big deal.
I care about the environment. I call myself a rational environmentalist. I'm not a radical environmentalist. And I fear the Democrat Party has been taken over by nothing but radical environmentalists. And I hope to be proven wrong maybe in these some of these hearings and debates they'll have on the committee. But we'll see. So we're going to continue getting the right information out from very smart people who know what they're talking about. So I have Robert Bryce on, Robert.
Thanks so much for being on. Happy to be with you. Thanks. So you're in Austin right now, your Texas based like like all the good people are and your author, journalist, podcast or film producer, public speaker. You've been writing about this issue for decades.
You've your work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Review, Field and Stream, Austin Chronicle. You were working at the Austin Chronicle for like 12 years. I believe you just came out with a new documentary called Juice How Electricity Explains the World. You can find that on Amazon Prime. So we'll, you know, we'll talk about that. You've got like a million bucks. I'll just read some of the titles. Some people get an idea of what you're right about here.
First book, Pipe Dreams, Greed, Ego and the Death of Enron. So that one like that won an award, I think, or named one of the best nonfiction books by Publishers Weekly.
You wrote The Cronies Oil, the Bushes and the Rise of Texas America's Superstate. OK, I do have questions about that's a that's a quite the title, too. So I want to know what you're talking about there.
Gusher of Lies, the dangerous delusions of energy independence. I want to ask you about that one to see if that one is aged well, power hungry, the myths of green energy and the real fuels of the future. That will be fascinating, too. That's probably something that you and I both agree on and we'll talk about quite a bit as well as this one. Smaller, faster, lighter, denser, cheaper. How innovation keeps proving that the catastrophists wrong.
That's a difficult word. You know, I would have I would have recommended maybe not putting that in the title because I don't know what to say. It makes me feel stupid. But anyway, thanks. Thanks for. Oh, no, you just have a recent one or two. A question of power, electricity in the Wealth of Nations and a question about.
So, yeah, well, plug all of those are you plug them as necessary and as they relate to our car conversation. But before we started recording, we were you know, you were talking about being in Austin and you're like, well, this is where all the Californians are escaping to. And, you know, we were talking about the politics of that. Are they turning Texas blue? That's sort of a separate discussion. But what are they escaping from?
I mean, what what are you hearing from your neighbors who are escaping to Austin and what is going on in California? And why isn't there a super green, their own version of the Green New Deal work? Well, I mean, they're already they're having blackouts now. I mean, that's the amazing thing that is that, you know, for months now, the Pacific Gas and Electric has had many forced blackouts because of wildfire danger and so on. I mean, it's I've been to Beirut.
In fact, I talk about we went to Beirut for the film. I'd write about Beirut in a new book. You know, Beirut moved to California. I mean, so, so many Californians now, they can't rely on even a friend of mine who works in the utility business. He told me the other day his colleagues are buying their own home generators. I mean, imagine that you work for a utility and your your electricity is so undependable, you have to buy yourself a generator.
So I think it's partly the the energy issues that are out there. Cost of energy is very high. Cost of housing is very high. The regulatory regime is is extreme. I think it's just a combination of all of those things, extremely high cost of living and difficulty and just managing the regular discussion of regulatory hurdles that they have to manage as businesspeople and as entrepreneurs.
It amazes me that a headline recently and in some mainstream publication that said that that was the basis of the headline was basically California is the baseline, the policy baseline for the rest of the country, you know, coming from the progressive left.
And it's just fascinating to me, considering there's such an exodus away from California.
I mean, it's just like it's like it's like these the progressive elites live on a totally different planet and are just so out of touch with basic needs and also just basic analysis of costs and benefits of their policies. Well, it's interesting you say that because I think that the energy part of this is an energy and climate is the basis of it, and a lot of this the the the push toward the left, that we're going to be California's biases.
We're going to lead the world on climate change issues. Well, OK. But you look at what they've done and I've been tracking this. I wrote a paper for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity about the natural gas bans that are being implemented in California. No, this is truly remarkable that natural gas grids have been a sign of progress and prosperity in cities all over the world for 200 years.
And now California, because of climate change, they're instituting regulations. Now over 40 different municipalities and local governments have said we're going to ban or restrict the use of natural gas in the home, which I see this is just an enormously wrong move on a whole bunch of levels, particularly just look at the basic facts so you won't be able to use gas. You're going to have to rely on electricity in a state with one of the poorest performing grids in the country.
So, I mean, there's just there are parts of this that just make no sense to me at all. And one last point. I think it was in December, San Jose and Oakland both passed bans on gas in new buildings.
That same week, PG&E announced an eight percent or was approved an eight percent rate hike. So, you know, they're saying you can't use gas and get gas. At the same time, electricity rates are soaring.
Yeah, and it is that and it's all related, obviously, it all sort of ends in this sort of destructive electrical apocalypse, but why OK, well, why help our viewers understand why is the electric grid in California so bad? Why is it so underperforming? Well, it's a very good question, and I had on my podcast, Power Hungry podcast a few weeks ago, I had a wonderful woman.
I have a book here right at hand somewhere. Yeah, here it is. It's called Shorting the Grid by Meredith Angwin. And she talked about what she calls the the fatal trifecta, which I got a just a brilliant analysis. What's the fatal trifecta? Overreliance on natural gas and natural gas over reliance on natural gas, overreliance on imported electricity and overreliance on renewables. And California had all of those things that led to the blackouts that hit the state last year.
So that is one of the things that in terms of the big picture, in terms of basic electric grid management, California is just failing at it in a remarkably public and extraordinarily expensive manner.
So so they have an overreliance on natural gas, but they're also banning it. So I assume that that makes their situation even worse, because if you're banning the thing that you're already relying, it's right over overreliance on gas for natural for electricity generation.
Yeah, right. That's her point. Right. In terms of production, because California had forced the closure of several natural gas plants and now they said, oh, wait a minute, no, we're going to keep those open after the blackouts that made that decision.
Yeah, and they're and they're closing nuclear plants as well. Or just not building new ones. I mean, what's the why is the left just in general? Well, it's one of the hate nuclear so much. You know, that is a really good question, Dan, and I've written about it a lot, written about it in my last three books, the Sierra Club has led the anti-nuclear charge in America for 50 years. And I wrote a piece in Forbes, in fact, last year, the Democratic Party last year, for the first time in forty eight years, endorsed the use of nuclear power, which, you know, now they're in power and now they're in power and control the House, the Senate and the White House.
Will they really express that? But I think part of it is that they view nuclear. They conflate the issue of nuclear energy with nuclear weaponry. But also I think it's just some knee jerk reaction against high tech. And somehow they think renewables are better. So it's not just that they're anti-nuclear, it's that they think renewables are the only way that we should be powering our economy.
But it's like a feeling, you know, that that's what drives me nuts and that there's not a real explanation as to why they feel that way. They just do feel that way. And it's almost religious, like it's almost it's like it's like singing from a hymn almost. It's it's interesting. No, I think that religious I think that that the fervent belief that we have sinned against against the Earth, right, that we humans are bad is part of that that this is it is it is a type of religion in terms of the ideas of original sin.
And we've committed a sin against nature. Therefore, we must repent and we can only then use natural, quote, natural sources of energy, solar and wind, never mind that to scale them up requires massive amounts of mining. And it's terrible for our life and all those other things that we could discuss. But it is a religious type of debate. And that's one reason why the debate overall, I think, is so stuck.
Yeah, it's frustrating. I couldn't help but wonder when you were mentioning your the new movie that you guys came out with and you were in Beirut and Beirut coming to California. I don't know what you meant by that. It was because of a little bit fascinated as to what you were doing in Beirut and how that how does that tie in to the question of how electricity explains the the world?
Yes, it does. Thanks. We traveled and went to India, Iceland, Lebanon, Puerto Rico, Colorado, New York, we traveled over sixty thousand miles and made a 90 minute documentary or 82 minute documentary.
But we really focused on the electric, the electricity side. We looked at the world through the lens of electricity. And what we found, and it's one of the key points in the film, is that the electric grid is almost a perfect reflection of the society at Powers. And so you go to Iceland. Well, they have lots of hydro, they have lots of geothermal. It's a very small country.
Well, they can go 100 percent renewable on their electric grid because of they have all this thermal and geothermal, this hydro very unique Beirut.
Beirut, nearly everyone pays two electric bills in Beirut, and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to go there.
They're notorious for the generator mafia and so everyone pays one bill to Eedle, the state run grid operator. But there are blackouts every day in Beirut. So they have another bill that they pay to the local generator known as the generator mafia because they want to have power all the time. And so it's just a reflection that is a reflection of this endemic corruption that has been crippling Lebanon for decades.
Yeah, I'm fascinated by love and I worked there a little bit as a seal I didn't know about that. Wasn't necessarily in tune at the time with their electrical grid problems. So. So, again, what's the explanation there? I mean, is it why do they have blackouts? I mean, that's always kind of a fascinating question in general. It helps us and helps us think of new solutions for the future.
Sure. Well, it's interesting. You'd been in Beirut because, you know, of course, the the story in Beirut is that every spy in the world eventually goes to Beirut. Right. It's just a hotbed for rise and intrigue. And you know that this is everybody wants to influence Lebanon.
There's a lot of romanticism surrounding the country of Lebanon. And I mean, I love it. I there's something about that country that just attracts people. And it's I think it's a very cool place. Yeah, the the Paris of the Middle East, I wanted to go there for decades and it didn't disappoint. I don't want to go back right now. Believe me, I've been there once.
But the short answer to why their grid is so is crippled. And it's the same in Puerto Rico. It's a one word answer corruption, that there is endemic corruption in that country. There's endemic corruption, unfortunately, in Puerto Rico, but and a lot of other places where grids don't work. But if the grids don't have integrity of the system, the society doesn't have integrity. It's reflected in electricity service. And so, you know, Lebanon has been a fractured country for decades and that that is even more fractured today.
So, OK, then let's move back to Texas now, because when I was reading through this list of books, this one really stuck out to me, the krone's oil, the Bushes and the rise of Texas, America's superstate. So what's what's behind that title? So I didn't get to read all your books. Sure.
Well, that book was published now 16, 17 years ago, 20. And and and it was an outgrowth of my first book, What I Found. I've written six books. That one book just kind of leads me to another of the themes in it. And so my first book was on Enron and the Failure of Enron. And as I wrote about that book, I realized the.
The legacy see the rise of Texas politicians and in particular Sam Rayburn, LBJ, and I would argue both both Bushes and I did in the book is The State's Oil Wealth that, you know, you read about how Lyndon Johnson prevailed in 1948 in various accounts. It was he was able to get sackfuls of cash from the biggest oil barons of the day and that funded his campaign and that the oil wealth and the mineral wealth in Texas then was expressed in politics and through the politicians that were able to come from Texas and use that mineral wealth to fund their political campaigns and political aspirations.
That's the that's the book in a nutshell. But I think it's also one of the things interesting, as I thought about it a lot since then, is the book kind of posed this question, is America going to adopt the Texas model or the California model?
And now I think 17 years later, it's clear that people in California are voting with their feet and saying, well, we think the Texas model might be better.
Yeah, I mean, on many fronts, but mean. So actually, the Texas model when it comes to electricity is interesting. We're the only state that's on our own power grid. Right. Can help listeners understand that. I'm not always great at trying to explain it. And one of the pros and cons, what does it allow us to do? What what what does it not? What is how does it hurt us? What what do you think about Texas being.
I think we're number one on wind energy, you know, and I you probably share a lot of my skepticism on solar and wind as as this amazing new future. I'm not against it. I just just don't think it's this, you know, this promising thing that we can just rely on. But what do you think about it? How does it affect the Texas energy grid? Do we have problems? How could we be better? Sure. Well, you're right, Texas is anomalous when people say, oh, well, look at all the women in Texas, OK, well, sure, but Texas as the electric grid in Texas is Urca Electric Reliability Council of Texas, it's a regional transmission organization.
Texas is unique, as you said, and that it has its own AHTO. But the not other states, very few other states can do, if any, can do what Texas has done in terms of wind and in terms of transmission. So two points. One is Texas is a big place.
So there are a lot of areas where wind energy can be built and it doesn't disturb a lot of people. Right, because out in West Texas, Abilene, Sweetwater, that area, there's a lot of cactus and rattlesnakes and not a lot, not a lot and not very many people.
It's not the case or trees. You're not destroying a bunch of you can't you can't build new wind in New York.
It's so unpopular in the state of New York that the state in Albany, they're ready to override local zoning ordinances to force local communities to accept wind and solar. That's how unpopular it is. You can't build wind and solar in California. And these are in two states that have some of the most aggressive climate goals. So it's indicative of the land use conflicts that are being more or they're coming to the fore in states all across the country. It's not just in New York and California, but Texas is different in that we have a lot of space.
And because it's a big state where we were able to build the state mandated this building of the cruise lines along interstate long, intrastate high voltage transmission system that brought wind from West Texas and North Texas down into the you know, where Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin are. But remember, those those lines were paid for by ratepayers. It wasn't free that every every ratepayer in Texas pays something on their monthly bill. I think it's about five dollars to pay for the cost of those high voltage transmission lines.
Why is that significant? It's because those lines didn't have to cross state boundaries. And that's one of the big limiting factors in high voltage transmission in the United States is building interstate. High voltage transmission is extraordinarily difficult.
What why is a difficult. Well, this is the high voltage transmission the companies are building that don't have the power of eminent domain. Pipelines do right. We can talk about the Keystone XL and some of the controversies around that. But if you're building up oil or gas pipeline, those companies can use eminent domain to appropriate to to obtain the land they need to run the pipelines. The high voltage transmission operators don't have that ability. So you have entire states rejecting high voltage transmission, interstate, high voltage transmission projects, including Arkansas, Iowa, big fight over it in Missouri.
There was a big fight over it in Oklahoma. So effectively, there's been no interstate transmission of any size built in several years in the United States.
So would it be a good thing if there was? Would that what would that allow us to do? Well, that's one of the big debates now, in fact, is that all renewable proponent, so the people are saying, oh, we need to build out all this, you know, enormous amounts of new wind and so on. Well, it's easy to say, but it's hard to do because you have county governments, local government, you know, city governments, town governments that are saying, well, you're going to build these 200 foot pylons through our town.
What do we get for it? So it is part of the broader land use conflict issue that I've been covering now for more than 10 years that I think is only going to become more acute in the years ahead.
OK, so I mean, OK, so, I mean, I'm trying to put this in the layman's terms. The problem is, if you're going to if you're going to build giant wind farms, you can't build them near towns, you can't build them for the reasons you stated. People don't want them around. There's good reasons not to want them around. You know, look at them. I mean, and they destroy a lot of wildlife. They're not great.
But if you do build them, you can build them out in the middle of nowhere. But you need transmission lines to get from the middle of nowhere to the middle of somewhere. And that's both expensive, requires a lot of materials, requires a lot of industry. Right. And I thought the left didn't like industry. So you've got to build things a lot of steel, a lot of all of that. And then to layer on top of that problem, just because of the way our laws and interstate commerce work, it's difficult to even build those transmission lines in between states.
But there's still even difficult and it's not even clear that it's a great idea from a policy perspective and from a cost benefit perspective to even build all this extra transmission lines in the first place just so you can feel good about where that electricity is coming from, that that kind of action.
That's that's a that's a great that's a great summary. And I'll just add a couple of quick thoughts. One is there's an old saw in the utility business and it's easier to move molecules than electrons. And if you think about it, well, oh, you have a pipeline. You can move the molecule of hydrocarbons, you know, gas or gasoline or diesel fuel or whatever through a pipeline which underground and people don't see it move electrons. You have to have these pylons that are 200 feet high and people see them all the time and they have red blinking lights on them.
And they they're bad for property values. They're bad for viewshed in. These battles are happening. And our big battle is underway in New York over this. There's a big battle over over a year and a half ago or so, the state of New Hampshire rejected a high voltage transmission project. It was supposed to bring electricity from Hydro-Quebec into Massachusetts. And New Hampshire said we don't get anything from this. Forget it, we're not going to allow this.
So the states have a big say. And I think it's going to be difficult for Congress to override that and say, oh, no, we're the federal government. We're going to force you to take these high voltage transmission lines. I think that's a very difficult political battle in Congress. Now, you're more expert on that than I am. But as far as I see it, it's a very different battle to say, oh, we're going to we're going to override your prerogative as a state.
That's that's a difficult argument to make yet.
And I don't want to make it because I don't even agree with it. So that's a it would be difficult.
It should be difficult because I think it would be it wouldn't be fun. Yeah.
And again, it's like, OK, so let me get this straight. You want to import energy from, you know, like, let's say hydropower from Quebec. Like in this case, you want to you want to cut a bunch of land up in New Hampshire, bring it down to New York so you can say that you're getting your electricity from hydropower. That'll you know, you've got a lot of problems here just right off the bat. I think one is just the destruction to land that occurs to that many, many, many, many miles of transmission lines, the amount of building that has to occur, the amount of steel that has to be produced to build that in the first place, which does require something other than solar and wind and hydro.
Right. It requires like real fossil fuels to build that. So they don't like to explain that part in their in their entire calculation. They're also losing. There's a there's a loss. Right. The longer you transmit try to transmit electrons, there's a there's an energy loss there. So you're not really getting what you pay for. And another option is just build a nuclear plant or a gas powered plant where you actually need the energy and have a lot.
And don't you just you just remove all those other problems. But they hate that or they just build a natural gas pipeline underground to New York, which they hate also. And they've they've deliberately they're in the Northeast. They're constantly trying to battle against that. Well, I think you make a great point, and I think that that's one of the reasons why I've been adamantly pro nuclear. I had a piece I published in Forbes just a few days ago talking about that.
If the fact that if President Biden is serious about climate change, then he should be working to prevent the closure of the reactors that are slated for closure this year. There are three plants, two in Illinois and the Unit three reactor at Indian Point in New York. Well, those three plants together, Dan, produced forty three terawatt hours of electricity per year. That's more electricity than is produced by all of the solar in California. It's three times all the geothermal production in the U.S. It's nearly equal to all of the solar produced in Germany.
But these plants are being allowed to close. And now some of them, they're economically challenged because the way the grid has been structured and the fact that they're not getting the kind of subsidies solar and wind are. But the point that I'm trying to get, they're making now, I'll just finish with this point is that those plants are very dense. They have a very small footprint, and you can build them close to cities. So you don't need the big you know, you don't have to build high voltage transmission.
So the amount of friction that is now facing this idea that we're going to go to 100 percent renewables, we're going to decarbonise the electric grid there, and it's going to be extraordinarily difficult and will cost, according to McKinsey, for that trillion dollars. That's a lot of money.
Yeah. And one of the difficult difficulties we have as policymakers is that question of, OK, so what does it mean not to let a nuclear plant close and what do we have to do to make sure it doesn't close? It is challenging. It's not exactly clear to me. Do you have any ideas on that? Well, look, it is a simple thing to fix, but politically unpopular to do so you look at Illinois, who owns those plants, it's excellent corporation.
Well, I'm not going to volunteer to have a bake sale for Exelon. Their annual revenues are, what, 30 billion dollars a year? Something on that order. But they said way the system is structured, we are not making our rate of return on those plants that are commensurate with the amount of investment and the cost of operating them. Yeah. So I also I also wrote recently about the subsidies, the federal tax incentives that are being given to solar 250 times greater than the subsidies being given to federal tax incentives to nuclear.
So that should be changed.
It's very, very frustrating. On my part is that there should not be solar and wind tax credits. There should be carbon free tax credits that are technology neutral, because then you could apply those to even gas powered plants that engage in carbon capture technology and then at least incentivize that.
I don't know if that would help those nuclear plants and that that could be a way that you you legalize those tax credits across all of those different sources and then that could help those nuclear plants stay open. But, you know, and one of the things that was disturbing to me, if you're a member of the House of Representatives, but that those are tax credits were extended where there were extensions added to that massive spending bill that passed on December five thousand five hundred ninety three pages, if I remember.
But, you know, to me, that's that that's political malpractice. Why are we allowing that those extensions to just be slipped in there? It doesn't make any sense.
It's extremely frustrating. It gets to a much longer conversation about the nature of omnibus bills and the nature of negotiations. And people are like, well, why don't you guys just do things discreetly and pass bills one at a time? And I say agree with that. But but unless you unless you unless you impose that constitutionally, you're always going to end up in this situation where, listen, the negotiations happen. Democrats say we won't even come to the table unless these things are in there.
And so we say, fine, then when we won't come to the table unless these things are in there. And this is how it works and it's difficult to see how you get around that. But that's a separate political discussion. Speaking of subsidies, one thing we always hear is about oil and gas subsidies. I'm just not aware of any direct subsidies to oil and gas companies. What the heck are they talking about when they talk about this?
Well, I think the main one is the depletion allowance. I've studied that, in fact, I wrote about it in Krone's a book you referenced earlier, that this has been one of the criticisms of the oil and gas industry for decades, you know, even going back to the 1940s, that this is an unconscionable subsidy for the oil and gas industry because they're able to reduce their the taxes that they show by are the taxes they owe by claiming the depletion allowance.
In addition, they get accelerated depreciation on their drilling costs. So those are the main ones. And you can look at the US Treasury reports on this and they're line items that show what they cost. So is it a subsidy? Well, yeah, it is.
But when you compare it on an amount of energy produced basis, it's vanishingly small compared to the subsidies, the tax incentives that are being given to solar and wind. So if we're going to have a level playing field in terms of, well, OK, you can reduce it because they're not carbon free. But still, if you're going to have anything like a reasonable approach in terms of tax incentives and federal stance toward that, then it has to consider the overall amount of energy produced.
Not just that we like these guys and we don't like those guys.
Yeah. And it's also, you know, in this debate, I would say it's important to recognise there is a difference and people say, I'm splitting hairs. I'm really not.
There's a true difference, like from a policy perspective, from a philosophical perspective, between reducing tax liability and indirect subsidies in the form of tax credits like these are very different things. I mean, one is there's a there's an actual cost and one is, well, we could have taxed you more, but we didn't. And I'm sorry about those two things are just very, very different. And I don't like that. The common talking point that's thrown out there, all that all those massive subsidies, Doyle and gas.
And I'm like, well, if that's the argument then than any than any, I guess, deduction, tax deduction for a business could be considered a subsidy. But it's not. I mean, we just have to be careful with our language because words matter. And if we're trying to have a substantive policy debate.
So that's what I want to clear that up for the audience, because if I could just add one thing that pops into my head, Dan, as you talk about that, is that the White House Council of Economic Advisers, I think it was not it was last year. No, maybe twenty eighteen, came out with a study that looked at the effects of the shale revolution. And the bottom line was they said that they estimated that the shale revolution, because primarily because of lower natural gas prices, was saving an average family of four about twenty five hundred dollars per year.
Well, that's a that's a big number. But what to me, the important part of that is why did the shale revolution happen? It wasn't that oil and gas industry wasn't propelled by tax incentives. And in fact, what happened to the oil and gas industry was that they destroyed about three hundred billion dollars in capital. They had net negative cash flow, according to Deloitte, of over three hundred billion dollars, wrote off four hundred and fifty billion in in in assets by by essentially running themselves, many of them out of business, because they, you know, I would guess too cheap.
So it's when the history is written of this era of the shale revolution and how it changed America's fortunes globally in terms of imports and exports were big LNG, LNG exporter where crude oil exporter where importer of other refined commodities. It is a remarkable story and I'm one that is due to American entrepreneurial talent and private mineral rights and a whole lot of other things.
So I want to kind of get an interesting way to keep going along. This conversation is just really just following your book titles, Gusher of Lies The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence. So this was from 2008. I mean, this one as well, because I feels like we're we've got a pretty solid path towards energy independence if we want.
It doesn't seem like the Biden administration wants that. But how do you feel now versus when you wrote this in 2008? Sure. Well, clearly, the shale revolution started writing about in 2008. That was that year oil and natural gas prices peaked. We had a hundred and fifty dollar oil for a few few months. Natural gas prices were over eight dollars per MBT, you know, but but the basic point that I make in the book is that we're not independent.
We are live in an interdependent world. The U.S. is now exporting crude, but we're also importing crude. So you have to weigh the different kinds of we're very much more integrated into the global market now in terms of the crude market than ever before. Well, so just a brief explanation. American refiners, particularly on the Gulf Coast, they own refineries. You know, this, that they're very complex. They have a very they can handle heavy, sour crudes that they get at a discount relative to the benchmark prices at Cushing or the Brent price.
Well, then they they make the crack spread. That's the the difference between how much they pay for the crude and how much they get. They get paid for selling diesel and gasoline, the other things they make. So America is exporting light sweet crude. That's not economic for American refiners to use. So the essence of my point here is that, yeah, we're still interdependent. We're not independent. We're, you know, who's who's dependent on who.
If I buy a sandwich from you. Am I dependent on you for my sandwich or are you dependent on me for my cash? We're interdependent.
Yeah, OK, well, that's fair. And it's still true. I think we could be if we wanted to, we'd have to obviously invest a lot of money into changing those refineries. And then the question would be why, you know, if it's working fine as it is, this title is really good to the myths of green energy. So what are the myths of of green energy? I think we've probably hit on some of them already. But from, you know, give me your take on this.
Well, the myths of green energy is one that we can we can solely rely on renewables. We can't.
And yet this is the the the the the claim that we hear over and over and over again from big environmental groups, from some of the academics at some of the most elite institutions in America. Stanford, you know, there was a new study from Princeton that just came out, emitted Cal Berkeley, saying, oh, well, renewables are so cheap, we're just going to rely on them. Oh, no, we're not, because they're intermittent. They require a lot of land and they require a lot of rare earth elements.
Who controls the market in rare earth elements? China. So this idea that we're just going to switch over our energy and power systems to something else, no, we won't. So there are a lot of myths. But the other point that I make in that book and the real fuels of the future, natural gas and nuclear. And that's been something that I've been writing about now for over a decade, that if we're serious about reducing carbon emissions and we want cheap, abundant, reliable energy and power, these are the best.
No regrets, no regrets. Paths forward that those fuel sources, those sources of energy are low carbon. They're scalable. And the U.S. has the technology to to to provide both of them on the global market.
Yeah, there's a lot of agreement there. That sort of that gets in line with some of the legislation that we look at and hopefully some of the reasonable debates that we'll have in Congress.
You know, I don't know how much of that will happen, but maybe at least some on the nuclear front and hopefully doesn't get torpedoed in the sense that for the reasons we discussed earlier, which is what happens is you agree on a certain part in the bill and then the other side will add a bunch of other things to the bill they know you can't vote for and they make you vote against the thing you agree with, just so they can say, look how crazy they are.
They don't even agree with nuclear power. I mean, this is the game that gets played, unfortunately.
OK, what about and then, you know, to to add to that. So one, it's just impossible, as you noted. But why is it why why I think is what a lot of people don't realize and is it have to do with energy density based power, load some of the transmission lines from problems that we noted earlier. And, you know, just making it right, the rare earth mineral production that's required to even make these things.
Sure. Well, I'll give you the answer, what I write about in Power Hungry, my fourth book, there are four reasons. It's power density, energy density, cost and scale. Well, so take those an hour in order. Power density, power density. It's the amount of energy that you can harvest or energy flow that you can harvest from a given area of volume or mass. So the power density of biofuels like ethanol, is measured in the tenths of a what, per square meter wind energy.
I don't care where you put it, onshore. Offshore doesn't matter. One watt per square meter solar about 10 watts per square meter. Natural gas and nuclear, you're into thousands of watts per square meter. So the the footprint matters. It matters enormously. And if you need a big footprint and the lower the power density, the higher the resource intensity. If you're starting with low power density ethanol, you need a tractor, you need diesel fuel, you need fertilizer, you need a lot of land.
The same thing with with wind. You need a lot of concrete, need a lot of copper, a lot of lithium, a lot of these other things. So these are these are directly related. But I think if I was going to boil it down, why can't we just switch our system over to renewables? It's fundamentally basic physics and that's power density.
Yeah, well, and also, is there a difference? So Bill Gates famously says, OK, you can't how are you going to make steel? If we if we just transitioned everything to solar and wind, you can't make steel. So I guess from a scientific standpoint, why can't we make steel with solar and wind? Because I say that all the time. But, you know, I think you can explain the I think you can describe it a little bit better.
Sure, I mean, Cole has been and what is the term of art for that type of anthracite coal? You know, they make coal as it has been part of the steelmaking process for four hundred, two hundred years. That process is well proven now, reaching those high temperatures to produce steel. There have been some demonstration projects with concentrated solar that claim that they can use that for making steel. But then what about anhydrous ammonia? How are you going to make ammonia without natural gas?
That's the other what propelled the Green Revolution. It was the habour process. And what does the hybrid process rely on? It relies on natural gas. So you know these ideas. Oh, well, we could just switch all these industrial processes. Where are we going to get our fertilizer? What is going to drive the tractors that are going to going to going to till the fields? This, you know, these these investigations and these claims of of renewables don't take those next steps to say, well, how are we going to make how are we going to eat if we don't have synthetic fertilizer?
And I think that's an important question that often ignored.
Yeah, of course, they would just kind of say, well, solar powered tractors. Right. Or, you know, I think and, you know, always try to understand what they are so confident John Deere makes all kinds of them right.
Sort of solar powered tractor. I like you. How big are the solar panels going to have to be for the guy sitting on the tractor?
Very large, sunny. Right. And very, very large and. And what I and I guess the point I was trying to make is like, you know, steel requires extremely high temperatures, requires a lot of energy. Forget about some of the other things that you mentioned. There's other actual resources in the form of natural gas and fossil fuels that literally and coal that literally go into the making of it. But I'm just talking about the energy and it's like there's a question of concern when even provide that energy as a baseload.
And the answer seems to be no. Yeah, no, I agree. Well, so let me, if you don't mind, flip the tables on you just a minute. I mean, what what do you make of the first moves of the by the administration? Because I you know, before he was inaugurated, I thought I was my question that I had was, is he going to tack to the center on some of these climate and energy policies?
Because it's one thing to campaign, it's another thing to govern. But the early indications are that he's, well, moving further, left faster than I expected. What's your what's your take.
Mhm. Yeah. So his political strategy, it's, it's a little, I mean we could, we could interpret it a number of ways. One they just don't care what we think. So if you're the Democrats and you are a student of history, you might just believe right off the bat you're going to lose the House and maybe the Senate in two years. So you might as well just go just just just full on as far as you can in two years.
It's sort of what they did in 2008 as they used all their political capital to get through Obamacare. So that might be part of it. They just don't care what we think. They might want to get the controversial stuff out of the way initially so that by the time elections come around, then they start to tack to the center and try to trick everybody into believing that, you know, that they're that they really just are pragmatic centrists. And, you know, it's difficult to do because, look, everything you do, we're just going to we're going to put on a campaign ad.
So I don't know what they're thinking. I look, I I think the simpler explanation in reality is this is just that the Democrat Party has veered very, very far to the left.
And there's very, very powerful demands from the base of that party, whether it's on the forms of racial justice or the environmental environmental movement. These are the strongest movements. But by far, I think also transgender movement, it's an odd one because it represents so few people on an absolute basis. But this is a very strong movement within the Democrat Party. And nowhere in there did I hear working class or Labor Party, none of that middle class. But so it's these sort of niche issues, niche issues that how do you pronounce that damn word?
That niche is not that that I just hear pronounced differently all the time.
And I always I always doubt myself. I shouldn't say that anyway. It's these niche issues that really drive policymaking. And so you start out with this this effort to just please a radical base and it feels more like a culture war set of policies than it does real well thought out policies, again, whether it's the transgender issues or the racial inequality issues or the environmental issues, none of these, when you really get down to the brass tacks of the policy being proposed, are are pragmatic in any sense.
None of them rely on an agreed upon set of facts to then and an agreed upon problem that needs to be solved and then come to a logical conclusion on the solution of that problem based on a real cost benefit analysis. None of them. Right. It's it's pure dogmatism. It's pure ideology. And that's just become the popular thing. And Biden doesn't he no longer has the wherewithal to resist that, whereas maybe a lot of people just knowing him in politics for 40 years, sort of expected that from him.
But they shouldn't have. People like me said that months prior to the election that you should not expect this man to resist the left the way you think he will. You should not expect some moderate presidency. You should not even expect an Obama presidency. You should expect something far more radical because the because the party itself has moved into a far more radical direction and they don't feel like they even have to explain themselves. They don't even feel like they go ahead.
Well, let me let me let me interrupt you, because, I mean, this is the part to disconnect. And my politics are very centrist. And, you know, I've been on the right I mean, I you know, I wrote for a left leaning newspaper. I was at the Manhattan Institute for nine years. I've seen I've been on both sides and and I've just, you know, part of the disgusted party, I guess. But to me, some of the most interesting political battles are what is happening in California over these energy and climate policies and the growing discontent and, in fact, backlash coming from Latino and African-American communities saying, wait a minute, you're passing all these climate policies.
These are regressive and they're hurting our our people. And that's the part that you mentioned that about the working class, that this is the part that I don't like, the fact that the Republicans have become more the party of the working.
Class than the Democrats, but the Democrats, you know, despite their claims, these energy and climate policies that they're implementing are going to going to screw the poor in the middle class. Tradesmen don't work. They don't drive as they drive, they drive up one 50s. They're not going to use they're not going to ever plug in their car and some public charging station, they don't have an SUV.
But the the elitist approach on climate and energy is the part of the Democratic platform that to me just doesn't it it does something but just doesn't square. And yet, as you point out, that doesn't seem to be part of their understanding of where they are or their their charge.
Yeah. And I'd like to hear it was one of the questions I had for you, actually, which was was their reaction. I mean, these environmental regulators in California, because they're always spewing out these talking points, actually just responding to one.
Right before we got on, I was on a Fox business interview and they repeated the oft claim, the oft repeated claim of, look, it's the poor that live near highways, right where all of this particulates are emitting from and where it's so dirty. I'm not really sure that there's evidence for that. By the way, I live by a highway.
And not only that, but it's the poor that live next to these refineries. It's the poor that live next to these electrical generation plants.
And then and so they paint this picture of this of this downtrodden poor person, usually somebody of color who is just it's just the pollution is spewing on them and they're jobless. And I'm like you. This is just so out of touch. This is just not true. What is true is that these are the places where a lot of these middle class and low income people actually work and provide for their families. That's the actual truth. And, you know, maybe get on the ground and actually actually see these communities and see where they see who is working at these these supposedly evil refineries and also see who you're hurting when you deliberately jack up electricity prices, when you deliberately jack up gas prices, when you tell people to just go get a job in the solar and wind industry, well, on average, those jobs for twenty thousand dollars less than a job in the oil and gas sector.
And so if you're going to make that sacrifice, if you're going to demand that sacrifice, what are we getting for it? Let's play.
The next part of our conversation is like is is what do we get from an environmental standpoint by even doing these things? But I mean, first first maybe let's stick to the poor.
Well, yeah, sure. But I'll interrupt you there, because I think that's one of the things that's been on my mind. Biden just announced this freeze on federal leasing. Well, OK, so let's you know, the rhetoric is they want to put the oil and gas industry out of business, right? Well, OK, rough terms. That's two million jobs, know, give or take. I mean, we can argue over those. Let's call it a million million people in the oil and gas sector.
Well, they're saying, OK, we're going to create millions of jobs in green industries. But you're starting from minus a million men. So it's not that you have to create these million more jobs. You've destroyed a bunch of jobs already. So that's one thing. And I think that that's a you know, that's, again, a paycheck issue, poor in the low income and and middle income people. But, yeah, I think that I mean, to your point about the disadvantaged communities and, you know, in fact, if you read the statements from the mayor of Oakland, the mayor of San Jose, the mayor of Seattle, after they passed the natural gas bans, that it's boilerplate.
Well, we're looking out for the disadvantaged communities and this is we're going to help them out. And how much do they really mean it or how much of his boilerplate I my my read is that a lot of this is just, you know, boilerplate salute to the to the the poor, the middle class. But you're right. I mean, these are very regressive policies, natural gas and natural gas. We're forced consumers to buy electricity at four times the cost of natural gas on a BTU basis.
Well, that's a regressive tax and every in every sense. But of course, that's not what it's called because climate change and that's the trump card.
It's called environmental justice, you know, whatever the heck that means. Well, what does it mean when you hear that? I mean, if you're written about the term know, what do they really mean by.
Well, it's it's it's interesting you say that because I was it's a very clever guy named Tony Reames, who teaches at University of Michigan. And he's looked at a lot of these energy and climate policies. And he's a different term. He calls it energy justice, which I think is that that access issue is one that I think and to low cost energy services, I think that's a really good term. So, yeah, but he's one of the few that have used that, and I like that.
So that's our counter. That's a good thing. It's a good counter. What about energy. Justice, I think. Yeah. What about energy. Justice. Because people care, they don't they don't have a choice about paying their electricity bill. They don't have a choice about paying their natural gas bill. They pay it or they get cut off.
Let's talk about the fantasy of like, oh, you just going to get a salad? I mean, I just I think I just tweeted literally an hour ago at John Kerry for saying that, like, look, they're just they're just going to go get those solar panel jobs.
I'm trying to do a John Kerry voice right now. And it's like, what if they just go get it back?
That was a bad imitation, but it was pretty good. It was pretty good. This is my podcast, and I can say it was really good.
OK, maybe maybe one of the best maybe one of the best was beautiful.
It was a beautiful that we're getting that were done by Ross Perot in the Ross Perot project, sir. The first thing you do, appoint a task force that was bad.
That wasn't that wasn't bad. That was pretty good. So what the heck was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Those are the sort of fantasy of like it's like, hey, just just learn to code, you know, just just be a solar panel, you know, installer. And it's like. Guys, you have to know that you're making a really disingenuous argument here, I mean, just the amount of disruption in somebody to just go get another job.
And then again, I already went over this. On average, 20 thousand dollars pays less. I don't think that's going to change anytime soon, by the way, because here's another statistic. It takes like six people to operate a solar power plant, takes like a thousand to operate a nuclear plant. Again, one of the reasons why nuclear might be more expensive. But if you're going to make the jobs argument, then you have to acknowledge some very basic truths, which is that there's just less jobs in this in this category that pay a lot less.
The manufacturing is actually happening in China. It doesn't appear to be moving here any time soon. So, you know, it's just wrong. I mean, it's just disingenuous on his face.
Well, the point about the solar panels, so I live in Austin. Full disclosure, I have eight and a half kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of my house. Well, why did I put them on? Because I got three different subsidies. I got the investment tax credit. So I wrote off seven thousand dollars off what I owe the government. I got to deduct seven thousand dollars from my tax bill. Well, that's a big deduction.
Well, the city of Austin subsidize the solar panels. And then Austin Energy, the city owned utility, was at one point paying me one hundred and twenty five dollars per megawatt hour. That was five times the wholesale price of electricity in Texas. So this idea will go install solar panels. Well, who's buying solar panels? Well, I consider myself lucky. Am I rich? I'm no Ross Perot, but I could afford the solar panels. But who is it?
Numerous studies have looked at this, that as Ashley Brown at the Harvard Electricity Project put it, he said, this is Robin Hood in reverse, that wealthy and middle and upper middle class people are able to put solar panels on the roof of their houses. And I don't pay an electric bill six months out of the year. Well, OK, well, bully for me, but I'm getting a return on my investment is pretty good. What about the barista at Starbucks?
What about the, you know, the schoolteacher that doesn't have the solar panels? They're effectively subsidizing mine. So I don't know. I I'm pretty sure it has a lot to recommend it, but it's just a solar panel job. Well, it's not. It's complicated.
It's very complicated. That's a great point. Thank you for bringing that up. So going don't want to try and summarize that point a little bit. Like you have to have despite all the subsidies, you can never subsidize it enough until it's free. I guess until every single person in America is getting a solar panel, which is foolish for many reasons. But even with the subsidies, you still have to be pretty high wealth to at least upper class to to even buy them in the first place.
Once you buy them, you're affecting the electrical grid, especially in mass. And, you know, the question of how that works is probably something that you can describe a little bit better. But the end result of the effect of what is intermittent solar power on people's houses that interacts with the electrical grid and you actually get paid for.
This affects the prices of everybody else's electrical bills and in in an adverse way, and especially on the people who actually the kind of people who actually look at their bill every month and and really calculate because, like, I don't I just I throw it away. Yeah. But there are people who need to calculate that. And these are the people that affects the most. Well, and this is a key point, because I've been paying a lot of attention to California, you know, I've been there times, the beautiful place, I don't care.
But the politics of the energy there are the most interesting of anywhere in the US, maybe anywhere in the world. And I did an interview with a guy who works for the Office of Ratepayer Advocate. It was on a separate story, but we talked about this issue of equity and rooftop solar and they released a report in twenty nineteen pointing out that the big utilities in the state are selling fewer watt hours. They're still selling less electricity. Why? Because more people are putting rooftop solar on so the utilities are able to build fewer there have to spread their costs now over fewer watt hours that they're generating.
Well, that problem is only going to get worse. And he said this, that that problem is only going to get worse as electric rates go higher, that more and more wealthy people are effectively going to secede from the grid, get their own rooftop solar panels. The utilities then have yet fewer watt hours over which to spread their costs. Well, then that's a regressive effect on everyone who relies on that electric grid or that utility. And so this is a really difficult problem.
And it's one that California is not the legislature. The assembly there is not dealing with. And it's in part because the solar lobby is so big, it is so powerful. They're very effective.
Yeah. And it's just a great point to make. And so I want to kind of I don't know how much time we've got left. How long we've been going an hour. Yeah, right.
About an hour. I'm going to have to jump here in about five minutes.
OK, so then let's end let's end with this, a little nerdy talk about NEPA reviews and processes and whether these actually help or hurt NEPA. Well, can you explain what NEPA is? And then and then you're going to get me into the weeds and trouble here real quick.
And you know how the Trump administration sees it. And I mean, we help these processes along in permitting, et cetera, and also just and then maybe end with something you've I think you've written about as well, which is sort of how the environmentalist industry makes so much money off of weaponize the court system, weaponize these process reviews. Well, I'm not going to claim specific knowledge on either of those topics, but one of the things that the environmental groups have been successful at is sue and settle, right.
That they will sue the government, the state government, local government, national federal government. And then they settled the case and then those those environmental groups get to share in some of those. They get lawyer fees and some of these other things show it. As a friend of mine who was a student at the Pentagon said told me years ago, it's the self licking ice cream cone that these you know, the system just perpetuates itself.
But I think that broadly, rather than, you know, I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on NEPA, but I think that the question now I think is as I see it, from where I sit and you're seeing these issues far better than I, as you know, is the Biden administration is going to continue on this path.
And and, you know, there are a lot of things that I desperately disliked about the Trump administration, but the deregulatory efforts, I thought were in many cases the right move. And this push to reregulate and impose more regulations, I think is if it's its system, has had become so onerous for a lot of people for permitting that it was important that they roll back some of that regulation. And now I think we're going to see, you know, that regulatory regime and I think in many cases is just going to it's not going to be it's not going to help average consumers are not going to help average taxpayers or people who are in the energy business.
It's going to hurt them.
Yeah, and it's frustrating because it's like I put it simply, it's basically this theory that if one environmental regulation is good, then 10 must be better, always better. And that obviously is logically untrue. You know, there are the reasons regulations exist in the first place is to is to balance out, you know, unmitigated development, for instance. I mean, like, I'm not against them, but there's this like when you listen to progressive Democrats, you would you would almost believe that that that that that they believe that we have no regulations and that we're the fucking Wild West, which is like so far from true.
I think we're probably the most overly regulated when it comes to NEPA processes, NEPA being what is like National Environmental Protection Act. I think the basis of the process you in the regulatory process, you have to go through to build anything these days and people don't realize how frivolous it can get. What maybe you're expanding a highway?
Well, why do you have to do an endangered species review just to expand a lane on a highway? Like who on earth thinks that there's some endangered species living on the side of the road? That would be, you know, I mean, like, what are we talking about here?
Is it just it just becomes really absurd. And I don't think the general public realizes that they like to because your average voter says and thinks to themselves, look, I am pro environment so and so. So the left, knowing that, I can just say, well, look, this helps the environment so a voter can just. Well, I am in favor. I am in favor of that. But they don't know, you know, and they they unfortunately trust some of these leaders who who claim to be speaking on their behalf.
And it's it's a it's difficult to message back against. We're just at a political disadvantage in that sense. Yeah, yeah, it doesn't fit on a it doesn't fit on a bumper sticker, and that's that's always my test is what you know, which it's kind of one of the reasons why the anti oil and gas industry and it is an industry of fighting the oil and gas. Their bumper sticker says Big Oil wants to pollute your water. And what's the response is?
Oh, no, we don't. Well, yeah.
Well, who's telling the truth, right? Yeah, it's yeah, that's exactly what it is.
And it's like, well, your bumper sticker is right.
And usually the truth is like, no, no, no, no.
We we like we we we have a pond that we created and this is where wastewater goes. But it can't leak anywhere because we line it with plastic and it's like that's too much already. You know, people heard dirty water doesn't you know, and it's just it's very it's very misleading. And that's why I do these podcasts. That's why it's Karpel.
What was what was Karl Rove's line? If you're explaining, you're losing. Yeah. Yeah, that's the. Yeah.
And that's why we do this. Anything else to add before you got to go. No, I think this has been a great day, and I you know, I love these issues. I'm passionate about them. Just a couple of things. You know, your staff did a great job. I think they contacted me through Hannah Jones Jones Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. If your listeners want to see my paper that I did for them on natural gas in California, they can go to free up dog and find it there.
They find me on the web. Robert Bryce, dot com on Twitter, power hungry. Poire hungry. So I'm on the interweb. I'm easy to find on the Google, so. Yeah, great. Happy to happy to be. Let's let's do it again. Yeah.
Well Robert, appreciate you being on. I appreciate all your work on this, on these important issues.