Travis Fisher has worked at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy and is now the director of energy and environmental policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. In this episode, Fisher explains why the energy-related provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act could ultimately cost taxpayers close to $3 trillion, the “Californication” of our electric grid, the mess in Congress, and why federal subsidies for wind and solar, combined with the EPA’s proposed rules are undermining the reliability of our electricity system. (Recorded October 25, 2023.)

Episode Transcript

Robert Bryce  0:04  

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome my friend Travis Fisher. He is the Director of Energy and Environmental Policy at Cato Institute. Travis, welcome to the power hungry podcast.


Travis Fisher  0:19  

Thank you. Great to be here.


Robert Bryce  0:21  

No, I warned you, Travis that guests on this podcast introduce themselves. So imagine you’ve arrived somewhere you don’t know anyone. You’re not in the beltway, which you spend a lot of time in the beltway, you don’t know where to enter the party, you have 60 seconds to introduce yourself, please introduce yourself


Travis Fisher  0:37  

outside the beltway. So I’m in real America now trying to talk to you out there


Robert Bryce  0:40  

with the bumper out there with the bumpkins and the hayseeds. And the normal people? Yes.


Travis Fisher  0:45  

I guess for most people, I’d say I’m a I’m a swamp creature. You know, I’ve been in DC since 2006. Working on energy policy, we still haven’t quite righted the ship, but we’re getting there. My backgrounds in economics. Most of my career has been at FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. And so I’m just a policy nerd, just trying to do right by the American people.


Robert Bryce  1:08  

Okay, and you’re a proud graduate of North Carolina State. If I remember,


Travis Fisher  1:12  

I went to NC State with Julie Bryce, my favorite nice, same class, we were we were nerds at the same time doing the same thing. We were in a, there was a student group called the Society for politics, economics, and the law was a really good group. And she was an officer with me at the time. I think if I recall, that was a long time ago. But yeah, it


Robert Bryce  1:31  

was a long time ago. Yeah. So you, you said just you’re just a swamp nerd. You’re just like, Okay, well, I don’t like that word. Because I think you know, what you’ve been doing is important work. And so you worked at the FERC. Let’s, I want to talk about your critiques. And you’ve written several critiques recently of the inflation Reduction Act and what that means to the electric grid and some really important insights there, including the enormous potential cost of the IRA, which, as you said, the ones 2.5 trillion, as much as 2.5 trillion, as much as 900 billion for solar subsidies alone. I mean, the costs here are just truly staggering. So I want to get to the inflation Reduction Act. But since you worked at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, if you don’t mind, can we start there? And just Can you briefly explain? And I do mean, 60 seconds or less? What the FERC does, because it’s an incredibly important agency, but I don’t think very many people understand what it does.


Travis Fisher  2:31  

Yeah, so that’s fair, the and there’s no reason people should know about it. If it’s doing its job, it’ll just be a quiet agency that just, you know, does basic stuff, right. They, you know, it’s statutory authorities go back to New Deal era statutes. So the Federal Power Act, the Natural Gas Act, some hydro authorities, even before that, so they do everything from licensing of, you know, hydro dam, so dam safety issues, things like that. A lot of pipeline certification. So if you want to get a new gas pipeline built, if it’s an interstate pipeline, you need FERC approval for that. But the thing that I focus on the most is the Power Act stuff. So they oversee the wholesale markets. So everything, except of course, the electricity island of Texas FERC has jurisdiction over wholesale exchanges across the country, right. And


Robert Bryce  3:23  

that’s different, because ERCOT is almost completely self contained. And ERCOT doesn’t serve all of Texas, there are some small portions of the state that it doesn’t serve, including El Paso and East, some areas in East Texas, but it’s a big service area, 26 27 million people so and but it only has slightly small interconnections with the rest of with the other RTOS, these regional transmission organizations. And so yeah, Texas isn’t a little island. But I think that’s important about those these wholesale markets that and you talk to in fact, in your most recent piece for Cato, you talk about that, and you say that, that the inflation Reduction Act will undermine wholesale electricity markets. And here’s what you read. And so I want to jump around with the IRA. But let’s start with this one, because it’s among the more recent pieces you’ve written. You said the IRA, I’m quoting, quote, hurts the justification for establishing competitive wholesale electricity markets in the first place, economic efficiency, under the IRA, the role of wholesale electricity markets could be diminished from that of the guarantor of an efficient industry to that of a subsidy Clearinghouse. Tell us what do you mean by that time, please explain what you’re talking about their


Travis Fisher  4:32  

subsidy Clearinghouse. Yeah. So really what we’re talking about, and I’ve been fighting against this thing called the PTC the production tax credit, I’ve been fighting against this federal policy for a long time. And it’s basically a handout to preferred resources historically, it’s really only applied to wind. But what the IRA does is it says, As long as you don’t emit greenhouse gases, if you don’t emit GHGs at the point of production, you get this tax credit and it’s You know, in principle, I’m against it. But the the other thing that is really in sort of a consequentialist approach to it, it’s gonna have really bad impacts, it’s gonna it’s so large, it’s such a large subsidy. So in the piece that you quoted from, I pulled a price map from the midcontinent, independent system operator, one of those wholesale markets that it actually covers from it goes into Canada all the way to the Gulf Coast is a big market. Right. One of the things that I pointed out was that, you know, when I checked that 5:30pm, on the day that I was drafting this thing, the wholesale prices were in the range of 25 $26 per megawatt hour, right? The PTC the value of a right now is 2750 per megawatt hour, the subsidy is larger than the price of the commodity itself. So that is going to cause all sorts of problems, including in sort of low demand hours, you’re going to have, of course, the producers are going to want to put that power on the grid, they want that subsidy, right. And of course, what they’re going to offer in is the negative amount of the PTC, so you’re gonna see prices consistently go, not just negative, but very negative, we’re talking like negative $27. So then what does that do to sort of the economic efficiency argument? At that point, you’re getting paid to waste energy, it’s pretty clear that that’s not an economically efficient outcome. But the other thing, the thing that I’m more worried is sort of a second order effect, is that’s going to bleed, dry all of this, all of the resources that don’t get that tax credit. But those resources are needed to keep the grid stable, right? So then what’s going to happen, they’re gonna ask for subsidies, they’re gonna ask for bailouts, they’re gonna ask for, you know, all sorts of different, there’s a section of the Federal Power Act that says the government can come in and say, Well, you have to run we need you. And they might invoke that. So just a bunch of bad outcomes. So that’s what I’m trying to get in front of now. Because that doesn’t actually kick in until 2025. So I’m trying to get in front of it now. And you know, if we can get the law changed, I think that’s ideal. So


Robert Bryce  7:10  

the you mentioned, the production tax credit, which has historically gone to the wind energy business, it was supposed to be temporary, it was extended 12 or 13 times and the inflation Reduction Act makes it effectively permanent, if I’m remembering correctly, and in addition, there is the influence of the investment, the EITC, the investment tax credit, which has traditionally gone to solar but also can apply to offshore wind. But if I’m going to read back what you just said about how this corrupts the subsidy is corrupting the market by allowing generators who have the PTC to bid negative into the market, not only are they hurting the existing generators, it’s also going to discourage new generators from coming into the market. Am I correct?


Travis Fisher  7:54  

Absolutely. And so the other bit of context here is there’s there’s a lot going on on the EPA side on powerplant, regulations, that almost makes it impossible to build those anyways. But then you add on the subsidies, and yeah, it doesn’t even make economic sense to try to build them. So we’re gonna really be in a pickle, you know, the only saving grace could be. I imagine if there’s a really good storage technology that would obviously help. If there’s a new nuclear technology that takes off, that’s flexible, I think that would really help. But just based on the things that I’ve seen in terms of what actually works, what’s on the grid right now. We basically set up a bad set of circumstances starting around 2025. And yeah, the, the size of the PTC is really going to be the factor and the thing you alluded to about the sort of the end date, because I asked this all the time, like for folks who are really in this issue, and really study it, you know, a lot of them don’t even know, there’s really no end date. So the the PTC starts in 2025. This is sort of, it switches to it sounds nice. They say they call it like a tech neutral, PTC, right, starts in 2025. And then I asked folks, the question will, what’s the expiration date? When does it end? And a lot of people say 2032. And that is in the law that it says it’s going to, you know, the phase down date is either they actually say it’s the later of 2032, or this other thing that may never happen, which is the power sector. GHG emissions have to fall to a level it’s 25% of what they were in the year 2022. I view that second thing as maybe not happening, maybe not ever, right? So we’re walking into sort of an open ended PTC for everything that could last forever. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s really alarming. I’m still trying to get folks to sort of wrap their minds around what that means.


Robert Bryce  9:50  

Well, and it’s so important that you’re pointing this out because the other key thing to remember in terms of the legislative process is that this bill This measure this massive spending bill just truly massive at a time when one we’re running massive federal deficits. And in fact, the New York Times had a very good headline just the other day saying that the federal debt has effectively, or that our deficit had doubled in a single year, right. And when I’m remembering this just off the top of my head, but the debt service is going to be costing us a trillion dollars per year, we’re going to be spending more on debt service this year, than we are a national defense. So these are just staggering things to think about. But here’s the point that the the inflation Reduction Act was passed by single vote cast by Kamala Harris. And that it was done in the reconciliation process, right. So it can be repealed through the reconciliation process. But that this is such a consequential piece of legislation can be so narrowly passed, and yet have such massive ramifications. I mean, is there a is they getting to the question here? Is there a worse example of legislative that of Congress and how government is working or not working now than this bill, which seems to me to be I will say it a just a run on the Treasury in the name of climate change. It’s being done by big corporations, big law firms and big banks.


Travis Fisher  11:17  

If there’s a worst example, it’s definitely not in my area of expertise. This is about as bad as it gets. You know, the, because I was I was there for the front end of this, they had they floated this idea. So this was basically the the Democrats in Congress were were bound to do something, they were dead set on doing something. And the first iteration of it was called the clean electricity production program, I think something like that. CCPP. Right, and ended up not working in part because they included some sort of, you know, it’s like a penalty if utilities didn’t meet the targets. So they basically scrapped that, because they, the whole idea was we need to do something under the budget reconciliation rules, which basically means it has to be a, you know, a spending package. So you can’t pass real policy. I’m not a, you know, a parliamentarian, I don’t really understand how all the rules work. But as I understand it, using the budget reconciliation mechanism, you can’t pass real policy as to just be budget policy. So what they decided to do was, well, let’s just, let’s just throw a bunch of subsidies at the problem. And that’s, that’s how we got here. The interesting thing, though, and I think this is a violation of the rules, but actually, it made it through, which is another this is sort of like I I’m naive, I like the textbook civics approach of like, we should debate these things before they go into effect. That’s not what happened here. It basically just snuck through and, you know, you feel bad for the actual, there is a, a parliamentarian who’s supposed to be sort of the, the gatekeeper on all these policies. And her job was to catch all this stuff. And I do not envy that job, because she was getting flooded at the time. But one, one piece of this that’s supposed to not happen is you’re not supposed to increase budget deficits in the out years, meaning, you know, you have a 10 year budget window, you’re not supposed to do much in the out years, the 10 year window is supposed to, in theory supposed to capture what the gist of the bill does. In this case, some of the worst spending increases, meaning some of the worst budget deficit creators are in the out years. That’s when when the PTC is all ramped up and applies everything. So it really is, I mean, when people say it’s a poorly named Bill, the inflation Reduction Act, it is one of those opposite world Orwellian name bills, where it’s, of course, I doubt we’re gonna raise taxes to cover that spending, we’re probably going to print money. And so it’s actually an inflation creation act. And that part is, it’s just easy math. I mean, but that’s, it’s, it’s crazy, because if you started you, you live by that sword, you die by it, I’m hoping we can get in front of and change it. But you’re you’re right, it was just pushed through quickly, we didn’t really get any debate on it. I certainly didn’t get a chance to chime in on and raise these flags. So we’re doing it after the fact.


Robert Bryce  14:08  

Well, and of course, that was because no one knew what was in the bill. It was another one of these massive spending packages must pass pieces of legislation that is rolled up with all these other things that, oh, we have to pass all of this because it’s, you know, it includes, you know, whatever else funding for, you know, education or for defense or whatever. So, another example of how this the swamp to go back to your earlier discussion how it’s just keeps getting swampy here, I mean, the sloppiest thing ever, right that all these favors all these little, you know, just I just want a little taste. I just want a little favor, get tucked into these massive bills. But the other thing that bothers me and you know, I’m eager to get your take on it is that so you have the PTC in the EITC. Remember, you know, the great quote from Charlie Munger, show me the subsidy show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome. There is no we have a very diffuse As ownership in the United States and of our electric grid, it’s an incredibly complex system. And yet, we have now this spinning measure that just as encouraging solar and wind to be built anywhere with, without regard for where they matter, or where they could be deployed efficiently and would help with reliability, efficiency, affordability, etc. Instead, it’s just, oh, just go build it, it seems to me the absolute opposite of what we need to be doing when it comes to efficient capital allocation and responsible approach to the grid in terms of affordability and resilience. Am I Am I missing something here?


Travis Fisher  15:38  

That’s exactly right. I should have talked to you before I wrote that piece, because that is the sort of the one level deeper of the piece that I wrote about why you would not want a PTC, a large PTC in these organized markets, what you’re talking about is exactly what’s gonna happen. You just produce anywhere, and you get the subsidy. You don’t worry about what the actual prices of the commodity, which is what these markets were set up to do, you get these locational marginal prices, which, if they’re left alone are actually pretty, pretty handy. I mean, it tells you sort of where where you need to go to satisfy demand. That’s what a producer in a market should be thinking about doing. Instead, all of the focus on the producer side now is, Where can I interconnect, so that I can basically just dump this power, I don’t care if the market price is zero, I want the subsidy. Right. So that’s exactly what’s happening right now. So if that, but that brings me to a broader point, I’m, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, too, that this has stumped me. The proponents of these organized markets are silent when it comes to the IRA. And I don’t fully understand that, because the way I see it, the the IRA is basically going to, you know, up into them and going to it’s going to cause all sorts of problems that they’re gonna have to deal with. But, you know, as far as their advocacy that they’re just now getting to the point to where they’re pushing back on EPA rules. I’d like to see them push back on this rule and say, Hey, our whole reason for being this, this law is going to change everything for us. The whole economic efficiency argument for for our existence, which was the original argument back, you know, like the year 2000. So I don’t know why they’re silent. I’m curious about that fact. But it could. I mean, it could be the fact that you don’t really want to go up against something that’s big. But but I don’t, I don’t see how you stay silent on this.


Robert Bryce  17:33  

Well, so you mentioned this going back to 2000. And this is a focus of has been focused on my work for a long time. My first book was on Enron now published now 2021 years ago, I’m still writing about Enron and making a new documentary in which we’re focused focusing on Enron. But the focus of Enron Of course, before it failed, was to Ken Lay called it restructure electricity markets, and they first succeeded in California, and then they did it in Texas. But there is this. I’ll ask it this way, because I think it’s the most efficient way to get to the point. And Ron was arguing, oh, well, we’re over building these, you know, the fully integrated monopolies, which we’ve had since the days of Edison, where one company owned a generation, they own the wires, and they owned the meter. They were the full service provider? Oh, well, we’ll disaggregate that was Enron’s word, we’ll disaggregate that and make the generators will just allow free generators, other generators to come into the market, and they’ll be able to use the wires and they’d all be cheaper and the consumer will win. Okay, so that was the argument. And this is where we are now with these wholesale markets that you’re addressing and why they’re being corrupted by the inflation Reduction Act. Is electricity a commodity or service?


Travis Fisher  18:42  

So as you know, I’m on the service side of this debate, I think you can slice it up to be a commodity in the way that in running a service,


Robert Bryce  18:49  

but if it’s a service, then it can’t be a wholesale market, right. I mean, if it’s a service, it has to be a monopoly. Isn’t that? I mean, that seems to me that that’s the nub of the issue here.


Travis Fisher  18:59  

It is, I have a slightly different take on this. So okay, the the, the way we’ve done it, it sort of the Enron style restructuring, is mandatory open access. So you take a network, like a transmission grid, take the AC network, and you’re like, Well, how do we open this up as much as possible and,


Robert Bryce  19:19  

and in that higher competition, and then set competition to bring in more capital and people are going to end somehow the consumer will win?


Travis Fisher  19:27  

Right, but it’s competition among generators to supply energy to the system. Right? What what I think we could use and this is a completely different approach. Now a lot of people are talking about more of a Joseph Schumpeter approach where you need competition for the network itself, competition among in between networks. So what that could look like is yes, vertical integration, maybe less of the rate of return regulation of those that we’ve seen in the past but more as long as you have rivaled networks and I think an interesting part of this now is, at some point, the main AC grid is going to probably look bad enough and be expensive enough that you have folks who don’t necessarily want to be a part of it. So I’m, I’m curious about that. I’m curious about self generation options and things like that. I think the idea of a rival network is, is becoming less and less crazy by the day, I realized, folks are probably gonna think I’m crazy. But that is an alternative. And that sort of maintains the service idea you would write, you would be competing between networks to provide a bundled service instead of this idea that we can functionally unbundle stuff and separate out the generation piece and try to compete on that. I think it was an open question in the year 2000. Will this work? Now, it seems like people aren’t even interested in defining what works and what doesn’t. It used to be this economic efficiency argument that we’re going to do this because we like the idea that we can we can satisfy we can get a reliable grid, at least cost to consumers. That’s what FERC was saying in the year 2000. Right? They’ve all been abandoned that because if you ask them to follow up and say, Okay, we’re 23 years, then how are we doing? They don’t even want to answer that question they haven’t tried.


Robert Bryce  21:15  

And this is disturbing to me, because it ultimately is goes to the heart of this. This is our I’ve said it before this, the electric grid is the mother network. It’s our most important network. It’s the system upon which all of our critic, other critical systems depend. And yet, we’ve cast it out there and said, Oh, well, we’ll let the market decide. Well, what we saw with winter storm Uri was a, you know, four or five minutes from a total meltdown, and what would have been a absolutely disastrous failure. And afterward, everyone is looking around saying, Well, what happened? Well, the market failed, or who’s responsible? Or who’s in charge of reliability? And the answer is no one there isn’t anyone the buck doesn’t stop anywhere. That’s a problem. That’s a real problem. And that was why for all their faults, the vertically integrated monopolies at least you could haul the CEO into the dock and say, Okay, why didn’t you WHY DIDN’T as these many people get blacked out? Why weren’t you fully prepared? And then instead, afterward, there’s just oh, well, the market failed. Well, why did the market fail? Well, it was badly designed. And now we have an ERCOT. The nodal protocols are 1800 pages. And now they’re trying to engineer and I’ve had Jimmy Glod filthy, the Texas PUC on the podcast, they want to incent new nuclear in Texas. Okay, well, that’s great. But with high capital costs, and at a market that is going to be determined by the marginal price of wind and solar, and now batteries, I think it’s gonna be very hard for them to figure out some market solution that’s going to incent new nuclear. So I’ve given you a long kind of view on what I’ve been seeing. But let me ask it this way. We seem Vogel three and four come on in Georgia in a regulated market owned by Southern principally owned by Southern can new nuclear work in these restructured markets in wholesale markets, can it can it work? If so, how?


Travis Fisher  22:59  

My short answer is no. But I’d like to sort of pull on that thread of it. Yeah, the, the ERCOT example is interesting to me, because I think it could work, I think, especially if we didn’t


Robert Bryce  23:12  

have a car, but it’s going to need some carve out, it’s going to need some special some, you know, just a little taste some little incentive. That’s different. That’s out of market. Sorry.


Travis Fisher  23:21  

Well, the trouble is, and this is the way folks talk about this stuff, and I it’s a term of art, I hate using the missing money problem. Like, okay, I have that same problem, can you give me some money, but the the generators are always gonna say there’s a missing money problem, if you just do an energy only market, we’re never if it’s if all the prices are based on marginal costs, we’re never going to recover our full average cost. So there needs to be something else in other regions. So in the Pennsylvania jersey, Maryland, market is now just called the PJM. It’s like a big, it’s 13 states now. They they’ve gone the capacity market approach where you actually pay separately for the capacity. So that’s basically who’s that’s the resource entry and exit function. Right? And in Texas, they it’s a little bit more of a, you know, it’s like a wild west type thing where they say, Well, you know, we’re just gonna do energy only you, you live, you live and die by the the spot price is, essentially, which is a fascinating thing. You know, of course, there’s contracts based on those. But that’s an open question is, could it even work, in theory, to have an energy only market? And then it’s obviously further complicated by this idea that well, now it’s going to be flooded with federal subsidies, right? So even if it could have worked, maybe in theory, and I’m sympathetic to that idea, I’m not an ERCOT hater. But the idea that it’s still going to be the gold standard, given everything else, all the other pressures involved. And the fact that EPA basically just said, you can’t even build a new gas plant. Except if it’s a peaker plant, all of that stuff, all of it combined is like what I don’t see how it works anymore. And I think you’re absolutely right that there’s going to be a lot of out of market stuff, sort of the, the state that’s farthest along in its transition is California. And you’re already seeing a lot of these sort of must run contracts where the state’s coming in and saying, you’re not allowed to close you. We need this gas plant, we’re gonna retain you. Yeah.


Robert Bryce  25:19  

See, and electricity prices, and it’s essential to point out electricity prices in California are soaring, they have increased at something like three times the rate of the rest of the United States since 2008. When Schwarzenegger signed a mandate for renewables, I just looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, latest numbers, San Diego has the highest electricity prices of any major city in America 47 cents a kilowatt hour, it’s nearly 3x, the US average, I mean, they’re just the power prices as to quote Mark Nelson in California are absolutely exploding because of this insane, headlong rush to for renewables. And yet, so what are California is having to do, they’re having to pay for both the existing grid, the thermal generation, and for the renewables that are coming on to the grid. And it’s just a, a blueprint for what not to do. And yet there’s this, I don’t know, the, the the levels of insanity about what is how the grid is being managed. Let me put it this way. So it’s the system I think about complexity, right? And complexity is engineers don’t like, you know, you can make it complicated. But the more complicated you make, the more harder the harder it is going to be to manage. Is the grid just getting getting too complicated to manage? Effectively?


Travis Fisher  26:36  

I think that’s part of it. I mean, especially when it comes to these these bad events that we’ve seen, you know, if you want to point fingers, that’s, that’s like a new hobby for everybody in this field is sort of, was it? Was it the resource mix? Do you point the finger at the wind industry, the gas industry, and everybody’s sort of talking past each other? I think that’s what it lends itself to is it’s so complicated that you can basically, you can you can construct it any theory you want. And it’s hard to disprove it. So we are in that space where it is that complicated. And probably the the more frustrating thing to me is the folks are doing let’s say you’re you’re an advocate for the PTC for the IRA, because you’re concerned about the climate, I completely understand that. The question that I have, as a follow up is, well, how’s that going? In California? How did it go in Germany, the carbon intensity of the California grid is increasing, right? So it’s not as if you flood the system with solar PV, and all of a sudden, it gets less carbon intensive, that might work itself out in the years to come. The data that we have so far as well, in California does have gas turbines ramping up, you know, they have a 13 gigawatt ramp in the evenings to make up for the solar that’s coming off. There’s not a whole lot of stuff that can do that day in and day out. You think maybe you can bank on storage at some point. It


Robert Bryce  28:03  

would be just a massive amount of storage. But but the park but you know, to just sum up what you said and pointing to California, California, it’s not just that they’re not improving on the climate issue. And they’re not consumers are getting hosed. I mean, they’re just getting killed. So the climate is losing consumers are losing. Is there someone else that’s losing that I’m not thinking about here? Well, I mean, it just the it’s the the, I guess what I’m, you know, to paraphrase. Here, I’ll ask the question this way, where it can these, these proponents of these subsidies, and these restructured markets point to say, see, here’s the success,


Travis Fisher  28:43  

I think they’d have to point to either a new breakthrough, which is sort of, it’s always going to be theoretical, the stuff that you think is going to win, there’s all sorts of new nuclear technologies that I think are really promising. If you look backwards, the only thing that so if you want a reliable, low cost grid, and one that doesn’t have a heavy carbon footprint, it looks like hot hydro is pretty much the one that that has been able to provide it. You know, in the states in the, let’s say, then, like Oregon, and Washington, they have very low cost, the electricity, and it’s relatively green, because it’s hydro. Right? So there, there is a chance that you can sort of do the things that people are talking about. But then then the question is, can you even install a dam anymore? Can Can you do that sort of big projects? That’s interesting,


Robert Bryce  29:33  

interesting that you bring this up, because now we’re talking about legacy infrastructure that was built 100 years ago. I mean, this is what what the


Travis Fisher  29:41  

good old days when it was easy to do, you know, you could just put up a giant dam and and it worked, but


Robert Bryce  29:45  

and people weren’t and people were in favor and this is what FDR ran on in 1933. In 1932, he went to Portland and campaigned on hydropower. But the difference there is you’ve got this massive upfront investment that’s made by the federal government But you know, we don’t have big hydro resources here in Texas Travis, I gotta tell you, you know, where’s your hydro gonna come from out in Odessa or in Hobbs New Mexico or in Tucson, you know, there ain’t ain’t any out there to, you know, to. So it’s an interesting idea. But so let’s go back to the IRA because I think the work that you’ve done for Cato and again, just quick station break, my guest is my friend, Travis Fisher, he’s got a new substack Travis That’s FISFI S H E RS Fisher, he you can also find and on Twitter, AT T SW underscore Fisher, the you pointed or under or pointed to in one of your recent pieces about a blog. And that was all it was that was done by wood Mackenzie, pointing out that the solar subsidies alone under the inflation Reduction Act could cost $900 billion by 2060. Now, I wrote about this on my substack Robert price Dotsub But it’s amazing how little coverage there has been of this. And it goes back to your original point about the open ended aspects of the of the inflation Reduction Act. And second that the governor, the President, when he was bragging about this bill in August of 2022 says oh, it’s only it’s only going only going to cost 369 billion. We’re looking at eight 9x That number? How would How have we not seen more critical analysis of this incredibly expensive legislation? Why is why aren’t we seeing more coverage, more analysts more media outlets pointing this out?


Travis Fisher  31:40  

I take the blame for this one. I I’m I’m trying my best. But I it’s hard to spread the word. I think one thing is, you know, the folks that that get the joke that they’d see what’s going on. They have no interest in raising the flag. Yeah, they they want to they want in on it. You know, when I talked to folks even going back to the CPP days, so that the precursor to IRA, I was asking folks like, Hey, this is going to be bad. This is an even even in the net gas producers space, I was talking to them saying like, this is gonna be bad for you guys to write. And their answer was, well, we’re still, we’re still trying to figure out whether we can get in on it. So there, there wasn’t, there wasn’t a lot, I was looking for the handout, there wasn’t a lot of upfront concern about the idea of massive subsidies, because of course, everybody starts getting excited that they might be able to get some of them. I think especially now knowing where they’re gonna go. It really is kind of shocking to me that folks haven’t haven’t stood up and said, even even if you’re, you know, sort of in a independent, organized market space, they don’t really have skin in the game except for, you know, their whole reason for for being is I think, being threatened here. But you don’t really have an industry voice that can say, hey, we’re being hurt here. And this idea of subsidies, we need to categorically reject it. Because, as you recall, I mean, in the Trump era, everybody’s trying to get, you know, their, their cut, then to cure coal and gas and nukes and everybody else. So it’s I think that’s the the fundamental problem is that folks don’t want to reject the idea of federal handouts, because they want to be in line for them. Is that too cynical? I think that’s the truth. No,


Robert Bryce  33:33  

I it’s not too cynical. Not at all. And it is one that I, you know, I unfortunately, I have to agree with. And unfortunately, I have to point out that, you know, I’ve said it many times, I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat, I’m disgusted and I am really disgusted. I mean, look at the GOP, they, you know, Matt gates and those other idiots, I will say, just flat idiots, oh, you’re gonna burn the down the speakership, you’re gonna throw McCarthy out, and you don’t have anyone to replace him. You don’t know what’s going to happen next, but just out of spite, and because for a pure political theater, you’re going to do this. And now at a time when we are on the verge of war, we’re in to proxy wars effectively. Right now, I think that’s a fair thing to say. We have no new we have no GOP leadership, we have no thought leadership, we have no in fact, no Speaker of the House of Representatives, because of this populist idiocy coming from this very small faction. And so that makes me very cynical about the possibility of reform when it comes to these federal handouts that who is going to be the intellectual standard bearer on this and we need you is that what we need? We need someone who can point this out and but I don’t see any prospect for that, because there’s so much money at stake and the corporate lobbyists are saying, well, this is the this is the lawyer lobbyists Full Employment Act. Hell yes. We’ll go after that. As money so is it even reasonable? I’ll ask the question I’ve been opining here. Re ranting. Actually, I think it’s the right.


Travis Fisher  35:07  

I always agree with your rants, so I don’t.


Robert Bryce  35:10  

But is there any, is there any reason to hope that we’re going to see some reform on this?


Travis Fisher  35:16  

So I’ll put a silver lining on it. But I’ll I’ll, you know, it’s first, absolutely fair to sort of acknowledge the cloud GOP can’t even get a speaker together. That’s a problem. This is the party that, you know, if, if it took control in 2025, you would need a different president, of course, because even if you win Congress, he could veto the bill that is passed by a GOP like Congress. So you need basically both houses and the presidency. So that’s sort of a best case in terms of Ira repeal. Right? And then the question is, how many of these folks are going to have the spine to actually do it to rip that band aid off?


Robert Bryce  35:55  

Stand up with the court and stand up to the corporate interest now, because and I’ll say it very clearly, I flew through Houston the other day, you know, a couple of weeks ago, and there are banners up there, Exxon Mobil carbon capture and sequestration, they’re looking at 45 Q and saying, Oh, we can make money on that. I met a guy in Austin here the other day, he’s doing hydrogen. I said, Oh, okay, well, where are you getting your money? And he said, well, the federal government, and it was just I mean, it was that I mean, he said that he’s a nice young guy, you know, he’s about the younger than you a little bit, maybe. But he said, Yeah, we’re just, you know, 45 v, this is what the inflation Reduction Act, that’s the incentive for hydrogen, that’s what we’re counting on. So we’ve gone so far away from the actual market of producing energy and selling it to consumers, because you think you can make a profit to one that is based, not just not solely, but largely on the ability to collect federal tax incentives of some kind to make your business model work. And that is a very dangerous situation, given the stakes, I think in terms of the of the power grid, so you’re, you’re cynical, you’re as cynical as I am then on the on the prospects for reform, you’re hopeful, but cynical,


Travis Fisher  37:07  

um, gonna fight like hell, Robert, but I realize it’s an uphill climb. Part of the reason is, let’s, let’s use the example of the PTC going backwards. You know, you you counted correctly that it started in 1992. That was a Chuck Grassley item,


Robert Bryce  37:20  

Oh, yes. The man who is the man who fights waste, fraud, and abuse, bravely fighting waste, fraud, and abuse, and keep you


Travis Fisher  37:28  

said at the time, you said, at the time, we’ll need this tax credit for five, maybe 10 years, that was 1992, to get


Robert Bryce  37:33  

the wind industry started. And now it’s just become a permanent fixture.


Travis Fisher  37:38  

And the trouble is, with a subsidy that large, you end up and it’s saying with all the 45, q and V, and all the different sections is basically, you’re taking the entrepreneurial spirit that we have here, and you’re turning it towards, look, these entrepreneurs are good at making money, you give them a federal option to make a lot more money a lot easier than they would have to do it in the marketplace. Of course, they’re gonna take it I don’t, I don’t fault them for for taking advantage of the laws as it exists. But you’re absolutely right, that some of these folks aren’t even in the right place to begin with PTC and things like that. So it is going to be a tough, it’s going to be an uphill climb, I think the thing that makes it make sense, is just the sheer budget impact. At some point, you run out of other people’s money, that’s just that it’s just going to happen. So that that’s fact of reality is going to hit, it’s going to slap in the face really hard. And I think part of it, especially with, you know, an environment of increased interest rates. So you said our debt service is already out of control. So at some point, when the thought is, well, we need to either cut spending here or there and what goes first, I would humbly submit that the resources that we’ve been hearing for years are already competitive. Let’s just not subsidize those anymore. I think that we’ll get some traction. But it’s gonna take you say,


Robert Bryce  38:56  

did you say humbly submit? Travis? I


Travis Fisher  38:58  

don’t know. I would humbly I would humbly submit. No one’s ever


Robert Bryce  39:03  

accused me of being humble. I don’t know if they’ll do that with you. But well, so let’s talk about the other provisions here. Because the the are the and I think it’s appropriate to talk about the impact of the IRA because so few other people are doing so. But it’s we also have a big cost from the electric vehicle subsidies. And it seems to me, we’re it’s not just seems to me, it is very clear that the Evie market is cooling off right. GM is delaying plans on its electric pickup like the Ford is delaying its cutting production. Tesla’s warning in fact, Elon Musk just a few days ago warned about demand. He blamed high interest rates but I think they’re just running out of buyers. I mean, there are only a certain number of bins and Beemer buyers out there and they’ve found a lot of them already. And so but you point out that that these mandates on the on the EVS that if they if the IRA subsidies are removed, then does the Evie market fall apart because there’s so much money being made available through tax credits for the batteries, right? Billions of dollars. Some of these plants that according to good jobs first, their estimate, some of these plants could get multiple billions of dollars just for for building a single battery plant. So the question if the IRA goes away gets restructured does the Evie market crater?


Travis Fisher  40:29  

I think yes, I, as you pointed out, I think it’s I think it’s already in that sort of first stage of cratering. But certainly without the subsidies, that’s gonna hurt it. But then you have to remember, this is a belt and suspenders approach. This is probably multiple belts, all sorts of, you know, what we’re talking about is there’s a regulatory paradigm here that’s going alongside the subsidies. So the way that two play together as you subsidize the EVS but you also go to EPA and say, we’re going to have really strict tailpipe emission standards that’s going to make everybody switch to EVs anyways. So that’s what the which


Robert Bryce  41:01  

is what the EPA did in April, right? So exactly, EPA puts out a proposed rule, requiring automakers by 2032, to be selling two thirds of their vehicles as EVs. And then a month later, they issue almost exactly a month later in May issue the greenhouse gas rule aimed at cutting greenhouse gases from electric from the electric generation sector by 90%. I mean, I’m wondering, do the and I do a lot of public speaking, and I tell audiences, this EPA even read its own press releases, I mean, because they’re so fundamentally in conflict, in terms of their impact on the grid and how things might work out. Right. So. But that’s interesting. So you got the subsidy and the subsidies and the mandates happening at the same time, which in theory, if I’m hearing you, right, might in accelerate the transition, but in fact, may be its undoing how to I mean, how do you think about that? Well, I


Travis Fisher  41:54  

think about it in terms of I hate to use this word, the California occation of the grid, you basically that’s that’s the EPA approach, the combined approach between EPA and the IRA stuff, it’s going to look a lot like California is going to be solar heavy grid, we’re gonna have a lot of EVs that you can’t charge a certain times because the grid operator says up. We’re short on power, sorry, I know we made you guys switch all the EVS, but you can’t charge them right now. Because the grid doesn’t like it, right. So it’s basically changing our lifestyle to fit the grid of the future, instead of are building the grid that we need to fit us. So that’s, that’s kind of how it’s gonna happen. But it could be its undoing. Here’s, here’s what I wrote about with regard to the power plant rule is that this gets a little bit in the weeds. But it’s important that the way the rule is structured, the EPA can only choose technology that’s been adequately demonstrated that’s in the law that’s in the statute. It chose technologies that are only adequately demonstrated, if you throw trillions of dollars of subsidies at that. That’s carbon capture, and green hydrogen. Those do not exist at scale, EPA is saying they will exist at scale because of the IRA subsidies. So it could be a two birds one stone thing, if you repeal that part of the IRA, then the foundation of the EPA rule crumbles. So you could take out both but at the same time, this is a this is a really, you know, EPA is getting creative. I really don’t like it when the bureaucrats in DC start getting creative, because that’s exactly what they did with the Clean Power Plan. Right? They basically said, Look, we’re going to reimagine that the best system of emission reduction is the entire grid, and we can do this generation shifting and it’s gonna be fine. The Supreme Court had to name the major questions doctrine, because of EPA, you know, and it always been sort of floating around, but they named it because of that, because of the Clean Power Plan. EPA is doing it again, just by a different name. And they’re saying, well, now the best system is the stuff that the federal government has subsidized. So we’re gonna choose those instead. I still think it’s,


Robert Bryce  43:58  

so let me interrupt. I’m sorry. So the major question is doctrine because this is important that in the in the it’s important on a lot of levels, right that so much of what these these greenhouse gas rules, decarbonisation efforts are mandates aren’t coming from legislatures, they are coming from the administrative state. In California, the internal combustion engine ban did not pass the Assembly and the Senate, it was promulgated by carb. And here we have with the DoD the same thing with the electric vehicles with greenhouse gas rules. This isn’t coming from Congress. It’s coming from the administrative state. So we talked about the major questions, Dr. And you referring to West Virginia versus EPA, because that was only roughly a year before the EPA then issues this new rule on greenhouse gases. So what did you I’m not a lawyer? I know you’re not are you a lawyer?


Travis Fisher  44:46  

I’m not a lawyer. I just tried to play one on TV sometimes. Okay.


Robert Bryce  44:50  

But you worked with James Stanley and I know there are a lot of lawyers at the at the at FERC. What was the what was what in Westford, you versus EPA say, what was the why was that Supreme Court ruling so important?


Travis Fisher  45:05  

So on a couple levels, it didn’t actually get to the inside the fence versus outside the fence question, which was what we had all sort of hoped that it was going to do, which is basically that if you’re going to control a power plant, it has to be that power plant. It can’t be, you know, the control can’t be shut that down and build something else. But that’s essentially what it was. But it was, it was basically the the sweeping impact of what the EPA was trying to do raise a major question of policy that should only be decided by policymakers. And without clear direction from Congress, because the Clean Power Plan, they’re using long extent, statutes, this is section 111, D of the of the Clean Air Act. So they’re basically saying


Robert Bryce  45:47  

from the 19, from the Nixon administration, right, is that right? I


Travis Fisher  45:50  

can’t remember it was 70 or 77. Okay, safe to save us from the 1970s. And Congress just said, Well, you know, they, they put that statute in there for other reasons. This is the Clean Air Act. It’s not like co2 is even dirty. But right. The The idea here is that EPA took that existing statute and said, We’re gonna read some new stuff into it. And you have to draw the line somewhere, and EPA got far enough off the rails that it was it was finally checked by the courts. But it took something that extreme and it was going to be, you know, it was it was the magnitude of the impact. You can’t remake the power grid, using a statute that you’ve been sitting on since the 70s. Gotcha.


Robert Bryce  46:31  

So, but but here comes the EPA, again, looking at West Virginia versus EPA, which should have been a was clearly a rebuke to the administrative state. And the way I read it was EPA says, oh, yeah, okay, well, try this sue us. But but here’s the thing that I think this makes this so pernicious Travis, it’s not just that they would do that, that it would be so brazen as to say, Okay, well, we’re not going to pay attention to this Supreme Court ruling. But that it creates political and technological uncertainty for the generators. Right. So it’s not just that the rule itself is kind of an fu to the, to the Supreme Court or to the you know, what would would be the rule of law, but it creates uncertainty for the people who are in the power grid, and are trying to make things work that they’re trying to hear? Okay, well, where do we put our I’m speaking to the electric cooperatives in Savannah, Georgia next month. And I’ve talked about them on this on their pre call. But you know, this, this uncertainty that all of this creates, is a real problem, because they don’t know where to where or how to allocate capital is that a fair read of where we are with this does. It’s


Travis Fisher  47:42  

a problem for us. It’s a feature for the administrative state and their efforts. So here’s a


Robert Bryce  47:50  

problem for us, consumers who live outside of the swamp, but


Travis Fisher  47:54  

only from but it’s for the


Robert Bryce  47:58  

people who live inside the beltway who gets to litigate this who get to propagate this, you get to argue


Travis Fisher  48:03  

about it’s only a problem for real people, the the way, the way it’s gonna happen between between the budget reconciliation actions that we’re seeing, which is a one party approach, right, and the executive approach all the agency approach. So EPA falls under that, you know, if you’re trying to follow the rules, and I hope most people are sincerely trying to follow the rules, if you don’t know what they’re going to be four years from now, how can you make an investment that takes more than four years to start making money? That’s the same for most power plants, It’s same for transmission lines is all of the stuff that we need to do in this sector is so capital intensive, and so you need such a long lead time on the investments? Right? So it has it has a chilling effect, but the thing and folks have characterize my take on EPA as unfair The reason I think it is actually fair to say that EPA is doing this on purpose. It’s because do you recall, Gina McCarthy was a guest on on Bill Maher show. This was I’m gonna say 2015. Right. And the the quote is something like and it was with regards to the match rule, which is going through a court challenge, too. So the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are gonna shut down a bunch of coal plants. Her take on it was the exact cynical take that I think you and I have, where it’s like, well, what are these guys really doing? She just said, Look, we think it’s going to survive court challenge. It didn’t. She said, we think it’s going to survive court challenge. But even if it doesn’t, everybody’s in compliance already. So they, they I think, are banking on this idea that they can create so much uncertainty or that risk averse people will just comply with the law that they think even if they think it might get shut down, even if they think it might not survive core challenge, they’re gonna go ahead and comply with it. Because by the time they figure out whether the courts approve it or not, they’re on the hook. So


Robert Bryce  49:54  

that there’s well so what is that line about a delay as a win, right, that this this uncertainty that they create is a win. And to me this is a real. I mean, it’s so cynical Travis. I mean, it’s just so cynical on the just the fundamentals of how we operate a system that is as complicated as complicated as the electric grid in the US. People don’t know. So we have 3300 different entities that provide electricity. We have the RTOS. We have the state level public utility Commission’s we have 900 Co Ops 2000, publicly owned utilities, like Austin Energy here in Austin 180, investor owned utilities, it’s a marvel, any of it works at all. And yet, now we have these different layers of complexification that are making it all much more complicated to, to, to administer. And so, you know, Commissioner Danly, I met him briefly in August, and we chatted about this. And he is very concerned, I don’t I’m not speaking out of turn, we talked off the record, but very concerned about the overall reliability of the grid. So let’s talk about that. We had Willie Phillips, the acting chairman of the FERC. I think he is the chairman of the FERC. I don’t know this acting term is that Meredith Angwin has pointed this out. Well, he’s either the chairman or he’s not. He’s so Chairman Willie Phillips. The James Stanley and the other Commissioner, there were three of the commissioners testified before Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee and said, We’re facing a reliability crisis. Those are almost the exact words they said, we have the North American Electric Reliability Corporation warning very, very clearly about the policy issues around about the grid, and that they identified energy policy as a key risk factor. We have the RTOS ERCOT, P AG, PJM, miso and SPP, all writing to the EPA saying your proposed greenhouse gas, we will stinks, you should throw the whole thing out, I’m paraphrasing what they said. But that is remarkably strong language, what they use and then use the language I just use. But all these different regulators and entities policymakers saying we are facing a reliability crisis, and no one is really paying attention to this. So how do we get more attention? How do we How many tables do we pound and where to get more visibility on this reliability issue?


Travis Fisher  52:10  

That’s a great question. Because I think the the folks at FERC are doing basically all they can so in in a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, all force this is to to Dems and to, to to do and to ours, this is a bipartisan issue. They all for in response to the question about do we still need coal to keep the lights on? They all said yes, of course, the farthest left of them said for now, but but the answer is yes. And


Robert Bryce  52:38  

this was a question put by Senator Manchin and this may have may have May of this year. Yeah, that’s


Travis Fisher  52:44  

right. So all four said, Yes, we actually need coal. So whether or not they’re talking to EPA, which is again, a James Stanley point that they didn’t talk to him, EPA didn’t talk to, you know, FERC, as a voting body, they had some meetings with FERC staff, I’m sure. But the question of are they getting, you know, the full opinion of everybody at FERC? I doubt it, because I doubt they would come up with the rules that come up with if if they if they knew how impactful they would be? So I think that’s part of it, too, is it? You know, it’s this is a boring sort of process related element, but to get FERC, and nurse to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which basically is the grid watchdog. Get everybody involved? And I just based on the way the rules are structured, it seems like they were not involved. But you know, the the silver lining here is that it was a proposed rule, we still don’t know the final rule. Right? So if EPA is smart, and doesn’t want to lose again, you know, in grand fashion, basically in the same in the courts, in the court. So you’d have the same Supreme Court dealing with the same issue and saying, EPA, we told you last time, stop doing this. If they want to pivot and do something smarter, they should be talking to FERC and Newark and incorporate their feedback.


Robert Bryce  54:08  

So that’s the way is to get the key, the key players in the regulation in the regulatory efforts and the administrative state talking to each other and getting on the same page. But is there at least at the very least, right. But at this point, it seems like the you know, the EPA is ideologically driven and by this administration, and I say that with no joy I’m not you know, I said I’m not a partisan I’m for the consumer we’re Who do I care about? I care about the guys who turn wrenches and the women who turn wrenches the people who pour the coffee, that who have the names on their shirts, those are the people I care about, and they’re just not being represented in any of this and they’re going to be the ones that bear the brunt. But I found that it was the May 4 hearing the FERC. Commissioners at the Senate DNR, Willie Phillips quote, we face unprecedented challenges to the reliability of our nation’s electric system. To mark CRISC, Commission Commissioner Mark Christie, we are heading for a very catastrophic situation in terms of reliability. James Danly. We are there is a looming reliability crisis in our electricity markets. And he said Danly, who, you know, I admire because he’s a, he’s a fierce, I mean, just in talking with him. He’s one of these people that immediately I mean, you can tell the fire burns brightly in him. I know, you know him and worked with him to some extent, he wrote a total he testified FERC has allowed the markets to fall prey to the price distorting and warping effects of subsidies and public policies that have driven the advancement of large quantities of intermittent renewable resources onto the electric system. I’m gonna continue here because I think this is important. Most of these market distorting forces originate with subsidies, both state and federal, and from public policies that are otherwise designed to promote the deployment of non dispatchable wind and solar assets, or to drive fossil fuel generators out of business as quickly as possible. I mean, it couldn’t be more stark, what that what it what the and what is remarkable is the RTOS, NERC FERC, are all saying the same things. And yet these massive subsidies under the IRA, are going to make this reliability problem worse. I don’t think that is just a stock. That is this my Stark conclusion? I think. So let me we’ve been talking for nearly an hour here, Travis. And it’s been great fun. And you and I are in agreement on a lot of these issues, and about the seriousness of them. Would you go back to FERC? Would you I mean, tell me, you’re at Cato. Now you switch the vet, a couple of different positions? Where do you want to go? What do you want to you know, where do you want to stay in Washington? What do you Cato your dream job? That’s where you want to be what tell me what your plans are.


Travis Fisher  56:48  

It is actually my dream job. So I I think Cato is my home for a while we’ll we’ll see. It’s hard to predict how things go. I will note, and I’ll say James Stanley is a force of nature. I love the guy that his his writing is always on point. It’s always clear. I don’t always agree with him. But he always makes an incredibly logical point, which I sincerely appreciate. But as far as career and public service, you know, I’ve done in the past, I’ve been an appointee at FERC and DOE. And I’m interested in that, because I don’t think it’s fair to just stay on the sidelines, sort of throwing rocks at the people on the field. I I’d rather be involved. I think I can do that at Cato, though. And I think part of the role here is to essentially sound the alarm on the things that that other folks wouldn’t be able to do. And that’s that’s the risk to is once you take those jobs in the federal government. It’s, it’s not intentionally stifling, but the work doesn’t really allow you to be outspoken. So I’m, I kind of see my role now as the, you know, to call out the ways that the the emperor has no clothes, because we’re seeing a lot of that stuff. Gotcha.


Robert Bryce  58:03  

So final two questions, traverse student, you know what they are? So what are you reading? I know you have young children. So I know you’re, he mentioned before we started recording, and my kids are all grown and out of the house. And let me just tell you, empty nest is a beautiful thing. Travis Fisher, it’s a beautiful thing on the hill. He has something to look forward to. You’re not sleeping a lot. Now when you have spare time besides Hop on Pop or One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, what are you reading? What books are you reading?


Travis Fisher  58:31  

So the Yeah, the one year old is still not sleeping through the night. So I’m basically a zombie. So if I if I if I do have that quiet time, or it could be reading I’m probably just gonna pass out. Gotcha. But one thing that I’m getting back into is, you know, very interested in this idea of the restructuring arguments that were made around the year 2000. Getting back into sort of that debate, because I think it’s coming up again, we’re getting we’re getting to that point where, look, if these aren’t working, we need to say something about it. And we need to change course, right? I don’t think it’s I don’t think it’s right to just say, Look, we did this thing in the year 2000. And we’ll, you know, we, we will never scrutinize that ever again. That’s kind of the posture of a lot of people. I’m thinking well, I don’t know, I think it’s time to scrutinize it again. So there is actually a Cato book from that era from I think the late 2002 was called what’s yours is mine, the rise of infrastructure socialism, which, of course, that’s very Cato strong language, but it’s about this idea that you started to treat the transmission network as a mandatory Open Access Network. And the book predicted all the problems that we’re seeing now so that was 2002. I kind of want to pick up where that left off and and so I’m, I’m reading a whole lot of stuff that’s about you know, 2022 years old and trying to find out how I can bring the debate back to that because it it was a pro consumer debate back then it was how do we how do we get a reliable grid at least cost to consumers? Not how do we I get all sorts of financing for green stuff, which is kind of the question now will and


Robert Bryce  1:00:04  

the interesting part of it. I’ll just interject this. And then I’ll ask the last question, we’ll jump off. But this was the part where this deregulation thing worked for Democrats and Republicans too, right? The Democrats could say, well, we will this wind and solar are cheaper, and therefore we want to trust the market. And the Republicans are saying, Oh, the market? Yes, we love the market. Yes, market market market. And so it became this marriage of convenience that I think still persists to this day, where you have a lot of Republican senators in particular, who are saying, Oh, well, we’re, we’re in a windy state, and you know, least cost and, you know, therefore, we support the PTC. And so it was this area where the left and the right could come together on the electricity side and say, Oh, well, yeah, this is where we agree C will will unbundle will the restructure, and, you know, Democrats don’t like big monopolies anyway. And, you know, you know, and this is where we’re gonna let capitalism work. Right. But it just happened to work for their favored corporations, which in the in 2000, in that area, Enron was, you know, one of the darlings, right, you had Joe Romm writing, you know, PAY ONs to Enron, and how great they were because Enron was going to, you know, build wind, and they were in favor of that. Right. And they weren’t big monopolies, you know, so this was an area where that all overlapped and you’re finding as Cato, you know, oh, well, you know, we’re in favor of market. So of course, we’re going to say this is good. So I had to interject that so last thing, Travis, we’ve talked about a lot of things that are going to give us despair. What gives you hope?


Travis Fisher  1:01:35  

I can’t remember what my answer was last time, it was a good one. I actually, I actually think we, we can write the ship. You know, the the entrepreneurial spirit is still strong, I just worry that we’re wasting it on all these, you know, cash grabbing subsidy type stuff. But yeah, I actually think, you know, we, we are a very energy strong country, that the sort of the, if I can be kind to where we’ve come so far, I mean, the shale boom, was amazing. I’d love to see that keep going. We are now exporting gas, which is an amazing, you know, that’s, that’s a positive thing. thing that gives me hope. Yeah, I mean, we can get back to that I think we can. I’m gonna, I’m gonna do my best to try to push for that. But this idea that we constrain things or the federal government needs to be in charge. That’s sort of the fundamental question that I have when when folks are saying the pro market, like, well, the IRA offers a test. If you really like markets, and if you like them for the reason of economic efficiency, if you if you’re a sort of Friedrich Hayek market guy, you’re gonna hate the IRA. or so for some reason. I feel like there’s, there’s precious few of us that are out there saying, Hey, guys, this Ira thing, this is the wrong approach, we need to go back to the drawing board. So I think I mean, if I can be optimistic, I think once people figure out how bad it is, they’ll they’ll jump on board, we’ll see.


Robert Bryce  1:03:16  

Well, that’s a good, good place to stop. And we will, but I’ll just add one quick point, which was Lee Phillips spoke, he’s a Canadian, US journalist and a very sharp guy. He called the IRA, one of the most Marxist pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress. So just to add one quick point there. So my guest is my friend has been my friend, Travis Fisher. He is the director of energy and environmental policy studies at the Cato Institute. He’s on substack new to subtract Travis You can find and on Twitter at t s underscore Fisher Travis it’s been a pleasure. You know, I was like talking to one of my favorite people. And what of Julie’s friends so you qualify on a lot of a lot of fronts here and was pleased that you could come on the power hungry podcast. Thank you.


Travis Fisher  1:04:02  

I enjoyed it, Robert, and I appreciate your work. Thanks. Yeah, I subscribed to your subject to you don’t you don’t plug yourself enough?


Robert Bryce  1:04:11  

Yeah. Oh, I I don’t worry about me. I’m not no one’s ever accused me of being humble or not promoting myself so I’ll be okay. So thanks again. And thanks to all of you in podcast land for tuning into this episode of the power hungry podcast. Tune in next time until then, see you




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