A Free-Market Energy Blog

Robert Bryce: Guilty as Charged (DeSmog hit piece boomerangs)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- April 28, 2020

It’s time to move the debate past the dogmatic view that carbon dioxide is evil and toward a world view that accepts the need for energy that is cheap, abundant and reliable. (Robert Bryce)

“Despite the endless hype about electric cars, vehicles that plug into the grid remain a niche product that is sold almost exclusively to the affluent…. Lower-income taxpayers should not be subsidizing wealthy motorists who buy EVs. (Robert Bryce)

From time to time, MasterResource has posted on the profiles by DeSmog Blog: climatologist John Christy, Reaching America’s Derrick Hollie, and myself. Strangely, the targets of DeSmog can agree with the profiles in a guilty-as-charged way. The litmus test seems to be that if you do not agree with climate alarmism and forced energy transformation, you are ipso facto wrong. This is religion, not scholarship; one cannot assume what is under debate.

DeSmogBlog is a Left-funded website purporting to expose proponents of consumer-chosen, taxpayer-neutral, dense, reliable energies. DeSmog defines its mission as “clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science.”

DeSmog believes in its own righteosness. Executive editor Brendan DeMelle recently stated:

My motivation has always been that I don’t like liars, and I don’t like bullies. And climate denial is a feast for both—those who enjoy confusing and distorting reality, and those who love bullying people, especially scientists. It’s just gross, and it motivates me to fight them and expose them and put them on record. I’d like them to be seen forever to have been on the wrong side of history.

To which the climate realists can retort:

We are on the right side of history. Climate alarmism as a pretext for governments reorganizing society is an assault on personal and economic liberties and is anti-human in the extreme.

Here is DeSmog’s entry on Robert Bryce, slightly excerpted with documentation removed, which needs to be updated to include his latest book, A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations (Public Affairs: 2020), which Bill Peacock reviewed at our site last week.


Robert Bryce is an American author and journalist based in Austin, Texas. He has regularly been cited as an “expert” on energy issues in the media, but has been under increased scrutiny after writing numerous articles in media outlets that did not disclose his ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Many of Bryce’s articles have been on the energy business. He spent 12 years writing for The Austin Chronicle. From 2006 to September 2010 he worked as the managing editor of the online publication Energy Tribune.

From October 2007 to February 2008 he was a fellow at the Institute for Energy Research (IER). In April, 2010 he joined the Manhattan Institute as a senior fellow in its Center for Energy Policy and the Environment.

The Manhattan Institute is a policy think tank that has received significant funding from both ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. According to media transparency, the Manhattan Institute has been known to “obscure” science supporting man-made climate change.

Bryce has been unwilling to answer questions about the funding the Manhattan Institute receives from the fossil fuel industry.

Stance on Climate Change

“The science is not settled, not by a long shot. […] If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere. Furthermore, even if we accept that carbon dioxide is bad, it’s not clear exactly what we should do about it.”

“On the science of global climate change, I’m an agnostic. I’ve seen Al Gore’s movie, and I’ve read reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I’ve also listened to the ‘skeptics.’ I don’t know who’s right.”

Key Quotes

“[W]e should be cheering the news that coal use is rising. For it means that more people are escaping the darkness and joining the modern world.”

”[…] the job [at the Manhattan Institute] gives me a platform where I can focus on the themes that I explored in both Gusher of Lies and Power Hungry: that the myths about “green” energy are largely just that, myths; that hydrocarbons are here to stay; and that if we are going to pursue the best “no regrets” policy with regard to energy, then we should be avidly promoting natural gas and nuclear energy.”

“It’s time to move the debate past the dogmatic view that carbon dioxide is evil and toward a world view that accepts the need for energy that is cheap, abundant and reliable.”

Key Deeds

September 11, 2019

Writing for The Hill, Bryce declared that replacing gasoline-powered automobiles with electric vehicles (EV) was an impossible task:

“the hard truth is that decarbonizing the transportation sector will be extremely difficult and the process will take decades, not years. Battery-powered vehicles lost the race with oil-fueled ones back when Thomas Edison was still alive.”

August 16, 2019

Bryce published an op-ed for RealClear Energy suggesting that the 100% renewable energy goals pursued by various states and municipalities would ultimately be derailed through a combination of environmental concerns and the drawdown of federal subsidies.

Citing opposition by environmental groups to large-scale wind power development due to potential threats to wildlife habitats, Bryce implied that the shift to green technologies was a lost cause:

“While there’s no doubt that renewable energy is politically popular, there’s also no doubt that wind energy projects – both onshore and offshore – are facing increasing opposition and that, in turn, could cause the all-renewable goals to be missed.”

June 25, 2019

Bryce authored a Manhattan Institute report accusing New York governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation of impeding the construction of new natural gas pipelines, forcing consumers to rely on more expensive heating oil.

The governor and DEC claimed that the pipelines in question would negatively impact area water quality, while Bryce alleged purely political motives:

“Liberal Democratic politicians in New York love to talk about climate change and what it will do to minority communities, but these climate politics will be felt by ratepayers.”

June 20, 2019

In a commentary for the New York Post, Bryce criticized the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act with its requirement to reduce carbon emissions by 85% by 2050.

Comparing this goal to the United Kingdom’s mandate that all vehicles be electric by 2050, Bryce suggested that this would lead to greater dependency on China for rare earth minerals, increased electricity costs, and increased emissions from the ramped-up production of electric vehicles.

“In other words, regardless of lawmakers’ good intentions, there’s still no such thing as a free lunch — in the energy sector or anywhere else,” Bryce concluded.

January 9, 2019

Writing for the National Review, Bryce took aim at the “Green New Deal” being proposed by some members of the 2019 U.S. Congress, and labeled efforts to transition the nation’s power supply to renewables by a date certain as ‘radical’ and the ‘antithesis of green.’

Bryce appeared to base his argument on the potential for wind energy alone to replace all existing sources of fossil fuels, ignoring other forms of renewable energy and those yet to be developed and deployed.

Painting a picture of wind turbines covering a landmass twice the size of California, Bryce said:

“…there is one unassailable fact about the Green New Deal: It is not green. Indeed, the entire notion of an all-renewable-energy system is the antithesis of environmental protection and scenic conservation.”

December 14, 2016

Bryce released a publication with the Manhattan Institute titled “Ideas for the New Administration.” According to the abstract, “U.S. energy policy needs a rethink. More specifically, it’s time to emphasize nuclear power and de-emphasize government mandates and high-cost, inefficient subsidies to other energy sources.”

Bryce recommends “three steps that Congress and the new Trump administration can take” including expanding nuclear, repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and repealing the tax credit for electric vehicles.

The argument Bryce cites for repealing the tax credit for electric vehicles echoes that made by a Koch-funded campaign to combat the EV credit, claiming that it only benefits the rich:

“Despite the endless hype about electric cars, vehicles that plug into the grid remain a niche product that is sold almost exclusively to the affluent,” Bryce wrote in the report, concluding that “ Lower-income taxpayers should not be subsidizing wealthy motorists who buy EVs.”

May 15, 2016

Robert Bryce published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled “An Ill Wind: Open Season on Bald Eagles” criticizing new regulations put in place by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) governing the accidental harming of bald and golden eagles. According to Bryce, the FWS is “trying to make it easier for the wind industry to kill” eagles.

On May 6, the blog Daily Kos predicted Bryce’s piece, saying Bryce and the Journal would likely contribute a “fresh round of fossil fuel-penned pieces crying crocodile tears for birds” shortly after the FWS regulations were announced:

“Bryce wrote op-eds attacking wind power in February, October and November 2013, which are all similar to one he wrote in 2009, and just like what he wrote in 2015. Since he already attacked wind power back in February of this year, one might think the WSJ editors wouldn’t want to go back to him for essentially a rerun of the same op-ed. But the WSJ has published over twenty of his pieces since 2009, all of which are either explicitly anti-wind or pro-fossil fuels,” Daily Kos writes.

Media Matters notes that Bryce’s Op-Ed piece is “misleading”:

“Bryce complained that the new rules would allow wind energy producers to kill or injure up to 4,200 eagles per year and hyped data showing that wind turbines were responsible for about 573,000 total bird deaths (not just eagles) in 2012. But as the Daily Kos piece explained, it is misleading to cite these figures without explaining that wind turbines are responsible for only ‘about 3 percent of human-caused eagle deaths’ and that other factors – including the oil and gas industry and climate change – are a much greater threat to birds than wind energy.”

May 4, 2016

Robert Bryce authored a Manhattan Institute report titled “What Happens to an Economy When Forced to Use Renewable Energy?” (PDF).

Bonner R. Cohen promoted the new study at the Heartland Institute. He writes that policies to combat climate change in Europe “have led to soaring electricity costs for residential and commercial customers, leading the authors to recommend the United States reject similar policies.”

“To avoid the kinds of results seen in Europe, U.S. policymakers at the federal and state levels should be required to do rigorous cost-benefit analyses before imposing renewable-energy mandates,” Robert Bryce said. “U.S. policymakers must also consider the impact higher energy costs will have on overall employment and industrial competitiveness.”

February 7, 2016

Robert Bryce published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal “attacking [Bernie] Sanders’ renewable energy plan,” reports Media Matters.

In the op-ed, Bryce claimed that Sanders “better check with his Vermont constituents about the popularity of wind energy.” He adds, “Nowhere is the backlash [against wind energy] stronger than in Mr. Sanders’s state.”

According to Media Matters, Bryce’s statement is not accurate: “despite the presence of a vocal minority who oppose large-scale wind projects, support for wind energy development is actually very strong in the Green Mountain State.” They cite a 2014 poll by Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz & Associates for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) that found 71 percent of Vermonters support building wind turbines along the state’s ridgelines, while only 23 percent oppose wind energy development.

June 22, 2015 Robert Bryce wrote a column in the National Review titled “The Poor Need More Energy: What BP Knows and Pope Francis Doesn’t,” where he  maintained that the best, low-cost energy source for developing countries is coal. According to Bryce, “[Pope Francis’s] new encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’ (Be praised), shows a shallow understanding of global energy use and, in particular, of how energy consumption is soaring among the people he claims to care most about: the poor.”  “But if developing countries are going to prepare for possible changes in the climate, they will have to get richer so they can afford to deal with any calamities that may occur. And how will they get richer? The answer is obvious: by consuming more energy. And for countries throughout the developing world, the lowest-cost energy is still coal,” Bryce writes.

February 25, 2014

Robert Bryce testified before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works where he contends that “federally subsidized efforts that are being undertaken to, in theory, address climate change, are damaging America’s wildlife.”

Bryce focused his attacks the wind industry: 

“Given the studies already done on wind energy’s deleterious impact on wildlife, combined with the ‘energy sprawl’ that will come with the industry’s continuing expansion, it is virtually certain that as the wind sector adds more turbines, more federally protected wildlife – including more bald eagles, an animal that has been on the Great Seal of the United States since 1782 – will be killed.[xl] And thanks to the production tax credit, taxpayers will be subsidizing the slaughter.

The question at hand is obvious: why are policymakers implementing an energy policy that is a known killer of wildlife in exchange for what are infinitesimally small reductions in carbon dioxide emissions?”

October, 2011

An October 2011 Petition submitted by the Checks and Balances Project complained about Bryce, pointing to “a disturbing trend of special interests surreptitiously funding “experts” to push industry talking points in the nation’s major media outlets.”

DeSmogBlog reported on this issue here, and here.

According to the letter, “pundits like Mr. Bryce have the right to share their views, but we believe media outlets have the responsibility to inform their readers of opinion writers’ true ties and conflicts of interest.”

It appears that an Op-Ed by Bryce titled “the Gas is Greener” which criticizes renewable energy including wind projects and reports to expose hidden costs and “deep contradictions” in the “renewable energy movement.”

Signatories asked the New York Times to set the standard by revealing the ties of these “experts” and ensuring readers get the full story.

New York Times editor Arthur S. Brisbane responded, dismissing the petition’s request and saying that “I don’t think Mr. Bryce is masquerading as anything: experts generally have a point of view. And the Manhattan Institute’s dependence on this category of funding is slight — about 2.5 percent of its budget over the past 10 years. But the issue of authorial transparency is an important one, albeit one that isn’t always simple.”

August 11, 2011

According to SourceWatch, Bryce was a featured speaker at the 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Annual Meeting at a workshop titled “Unconventional Revolution: How Technological Advancements Have Transformed Energy Production in the United States.”

The panel advocated the process of fracking for reaching unconventional gas reserves. Bryce has also published articles in favour of fracking and in one example where he presents the often-repeated industry claim that fracking poses “minimal risk” to groundwater.  He stressed that New York “can’t afford to be left behind in the shale revolution.”

In a June 13, 2011 piece published in the Wall Street Journal he wrote that the “shale revolution now underway is the best news for North American energy since the discovery of the East Texas Field in 1930.”

May 12, 2010

Bryce wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times revealing his opposition to the implementation of carbon capture technology. 

He was particularly critical of a senate energy bill introduced by John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman which would include incentives of $2 billion per year for carbon capture and sequestration.

Bryce wrote “That’s a lot of money for a technology whose adoption faces three potentially insurmountable hurdles: it greatly reduces the output of power plants; pipeline capacity to move the newly captured carbon dioxide is woefully insufficient; and the volume of waste material is staggering. Lawmakers should stop perpetuating the hope that the technology can help make huge cuts in the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions.”

He also predicted public opposition to carbon dioxide sequestration areas, writing how “few landowners are eager to have pipelines built across their property. And because of the possibility of deadly leaks, few people will to want to live near a pipeline or an underground storage cavern. This leads to the obvious question: which members of the House and Senate are going to volunteer their states to be dumping grounds for all that carbon dioxide?”

April 8, 2009

Wrote an article titled “Let Exxon Run the Energy Dept.” in The Daily Beast. The article is strongly critical of the Obama Administration which he claims is “working to marginalize America’s single biggest sector, the sliver of the economy that produces our most essential commodities: gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, coal (which provides about half of the country’s electricity) and natural gas.”

Bryce writes “the U.S. has never had a secretary of Energy who has actually drilled an oil well, built a nuclear power plant, or dug coal out of the ground. Indeed, actual experience in the energy business appears to be grounds for disqualification. This is stunning.”

In conclusion, Bryce suggests that maybe we should include more people representing the energy industry in government: “Maybe—just maybe—those energy companies aren’t so villainous after all. And here’s another wacky thought: Maybe—just maybe—we should have a few people in government who really understand how the energy business works.”



Many of Robert Bryce’s recent articles can be viewed at RobertBryce.com. In 2011, Media Matters noted 39 times that Robert Bryce appeared in the media where sources failed to mention his ties to the oil industry….


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