Robert Bryce’s Anti-Environmental Pro-Renewable Energy Transition NGOs Argument is a No Go Argument

“Environmentalism in America is dead. It has been replaced by climatism and renewable energy fetishism.” So says Robert Bryce, supposed climate change realist, in a recent Substack piece titled “Environmentalism In America Is Dead,” published on May 24, 2024.

Okay, let’s parse this statement. First, I’m pretty darn sure that environmentalism in America is NOT dead. There are large numbers of Americans who count themselves among the ranks of environmentalists, and the EPA still enforces the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, two major environmental instruments we can take pride in, and there is a whole bunch of other rules and regulations and people protecting the environment. Second, there is no necessary contradiction between environmentalism and “climatism and renewable energy fetishism,” to use Bryce’s phrase, and if you think that his phrasing doesn’t tip Bryce’s rhetorical hand, don’t bother reading further.

Here’s the start of a recent Robert Bryce Substack piece, and wouldn’t you know it, the transition to clean energy are killing the whales. And you call yourself an environmentalist!

“Fetishism,” really? There is a simple and compelling point about the relationship between climate change and environmentalism, which is that a severely degraded environment resulting from climate change is bad for plants and animals, currently endangered or not, and rivers and mountains and plains (etc.), currently polluted or not. Increases in the range of 1.5 C-3 C (or even higher) over the geologically briefest of spans—decades, as we’ve been seeing—is pretty much the largest environmental disaster in the course of human history. There’s not a lot of sense trying to save the habitat of the Eastern Newt or Blakiston’s Fish Owl or Cabbage Tree Palm if their entire ecosystems are transforming into very different and inhospitable ecosystems.

Bryce seems to insist that “environmentalism” be defined in the way it was defined in his youth, as if our understanding of scope and scale of environmental problems hasn’t shifted radically, and I’m not throwing shade on Rachel Carson, whom Bryce nostalgically cites. Bryce sees the effort to address global warming as having “morphed into the NGO-corporate-industrial-climate complex” that is not interested in preserving wildlands and wildlife. I don’t see how his view squares with such popular efforts as 30×30, which the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) describes on its website as follows:

President Biden issued an executive order to tackle the climate crisis domestically and abroad. In it, he established a national goal to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and freshwater and 30 percent of U.S. ocean areas by 2030, in an initiative commonly referred to as 30×30. 

Instead, Bryce only sees that “today’s ‘green’ [his quotes] NGOs have devolved into a sprawling network of nonprofit and for-profit groups aligned with big corporations, big banks, and big law firms. In the name of climate change,” whose intent is as follows:

…these NGOs want to pave vast swaths of America’s countryside with oceans of solar panels and forests of 600-foot-high wind turbines. They are also promoting the industrialization of our oceans, a move that could put hundreds of massive offshore wind turbines in the middle of some of our best fisheries and right atop known habitat of the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

By the way, lest I be lumped with all those crazed whale killer groups out there, I include National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s following statement on the subject of windmills and whales:

At this point, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause whale deaths. There are no known links between large whale deaths and ongoing offshore wind activities.

Of course, it may be that NOAA is a pawn of the “NGO-corporate-industrial-climate complex,” especially considering how well-funded such NGOs are by leftist billionaires (which I’d guess is not the largest class of billionaires, but let’s not let that bother us) and duped members of the public who are members of such environmental (or, as suggested by Bryce, “faux-environmental”) groups such as National Audubon and the Sierra Club.

And well should you worry about the influence of such NGOs, argues Bryce:

The simplest way to understand how climatism and renewable energy fetishism have swamped concerns about conservation and wildlife protection is to follow the money. Over the past decade or so, the business of climate activism has become just that—a business. As I reported last year in “The Anti-Industry Industry,” the top 25 climate nonprofits are spending some $4.5 billion per year. As seen below [references a chart in his article], the gross receipts of the top 25 climate-focused NGOs now total about $4.7 billion per year.

Yousa, right?

Of course, most of the organizations are membership organizations, with other responsibilities in addition to their paving over paradise, but let’s explore a bit further why Bryce’s take is absurd, even if he has plenty of graphs and tables that must prove his point, since no one can argue against a graph. Let’s start with the fossil fuel industry, which he doesn’t list, chart, or graph, but which showed over $100 billion in profit in 2023, and by the way, this wasn’t quite as strong a showing as 2022. Refer here to the word used: profit. For apples-to-apples comparison with Bryce’s $4.7 billion of gross receipts “of the top 25 climate-focused NGOs,” let’s look at fossil fuel industry gross receipts, which, according to Investopedia, is $4.3 trillion, and that’s only for the oil and gas drilling sector that gets you only to the point of getting the stuff out of the ground, and so does not include the production and retail consumption side of the industry. Call me a nut, but Bryce’s climate-oriented NGOs have $4.7 billion against the fossil fuel industry’s $4.3 trillion (well, only one part of that industry), so the “Anti-Industry Industry,” which is another Bryce term for such NGOs, is something of an underdog, I’d say.

Anti-Industry Industry, in Bryce’s thinking, are  green energy organizations  trying to grind to a halt the fossil fuel industry while encouraging their very own  industry. And how do these numbers stack up against fossil fuel companies? I’m glad you asked.

Somehow, Bryce concludes differently:

These [NGOs] groups—which are uniformly opposed to both nuclear energy and hydrocarbons—have budgets that dwarf those of pro-nuclear and pro-hydrocarbon outfits like the Nuclear Energy Institute, which, according to the latest figures from Guidestar, has gross receipts of $194 million, and the American Petroleum Institute which has gross receipts of $254 million.

The problem is that Bryce has selective perception when it comes to comparing anti-Big Oil and pro-Big Oil advocacy groups, including adding up gross revenues from 25 groups on the anti-side against 2 groups on the pro-side, and even that is hardly his worse misdirection. Clearly the fossil fuel industry has massive financial resources and a long history of not being afraid to use them to counter business threats, where a multitude of Big Oil advocacy PACs and think tanks and lobbying live in the world of dark money. Or consider that direct or explicit federal fossil fuel subsidies alone come to $3 billion each year, and there are a number of state subsidies for fossil fuels, too. The International Monetary Fund puts direct (e.g., tax breaks, undercharging for supply costs, etc.) and indirect (basically, the costs of fossil fuels production and use not including fossil fuel’s causally-tied pollution-related illness and climate change costs) at $7 trillion, worldwide, for 2022, of which direct subsidies account for $1.3 trillion.

Yet, somehow, there is a dangerous and immensely well-funded conspiracy to foist renewable energy upon us all.


Bryce’s rhetorical abuse gets personal, too. For instance, when he breaks down the receipt growth in the last decade for Rocky Mountain Institute, he describes the organization as “the Colorado-based group founded by Amory Lovins, the college dropout [emphasis Bryce]….” And, of course, not only is some college dropout “the leading cheerleader for the ‘soft’ energy path of wind, solar, biofuels, and energy efficiency” running a $117 million organization, but some of the big contributors to RMI “are corporations that are profiting from the alt-energy craze,” with Bryce citing that “[l]ast year, Wells Fargo, a mega-bank that is among the world’s biggest providers of tax-equity financing for alt-energy projects, gave Rocky Mountain Institute at least $1 million.”

Oh no! Crazy alt-energy and a crazy bank, to boot.

But is it right to suggest there is something unseemly about building businesses around clean energy? Thank goodness fossil fuel companies have resisted the temptation to build business, and yes, this is sarcasm in action.

Bryce goes on to offer other examples of RMI’s funding by self-serving corporations, and the money noted is meant to show how lopsidedly powerful the anti-industry industry is as it gushes with cash. For instance, Bryce mentions that “[a]bout half of all the tax equity finance deals in the country (worth about $10 billion per year) are being done by just two big banks, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America. The two outfits have the resources to handle the tax credits that are generated by renewable projects and pair those ‘tax subsidies’… with the capital financing needed to get the projects built.”

Would you like to guess how much fossil fuel industry involvement these two banks have? Well, according to BankingDive, “U.S. banks accounted for 30% of the $705 billion that 60 global banks spent on fossil-fuel financing in 2023,” and J. P. Morgan “retook the title of top fossil-fuel financing bank in 2023” at $39 billion, while giving RMI “at least $500,000” in 2023, this later figure according to Bryce.

America the blade-twirling porcupine! Hang on to your hat. According to Bryce, there will only be room for windmills in many states. Of course, let’s not look to closely at how a study or two gets interpreted, or where such a study reads on the validity meter.

So, why is Bryce writing such bullshit? I can only surmise as to motive, although there’s some indication in his latest Substack writing: “America needs a new generation of activists who want to spare nature, wildlife, and marine mammals by utilizing high-density, low-emission energy sources like natural gas and nuclear energy.” Bryce is a longtime advocate of nuclear energy (which I also believe is an option to consider as we move away from fossil fuels), but it seems like his feelings have been hurt by the wide rejection of nuclear energy. Yes, some of this rejection is based on worries about nuclear waste or operational safety, but in main part it is because capital costs are so high. I’d rather see Bryce write about how the nuclear industry could reduce costs and I’d love him to identify real-world efforts that can deliver on the nuclear promise, but instead, there’s this petulance.

He states, including on his About Page, his interest in the matter of fair consideration of energy costs relative to the speed and scope of renewable energy rollouts, but he’s chosen to be a Debbie Downer about renewable energy—even to the point of imagining weird conspiracies of out-of-touch elites—instead of exploring the question of costs for individuals from the clean energy transition. I happen to think that the climate progress side, pushing hard for a clean energy transition, is mostly ignoring the issue of the cost for households, but the solution isn’t to abandon the transition but rather address issues of economic fairness. The issue of economic fairness is a complex issue, but an important one.

Instead, Bryce makes maps that make it seem like only by “covering eight states with solar panels (most of which are made with Chinese components) and endless forests of massive, noisy, bird-and-bat-killing wind turbines” will the energy transition move forward, but what these maps show is that he likes to gripe and accept falsehoods in order to gripe.

Not helpful.

Clearly, windmills and solar farms and transmission lines and energy storage need to grow. Will much of America be under the shadow of solar panels and surrounded by windmills? Will the clean energy transition destroy the environment, sending whales to their deaths, destroy huge tracts of forests, and crowd out the Eastern Newt? He likes to cherry-pick his sources and extrapolate in viscously exaggerated ways, and if I couldn’t read, I might be swayed by his terrifying infographics and hysterical arguments.

But I do know how to read and think and research information. I do know that Bryce has his thumb heavily on the scale when it comes to making his arguments. I do not know why he’s doing this, although his writing does walk, talk, and quack like a fossil fuel shill, so the irony of his claiming the mantle of environmentalist is especially burning.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *