This week my guest is the person who deserves to be known as the Robert Caro of energy history—Robert L. Bradley Jr. Rob is the founder of the Institute for Energy Research, one of the best go-to sources for information and analysis about energy (and especially debunking the nonsense energy romanticism of the left), but most important for our purposes is the author of several astounding histories of the energy industry in America. His latest book is Enron Ascending: The Forgotten Years, 1984-1996. Rob had a front row seat to the meteoric rise and ultimate collapse of Enron as director of public policy analysis and senior adviser to Enron’s CEO, Ken Lay.

Enron Ascending is the third volume of a four-volume series (the final volume will be about the last years and ultimate collapse of Enron in 2001) that has an important common theme—political capitalism, which might be thought of as something like “crony capitalism,” though Rob is more precise than that. Far from being a market failure of capitalism, the Enron story is what Rob calls “contra capitalism,” and warns that we have more Enrons in our future if we attempt the “Green New Deal.”

Rob shares here some of his inside stories from his Enron days, along with some fascinating personal history of how he came to have a contrarian point of view about the wider scene.

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There are 4 comments.

  1. Texmoor Coolidge

    Great interview!

    • #1
    • May 31, 2019, at 1:24 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. mildlyo Member

    Wow. When you are a super villain, you might as well do it enthusiastically. Good information on how capitalism unconstrained by any morality but the bottom line will always end the same. 

    • #2
    • June 1, 2019, at 9:33 AM PDT
    • Like
  3. Joe D. Lincoln

    Very informative. I hope to hear more from Robert L. Bradley Junior. He doesn’t seem to be a Ricochet member though – you guys should get Ricochet to give him an account.

    • #3
    • June 3, 2019, at 8:58 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. WalterSobchakEsq Thatcher

    Mr. Bradley clearly has a bug about nuclear power. I will not argue with him that current natural gas prices mean that it is not economic. to build nuclear power plants. Nor will I argue about whether CO2 emissions ought to be regulated. I am prepared to argue that if you want to have electricity when you need it, in quantities sufficient to maintain a technological economy and you want it to be produced without CO2 emissions, you must have nuclear power.

    Mr. Bradley repeats one of the anti-nuclear canards that I will argue about. He stated that the Price Anderson Act is a subsidy to the nuclear industry. It is not.

    The Price-Anderson Act was passed by Congress in 1957 (not 1953 as Mr. Bradley asserts). It ensures the availability of funds to pay, on a no-fault basis, liability claims for personal injury and property damage caused by a nuclear accident. The Act limits the liability of the nuclear industry to the insurance pool. Currently there is a $12 billion insurance pool for this purpose.

    Since reactors are owned by public utilities organized as corporations, the owner’s liability would be limited to the net assets owned by the corporation. In the absence of Price-Anderson, there would be no necessary fund to compensate victims of a malfunction, nor would liability necessarily be imposed in the absence of a showing of negligence. In the Fukushima case, it would be arguable that the disaster was an act of god, and that the plant owner had no liability. Under Price-Anderson, those considerations are not relevant.

    There is no subsidy to the industry. The insurance is provided by the nuclear industry at no cost to the public or the government.

    Owners of nuclear power plants are required to maintain $375 million in private insurance for for each reactor unit. If a nuclear accident causes more than $375 million of damages, each operator of a reactor must pay a prorated share of the excess up to $111.9 million. With more than 100 reactors currently licensed to operate, this secondary tier of funds is about $12 billion.

    American Nuclear Insurers, a joint underwriting association created by some of the largest insurance companies currently writes all nuclear liability policies. It pools the assets pledged by its members to provide the insurance required by the Act.

    PA was designed to protect rate payers from being stuck with the bill for an almost unforeseeable catastrophe, one that has not in fact occurred in the 62 years it has been in effect. In the era when all utilities generated the power they sold, and when their rates were based on their investment, a nuclear catastrophe would have left the rate payers without power and the only stake holders left to pay for the damage.

    https://www.naic.org/cipr_topics/topic_nuclear_liability_insurance.htm

    • #4
    • July 3, 2019, at 6:44 PM PDT
    • 2 likes