Video shows FERC nominee Bernard McNamee’s bias against renewables


By Dave Anderson, Energy and Policy Institute

A newly resurfaced video further confirms Bernard McNamee is biased against renewable energy and favors fossil fuels, as the Senate considers his nomination by President Trump to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“If confirmed, I commit that I will be a fair, objective, and impartial arbiter in the cases and issues that would confront me as a Commissioner,” McNamee said in written testimony ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing. “My decisions will be based on the law and the facts; not politics.”

Video of McNamee speaking at a February 2018 event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and sponsored by Koch Industries tells a different story. Utility Dive was the first to report on the video, and published a short clip. The Energy and Policy Institute obtained a copy of the full video, which can be viewed below:

The video shows McNamee at work as the head of a still ongoing TPPF public relations campaign that excludes carbon dioxide from its definition of “real pollution,” and seeks to undermine popular support for wind and solar power. The campaign employed polling and focus groups to identify persuadable “All-of-the-Above Moderates” and “Working Class Skeptics” audiences who could be targeted with pro-fossil fuels messaging:

The full video, titled “How Fossil Fuels Impact Life Today,” was posted on YouTube by TPPF and still shows up in Google search results, as shown in the screenshot below. But it was removed from the group’s YouTube playlists after news broke in August of McNamee’s likely nomination to FERC, according to Utility Dive.

Bernard McNamee: A “movement conservative”

McNamee was joined on stage by Kevin Roberts, an executive vice president at TPPF, and Jason Johnson, a Republican political consultant employed by TPPF to conduct polling and focus groups for its pro-fossil fuels Life:Powered campaign.

“… a lot of things I could say about Jason, and I would make the same remark about Bernie, the best thing I could say in our professional setting is that he is a movement conservative, a true believer in every sense of that word,” Roberts said in his introduction.

McNamee and Johnson have both worked for Republican Ted Cruz, one the Senate’s most die-hard climate change deniers and a top recipient of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.


The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s own polling shows Americans favor wind and solar power over fossil fuels

“… as you can see the source of energy that had the most positive rating throughout the country, was solar,” Johnson said while presenting his polling results for the TPPF campaign. “It just feels good. It’s warm, right? Followed by wind power.”

In his presentation, Johnson also conceded that public opinion was not on the side of the fossil fuel industry.

“Point being, fossil fuels are a part of the past, and so long as we continue to allow it to be framed that way, we will be behind the eight ball so to speak, and that is something that we must change,” Johnson said.

“There’s an organized propaganda campaign against fossil fuels,” McNamee said. “We all know it. We all see it.”

“The problem is, it’s taken hold,” McNamee continued. “You talk to millennials. You talk to housewives. You talk to people in corporate boardrooms now. They’re all buying into this.”


Bernard McNamee: Renewable energy “screws up the whole physics of the grid”  

McNamee’s nomination to FERC has drawn opposition in the Senate due in part to his earlier work for the Trump administration on Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s failed 2017 proposal to bail out uncompetitive coal and nuclear power plants at consumers’ expense. The proposal was based in part on claims that intermittent wind and solar power threatened the reliability of the power grid. Those claims were refuted last year by Perry’s own grid study, but McNamee doubled down on the myth at the TPPF event in February.

“Renewables, when they come on and off, it screws up the whole physics of the grid,” McNamee said. “So when people want to talk about science, they ought to talk about the physics of the grid and know what real science is, and that is how do you keep the lights on? And it’s with fossil fuels and nuclear.”


Bernard McNamee praised the “intellectual foundation” laid by Kathleen Hartnett White

Just a few days before McNamee’s presentation in February, the White House withdrew President Trump’s nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White, another TPPF alum, to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. Hartnett White’s nomination had faced strong opposition over her denialist views on climate change, including those she expressed in the book “Fueling Freedom” that laid the groundwork for the TPPF campaign that McNamee worked on.

“… the Fueling Freedom book that Kathleen Hartnett White wrote was a very important foundation for what we’re doing,” McNamee said at the TPPF event in February. “It sets the intellectual foundation for what we’re trying to do.”

McNamee also said he took great “pleasure” in seeing “the Clean Power Plan be put to death” while serving in the Trump administration at the Department of Energy before he joined TPPF. The Obama-era Clean Power Plan established the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants.


Bernard McNamee agreed on the need for a pro-fossil fuels campaign targeting kids

“… this started as Fueling Freedom and was prompted by this just terrible idea called the Clean Power Plan,” TPPF’s Roberts said of McNamee and Johnson’s campaign while introducing them. “We played a role in helping to modify that plan significantly.”

“… what we decided as we did some polling and some focus groups, we realized that the problem was much more extensive than just in public policy,” Roberts continued. “The problem extended to schools, both K through 12 schools and higher education.”

The topic came up again during the question and answer session that followed the presentation.

“Yes, one of the most indoctrinated groups of the American public opinion that you’re trying to change is coming out of the elementary and high schools,” an audience member chimed in. “What part of your initiative is going to be directed to do something about that?”

“I think you’re absolutely right we need to focus on that, and that’s something I know that’s been talked about, but we have not developed the plan for that,” McNamee responded. “And that’s something I think you’re absolutely right we need to focus it out and figure out how to get that counter message…”

“I know, even my son, my son I just have told you know you’re in school just, just deny it,” McNamee continued. “I don’t care if you get an F. I don’t care, and I’m proud of him because he has not made a lot of friends with certain people, but boy is he outspoken on it.”

“I had to explain to my son the other day that Bill Nye is not actually a science guy,” Johnson said.

“I had the same conversation,” McNamee said. “My son mocked the teacher for showing a video by him. It was fantastic.”


It’s all about the Benjamins for Bernie

TPPF has received ample funding from the fossil fuel industry in the past. Donors who contribute more than $2,500 to TPPF receive an invitation for two to the Policy Orientation event that McNamee and Johnson spoke at.

“Obviously, we’re going to need financial support as we move forward,” McNamee told the audience after he and Johnson finished their presentation on TPPF’s pro-fossil fuels campaign.

“I see a couple producers in the room,” Johnson said during their talk. “How can it be that we have a negative opinion on fracking, right?”

Johnson boasted that “we could go change public opinion in a state or in a region or even nationwide with the right amount of money,” and said the TPPF could provide “persuasive messaging to feed out to all of the different people” the next time a disaster like the Exxon Valdez or BP oil spills occurs, or gas prices increase.

A photo found on the TPPF website shows Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity listed among the sponsors of the event where the video of McNamee was recorded.


Dave Anderson serves as policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute.

This post was first published on the Energy and Policy Institute blog, and has been reprinted with permission.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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