Travis Fisher

Travis Fisher

Credentials

  • Master’s, Economics, North Carolina State University (2006). [1]
  • BS, Economics, North Carolina State University (2005). [1]

Background

Travis Fisher is an economist and former adviser to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre. He was formerly an employee of the pro-fossil-fuel Institute for Energy Research (IER). Before working at IER, Fisher was an economist for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Fisher joined the Electricity Consumers Resource Council (ELCON) as President and CEO in April 2020. ELCON describes itself as “ the national association representing large industrial users of electricity” created to “advocate policy more effectively by forming a united front.”[1], [2], [25], [26]

Fisher has said he became a fiscal conservative after reading the works of Frederic Bastiat and taking a free market economics course through North Carolina State University. He interned at the conservative John Locke Foundation before joining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as an economist. Following his work for the government, Fisher moved on to work for the Institute for Energy Research (IER) as a policy associate. [3]

It seems conventional wisdom that government should get more involved in energy,” he said. “It’s counter intuitive to argue that government should get out of energy. But I like the challenge,” Fisher said in an interview with the John William Pope Foundation. [3]

After working for the pro-fossil-fuel Institute for Energy Research (IER), Travis Fisher joined President Trump’s transition team at the Department of Energy. E&E News reported that Fisher’s move was facilitated by IER‘s President Tom Pyle, who led the DOE transition. [4]

Fisher oversaw a DOE staff report requested by Rick Perry that found natural gas was the largest factor driving the closure of coal plants this decade. Following that report, Perry sent a request to the FERC to boost fossil fuel and nuclear plants, and his request was unanimously rejected. [4]

Stance on Climate Change

2015

Fisher has opposed clean energy policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a 2015 IER report, Fisher wrote: [5]

“The single greatest emerging threat to reliable electricity in the U.S. does not come from natural disturbances or from human attacks. Rather, the host of bad policies now coming from the federal government—and, unfortunately, from many state governments —is creating far greater and more predictable problems with grid reliability.”

Key Quotes

Undated

Travis Fisher said that his thinking has been influenced by fossil fuel proponent Alex Epstein. Fisher’s testimonial appears on the Center for Industrial Progress’s website: [6]

“Alex Epstein has helped me re-frame my thinking, as Julian Simon set out to do, to take into account all facets of the human environment when dealing with environmental issues. He illustrates very effectively that the ‘natural’ environment is not conducive to human progress, and thus we must set out to improve it if we wish to improve ourselves.”

October 2015

Fisher was quoted by The Heartland Institute, discussing his recent study at IER claiming that wind power was four times as expensive as coal: [7]

The notion that wind and solar power are becoming cheaper than sources like coal and nuclear is patently false,” Fisher claimed. 

This narrative tends to compare only brand-new power plants—highly subsidized wind and solar installments—to coal plants paralyzed by costly and unprecedented regulations,” said Fisher. “The implication is there is no longer a cost premium in replacing the output of today’s existing coal plants with power from wind and solar facilities, never mind the obvious reliability problems in attempting to do that.” 

March 24, 2015

“Going 100 percent renewable is an outrageously expensive and impractical thing to do—it’s irresponsible to make it sound easy or even desirable,” Fisher wrote in an “analysis” piece for the Institute for Energy Research. [8]

May 15, 2014

Fisher wrote an IER article critical of the American Wind Energy Association and the wind production tax credit (PTC): [9]

AWEA fails to address environmental impacts other than air pollution, which include bird and bat deaths, increased land use, and problems associated with the rare earths used in wind turbines,” Fisher claimed.

“These are real environmental concerns that AWEA routinely leaves out of the discussion. Consequently, policymakers should not rely strictly on AWEA’s statements if they want to make informed policy decisions.”

[…] “AWEA is hopelessly divorced from reality when it pretends that wind power replaces natural gas and coal rather than nuclear power.”

February 12, 2014

“Despite years of subsidies for wind, solar, and other renewables, these technologies are still not competitive with coal, natural gas, and other affordable, reliable sources of electricity generation,” Fisher said in his testimony before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee. [10]

Key Deeds

April 16, 2020

Fisher became president and CEO of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council (ELCON). [25], [26]

ELCON promotes itself as “ the only national association representing industrial electricity users interacting with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on a regular basis.” [26]

According to its website, ELCON “is also active in the legislative process, working with Members of Congress and their staffs promoting policies consistent with its objectives.” [26]

February/March 2018

Axios reported Travis Fisher was leaving the DOE, according to an administration official. Fisher had overseen a study that found that the market for cheap natural gas and renewable energy were the reason some nuclear and coal plants were struggling. The study contrasted with the rule issued by Perry pushing to boost coal and nuclear plants. According to one source, Fisher’s departure from the DOE was influenced at least in part due to his difference in policy positions from Perry. [11]

As of March, E&E News reported that Fisher had left his post at the DOE. He is expected to move to a position at the FERC to work as an adviser for Kevin McIntyre’s office, although his role could change. He would report to Chief of Staff Anthony Pugliese, who was appointed the prior summer. [4]

E&E News reported that, according to his former colleagues, Fisher’s move was partly the result of the agency’s request to financially support struggling coal and nuclear plants. Fisher had led the study, tasked by DOE Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to write the staff report that found natural gas to be the leading driver of coal plant closure this decade. [4]

February 2018

Emails obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) via public records requests revealed communications to and from Travis Fisher to a number of anti-wind and anti-renewable energy activists. The emails were obtained as part of a series of public records requests by EPI. [12]

In an April 16, 2017 email, Fisher asked for “help” on the issue of “wholesale electricity market reform.”

Wholesale Market Reform Travis Fisher

Tom Stacey has ties to a range of anti-wind groups, telling MasterResource he was involved with NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association), ACRE (Action Committee for Rural Electrification, The Buckeye (Policy) Institute, the Institute for Energy Research, and with IICCUSA.org (Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition), among others. [13]

Fisher’s email came two days after Secretary of Energy Rick Perry ordered a controversial grid study. Fisher’s appointment to lead the study was initially criticized, after it came out that Fisher had authored a 2015 IER report that described clean energy policies as “the single greatest emerging threat” to the power grid. [12]

August 2017

Fisher organized a staff report on electricity markets and reliability, at the request of U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. Perry had ordered a grid review in April, launching with a memo that claimed the electrical supply was being undermined by “market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others” including environmental regulations. [14]

The American Wind Energy Association and the Advanced Energy Economy, which represents a range of corporations, released their own report countering Perry’s concerns. [15]

Environmental groups criticized the study’s recommendations. John Moore, director of The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), called it a “a schizophrenic attempt to support outdated, uncompetitive, and highly polluting power plants.” 

“The recommendations ignore renewable energy’s contributions to a reliable electricity system,” he said. “They also include misguided proposals to gut environmental rules for coal and nuclear plants, and to pay fossil resources for reliability services that DOE hasn’t demonstrated are necessary. DOE and Secretary Perry should be focusing instead on accelerating the growth of clean energy rather than creating barriers.” [16]

The DOE Staff Report itself concluded contrary to Perry’s concerns, finding that the largest reason for coal plant closurs has “been the advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation” due to cheap gas from fracking,  and that the grid was operating reliably. [16]

Fisher later spoke about his involvement in the report on The Interchange: [17]

February 2017

Fisher joins the DOE as a Special Advisor, a hire that was facilitated by IER President Tom Pyle. [4]

April 2016

Fisher contributed to an IER report criticizing rooftop solar power by listing a range of “myths” about residential solar generation. The report was republished at the Heartland Institute[18], [19]

February 2016

Fisher appeared on an episode of the Center for Industrial Progress‘s “Power Hour,” hosted by fossil fuel proponent Alex Epstein, to discuss “the 100% Renewable Scam.” [20]

Epstein introduced Fisher as a “Friend of Energy.” Fisher had written an article, “Busting the ‘100 Percent Renewable’ Myth” at the Institute for Energy Research. [8]

February 24, 2015

Fisher wrote an IER report that described state and federal clean energy policies as “the single greatest emerging threat” to the power grid. Fisher wrote in the report: [5]

“The single greatest threat to reliable electricity in the U.S. does not come from natural disturbances or human attacks. Rather, the host of bad policies now coming from the federal government –  and unfortunately from many state governments – is creating far greater and more predictable problems with grid reliability.” [5]

Several years after Fisher’s study, the Energy and Policy Institute reported that Fisher’s 2015 report was “strikingly similar” to a memo from Secretary Rick Perry, who ordered a DOE study on grid reliability. “Perry’s memorandum included a specific order to examine, ‘The extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants’” the Energy and Policy Institute reported. [21]

December 8, 2014

Fisher list listed as author on an IER comment on the EPA‘s proposed power plant rule to limit emissions from existing powerplant. According to the IER summary, the “EPA’s proposed rule is a threat to the power grid, raises the cost of energy, and offers no tangible benefits in terms of global temperatures.” [22]

February 12, 2014

Fisher testified before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee. According to IER, his testimony focused on “ the misperceptions of the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) as they relate to the state of Ohio.” [10] 

In his testimony, Fisher listed the following as “misconceptions” regarding RPSs: [10] 

  • RPSs will create jobs
  • RPSs are needed because America is running out of coal, oil, and natural gas
  • RPSs are needed because renewable energy is an infant industry in need of help
  • RPSs will reduce the cost of electricity
  • RPSs are an effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions”

“None of these are true, but what is true is that RPSs raise the cost of electricity, and the states that have RPSs tend to have the most expensive electricity,” Fisher claimed. [10] 

December 3, 2013

Robert L. Bradley Jr. reported that Travis Fisher was a panelist at a “Wind Policy Luncheon” co-hosted by the Institute for Energy Research and the American Energy Alliance (AEA). [23], [24]

“In a study to be released next week by the Institute for Energy Research, the parent organization of the American Energy Alliance, Big Wind’s dirty little secrets are laid bare,” the event description read. “The wind production tax credit is one of the largest transfers of wealth in the energy sector, sucking billions of dollars from states that derive no benefit from wind energy to underwrite the mandates in other states.”  [24]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

Below are some of Fisher’s posts and reports at the Institute for Energy Research

Resources

  1. Travis Fisher,” LinkedIn. Accessed April 20, 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  2. Travis Fisher,” Institute for Energy Research. Archived April 21, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/t32hn
  3. Travis Fisher Seeks to ‘Be Rather Than to Seem’,” John William Pope Foundation. Archived April 21, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/2a8zU
  4. Hannah Northey. “Sources: Official who led DOE grid study to join commission,” E&E News , March 30, 2018. Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/MJOhK
  5. “Assessing Emerging Policy Threats to the U.S. Power Grid” (PDF), Institute for Energy Research, February 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  6. Testimonials for CIP founder Alex Epstein,” Center for Industrial Progress. Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/5mS8K
  7. STUDY: WIND ELECTRICITY SEVERAL TIMES AS EXPENSIVE AS CONVENTIONAL SOURCES,” The Heartland Institute, October 7, 2015. Archived April 21, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/G9E5j
  8. Busting the ‘100 Percent Renewable’ Myth,” Institute for Energy Research, March 24, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/UPyHh
  9. Top Five Questins for AWEA‘s Tom Kiernan,” Institute for Energy Research, May 15, 2014. Archived April 21, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/7dJRv
  10. IER Expert Testifies on Ohio’s Alternative Energy Standard,” Institute for Energy Research, February 12, 2014. Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/HPBAj
  11. Amy Harder. “Scoop: Top Energy Department adviser to depart,” Axios, February 22, 2018.
  12. Dave Anderson. “A Trump adviser’s emails shed light on a shadowy anti-clean energy network,” Energy and Policy Institute. Archived April 20, 2018.
  13. Sherri Lange. “Tom Stacy: Heroic Ohioan for Affordable Electricity,” MasterResource, April 14, 2016. Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/XVoYA
  14. STUDY EXAMINES ELECTRICITY MARKETS AND RELIABILITY,” United States Department of Energy, April 14, 2017.
  15. Coal’s Decline Not Hurting Power Grid Reliability, Study Says,” InsideClimate News, June 21, 2017. Archived April 21, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/BUD2o
  16. Peter Behr and Hannah Northey. “Perry’s policy review pivots on grid resiliency,” E&E News, August 24, 2017. Archived April 21, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/dLbvI
  17. Travis Fisher on DOE‘s Epic Grid Reliability Report,” Art19. Archived .mp3 on file at DeSmog.
  18. Residential Solar: Myth vs. Fact,” Institute for Energy Research. Retrieved from heartland.org.
  19. RESIDENTIAL SOLAR: MYTH VS. FACT,” Heartland Institute, April 27, 2016. Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/NCBjo
  20. Power Hour: Travis Fisher on the 100% Renewable Scam,” Center for Industrial Progress. Archived April 20, 2018. Archived .mp3 on file at DeSmog.
  21. “Travis Fisher: Author of Rick Perry’s grid study called clean energy policies a greater threat than terrorism,” Energy and Policy Institute.  Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL:  https://archive.li/F2f3V
  22. IER Comment on EPA’s Proposed Power Plant Rule,” Institute for Energy Research, December 8, 2014. Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.li/7nY8e
  23. Robert Bradley Jr. “Speaking Truth to Wind Power (Recent IER Panel on the Hill),” MasterResource, January 7, 2014. Archived April 20, 2018. Archive.is URL:https://archive.li/7xSQ6
  24. Wind Policy Luncheon,” Cloture Club, December 2, 2013. Archived November 21, 2014. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.li/zgxhQ
  25. (Press Release). “ELCON Hires President and CEO” (PDF), ELCON, April 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  26. About Us,” ELCON. Archived April 24, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/e2Cyk

Other Resources

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