What’s at Stake If FBI Isn’t Fixed

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The FBI needs to be fixed, because it has become a threat to the fundamental liberties of Americans, Steve Bradbury of The Heritage Foundation argues in a lengthy new white paper released this week.

“The liberty of the American people is under threat from politicized national security agencies, exemplified by the abuses of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Bradbury writes.

The Heritage Foundation on Monday published the report authored by Bradbury, a distinguished fellow in the executive vice president’s office there. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

Bradbury’s nearly 9,800-word report, “How to Fix the FBI,” contains “extensive suggestions for Congress to rethink the entire FBI at a fundamental level: to start over from scratch and reconstruct the Bureau to refocus on law enforcement, bring it under meaningful oversight, and restrain it to protect Americans’ constitutional rights.”

So, what’s at stake if the FBI isn’t fixed?

“Well, the liberties of the American people. That’s what’s under threat. Do we really have free speech in this country? Do we really have a right to exercise our religious beliefs?” Bradbury says.

“Do we have a right to show up and protest at abortion clinics? Do we have a right, do parents have a right to exercise control over the education of their children in public school? All these things are being identified by some in this country as a threat,” he adds.

Bradbury joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to further discuss his report, why he thinks the FBI needs to be fixed, and some of the “11 major elements that we think Congress should consider as part of that mandate to rebuild the FBI.”

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Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Samantha Aschieris: Joining today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” is Steve Bradbury, a distinguished fellow in the Executive Vice President’s Office at The Heritage Foundation.

Steve recently authored an extensive report titled “How to Fix the FBI.” The 24-page report “contains extensive suggestions for Congress to rethink the entire FBI at a fundamental level, to start over from scratch and reconstruct the bureau to refocus on law enforcement, bring it under meaningful oversight, and restrain it to protect Americans’ constitutional rights.”

Steve, thanks for joining us today.

Steve Bradbury: Great. Happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Aschieris: Of course. Now, as I just mentioned, you released this report on Monday about fixing the FBI. But before we get into the how, can you first walk us through why the FBI needs to be fixed in the first place?

Bradbury: Yes, absolutely. It’s an unfortunate story. It’s one that has captured the attention of a lot of policymakers, members of Congress in Washington these days. The president of The Heritage Foundation has talked about it. The evidence keeps mounting.

And the first part of our report—which I invite everyone who’s interested to go to heritage.org and see it, it’s the prominent paper on the website right now. The first part of the report compiles those facts, puts them together, tells the story, records what the record is of abuse. And frankly, it’s pretty chilling.

You’ve heard of things like the Durham report, the Twitter Files, those are all encompassed. Those relate to the FBI’s activities.

What we’ve seen is, since Sept. 11, the attacks of Sept. 11, the FBI was really given a new mandate, a prime directive to stop the next attack on the U.S. That made a lot of sense after 9/11, in the weeks and months and years following 9/11.

But those intelligence gathering tools that the FBI was given—it became part of the intelligence community—in recent years, have really been turned and used against American citizens, their online speech, other constitutionally protected activities. It’s pretty scary.

You see that in the Twitter Files, where the FBI has been monitoring speech, constitutionally protected speech online, identifying things that the Biden administration considers disinformation, that they think is dangerous and they don’t want the American people to hear it.

It’s called dissenting speech. You may disagree with it. You may think it’s wrong, but we have a First Amendment in this country. And then the FBI has been working with the Big Tech companies to actually suppress and shadow ban and censor, frankly, that speech. It’s shocking, really.

I think the Twitter Files, one of the biggest stories of recent years. Of course, the mainstream media has largely ignored that story.

We’ve also seen the Durham report, inspector general’s reports, etc., about the abuses that occurred during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation of the so-called Russia collusion in connection with the 2016 campaign, focusing in and targeting the Donald Trump campaign for surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Using information that was false or incorrect as a basis to get a warrant, an order to do that surveillance on Carter Page. And then at the same time, giving protective treatment to the Clinton campaign.

I mean, it couldn’t be more bald and politicized in its misuse of these authorities.

We’ve seen parents targeted as potential domestic terrorists, for being outraged and raising concerns about how school boards are treating their children in education.

We’ve seen religiously minded people, American families who have protested at abortion clinics being targeted, whereas violent Antifa rioters have gotten off scot-free.

We’ve seen—and The Daily Signal reported on this—the FBI field office in Richmond, identifying radical traditional Catholics as potential terrorist organizations or white supremacist organizations, putting out a bulletin to target them. That was withdrawn only after it was exposed publicly.

But these things are mounting. And even this week, the weaponization committee released a report showing that the FBI, very active, is expanding these efforts.

So, working in that case with the Ukrainian Security Service, again, to censor and ban speech of Americans online. Truly shocking.

So, the director of the FBI, Chris Wray, is appearing today, appeared this morning before the House Judiciary Committee and got grilled on a lot of these things.

And I just think as a result of this record of abuse that I think cannot be ignored at this point is pretty darn compelling.

There’s just a lot of people, particularly conservatives in Congress, calling for fundamental reform and rethinking the FBI. And our own president, The Heritage Foundation, Kevin Roberts, has reflected some of that sentiment and talked about the need for Congress to take on the task of restarting the FBI over from scratch.

So, we got together different policymakers, different perspectives within Heritage, produce this paper to try to put some flesh on the bone.

What would that mean? What would that entail if Congress were to take on this big project of rebuilding the FBI? So, we walk through in the second part of the report 11 major elements that we think Congress should consider as part of that mandate to rebuild the FBI.

We then have a third section in the report, which lays out a minimum set of specific reforms we think are absolutely necessary, at the very least, to stop the abuses and protect the liberties of Americans, even if Congress didn’t take on the big project of rebuilding, or whether or not Congress does attempt to rebuild the FBI. So, tries to cover the waterfront.

We hope it’ll be helpful in terms of advancing the debates in Washington on these important issues.

Aschieris: Absolutely. And I want to dive a little bit deeper into these suggestions that you put forward in the paper for Congress. Can you walk us through some of the ones that you think are most important or that you would really like to highlight for our audience?

Bradbury: Yeah. No. 1, I think, put right up front, is reconsidering the jurisdiction of the FBI. Right now, the FBI’s in all things considered agency of law enforcement, take on any federal law enforcement matter of any kind.

And if you know anything about federal crimes, they’ve multiplied in recent years. No one person knows the full range of potential federal crimes. The FBI has a wide-open jurisdiction right now to investigate anything that could be a potential violation of federal law or a national security threat.

And they have a wide range of tools to do that. Not just formal investigations that require fairly high-level approval, but also preliminary investigations that are less formal. But also completely informal things called assessments that can be approved by a low-level supervisor and don’t require any factual basis to think a crime has been committed or that there is a specific national security threat.

So, it has wide-open jurisdiction and a wide range of tools. So, Congress ought to reconsider the jurisdiction and the set of tools.

And in the jurisdiction question, one way to approach it is think about refocusing the FBI on its traditional law enforcement responsibilities, to address major crimes that no other federal agency is equipped to address and that involve matters, for example, interstate criminal organizations or conspiracies that are beyond the reach of state and local law enforcement to address.

Right there, you get a narrow set of major criminal activities that I think all Americans would agree we need a federal law enforcement entity to take on.

The second, think about the intelligence gathering function. So important, has become really the preeminent function of the FBI since 9/11. That’s a sea change in and of itself from the traditions. So, is it time to rethink that?

The terrorist threats continue to exist, but the FBI’s using these tools for other purposes. And they’ve turned them against Americans increasingly to prevent what they call disinformation. It’s really speech, it’s religious act, the exercise of religious liberty, it’s parents exercising rights. It’s pretty outrageous.

So, should we take that intelligence gathering function away from the FBI? Maybe if we need it, put it somewhere else within the government, Department of Homeland Security or some other place. Separate it from the powerful tools of law enforcement and put the FBI back focused on its more traditional mission.

And then I mentioned the toolbox. Maybe those assess that authority to undertake those informal assessments and monitor people online. What an assessment includes is monitoring your online activity; physically trailing you; watching you, physically. It’s physical surveillance. Gathering information on you from other agencies, creating a dossier, if you will, from all public sources or other available agencies.

Maybe the FBI’s ability to open one of these assessments on Americans should be more limited. Maybe it should require some factual basis to think a crime might be committed or there might be a specific national security threat before they start monitoring an American’s conduct and speech, etc. Or maybe should require higher level approval.

So, these are important fundamental reforms. There’s a host of other ones I’m happy to talk about as well.

Aschieris: Yeah. Well, we’d love for you to continue talking about them if you’re—

Bradbury: Sure. So, there’s a question about the whole culture of the FBI. It’s not enough just to reform the leadership or change the director. The political leadership is very thin at the FBI. But the FBI has 38,000 employees. And I think there’s real question to be concerned about whether the FBI across the board is maintaining the same high standards of professionalism and excellence and fitness, basic fitness, that we’ve all sort of associated with the classic FBI agent.

It’s a venerable institution. It’s got great traditions. It’s not clear they’re upholding those these days. And so I think a rethink of the agency by Congress should take on the question of personnel and personnel standards, fitness requirements, standards of professionalism and training. So a rethink can’t ignore those issues.

We also have some important recommendations that are structural. So take the FBI director, put him back within the chain of command of the Justice Department, subject to the control of the attorney general and the president more clearly with stronger oversight with the inspector general for the FBI.

The FBI doesn’t need to perform some of the functions it’s providing to itself, like general counsel’s office, public affairs, ledge affairs. Those can be provided by the main Justice Department for the FBI.

The FBI right now has been become, and really it has been this way through its whole lifetime—you think about the days of J. Edgar Hoover, who is a power base unto himself, very powerful figure in Washington.

The FBI sits somewhat on an island and decides for itself what its policies and agenda will be, what its priorities will be, and approves some of its own practices and sets its own agenda, decides what law enforcement priorities to focus on, etc.

That really should be more under the direct oversight and control of the attorney general and the president. That’s the way the Founders intended our constitutional republic to be organized. The executive branch is under the supervision of the president. We don’t have independent power sources. We don’t have a separately elected director of the FBI. The president of the United States is the only official of the federal government who’s elected by all of the people and is accountable to all of the people.

And so some have raised fears, “Oh, but if you move the FBI within the chain of command of DOJ, won’t that make it more politicized?”

If you have a politicized attorney general, well, there’s always a fear that law enforcement could be politicized. We have strong traditions in America against that, strong professional standards for objective law enforcement. Obviously, those need to be upheld. It’s up to the president … and the attorney general to ensure that that happens.

If there is politicized law enforcement, the public should know that, Congress will see it. There’ll be oversight. The public will be outraged. The pressure will be on the president to change it. That’s the way our republic is supposed to work.

Another thing we say is this, a new inspector general that we would suggest should be required to do a full report and disclosure all of the information that has improperly been gathered on Americans and disclose the full range of that. And then the attorney general should be required to purge that improperly collected information from the systems and certify to Congress it’s all been purged.

So those are some of the things we suggest as a rethinking of the FBI.

We also talk about—this is timely, you’ve seen it in the news today—the idea of moving the FBI’s headquarters out of Washington, getting it away from inside the Beltway and the Washington establishment.

It’s really become an institution that works to protect the established powers in Washington more than to protect the American people. I wish that weren’t true. I hope, actually, that’s not quite accurate, but that does seem to be the way it appears.

So moving the headquarters out. It has a sort of HQ 2 down in Huntsville, Alabama, at the Redstone Arsenal. It’s got a lot of facilities down there and there’s a lot of resources that have been put in, that might be a logical place for the headquarters actually to be.

But beef up the field offices more and their personnel and the connections to local law enforcement rather than the center and sort of the politicized central command of the FBI.

So a lot of reforms could be taken up as part of this mandate for rethinking the FBI.

Aschieris: Absolutely. And as we were just discussing prior to starting the interview, you’ve been very busy lately with a lot of interest in talking to people about your report.

Bradbury: Yes.

Aschieris: I wanted to ask, in terms of Congress, have you been in contact with anyone on the Hill?

Bradbury: Yes.

Aschieris: Getting this report out there and who has shown, if you’re able to disclose, interest in really taking a serious look at this report?

Bradbury: Yes. Well, here it is Wednesday, the report was published on Monday. It has been circulated. And of course, Heritage, The Daily Signal, we have a great network of distribution. So it’s been distributed. It’s very obvious, it’s getting a lot of attention.

I’ve heard a lot of members on the Hill, both on the House side and the Senate side, keenly interested. I’ve briefed various meetings of staff on it. We’re getting follow-up requests for individualized briefings of staff in offices of members who are interested.

There are a number of committees active on these issues. I mentioned the House Judiciary, Sen. [Chuck] Grassley and others in the Senate side. Very interested in what’s going on with the FBI and the Hunter Biden issues. That’s part of the abuses, is the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story, which the FBI had and knew was accurate in connection with the 2020 election.

So yes, there’s a huge swell of eagerness and interest in these issues, these matters. And it’s really our hope that this paper will help stimulate the debates and the discussions.

And there’s a lot more work to do if Congress picked up the mandate and said, “Yes, we’re going to take this on.” And some members wanted to put a detailed legislative package together.

Of course, there are a number of us at Heritage who would be very eager and willing to provide technical assistance to help flesh out the analysis, put more meat on the bones for legislation like that.

I will say, there’s another thing going on this year. This is a key aspect of all of this. There’s a very powerful intelligence gathering tool, which is known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It’s a very powerful tool and it’s an important tool to help protect the country from foreign threats like China in particular, the cartels, and others.

It’s a very broad and powerful surveillance tool collection method that allows the United States to collect broad-scale intelligence on foreigners who are located outside the United States. So that’s the target.

So the targeting of it doesn’t involve any U.S. person information, any American, the interests of Americans. However, the surveillance is done on facilities in the U.S. and so by the nature of that, it’s going to collect a lot of communications of Americans who may be in communication with one of those foreign targets.

That’s a big database that’s very sensitive. The FBI has been dipping into that database. They’ve had access to it in a fairly unrestricted way.

They’re supposed to only dip in for national security purposes, but the FISA court recently unsealed some reports just in the last few weeks showing that the FBI improperly dipped into that database more than 278,000 times for no legitimate national security purpose to gather information about Americans that it had no business gathering.

Now, some of those Americans were alleged rioters in the Jan. 6 riots. Some were [Black Lives Matter] protesters. Some were, for no law enforcement purpose or investigation whatsoever, people who are visiting the FBI headquarters building, maintenance workers coming, “Oh, let’s see if there’s anything on them in the database,” totally improper. Checking up on people who are applying for FBI internships or academies. Again, completely improper. Checking on 16,000 donors to congressional campaigns.

So very clear record of deep abuse with this Section 702 tool. So that tool, 702, expires at the end of this year. So the executive branch is making a big push for Congress to reauthorize Section 702 of FISA, to keep this tool in place. And Congress is considering whether to require certain conditions of approval, whether to approve it at all, and if so, under what conditions.

So we, in the third part of our paper, go through in some detail, some fundamental reforms of FISA itself, the foreign intelligence surveillance process, and including the FBI’s involvement with 702.

We actually recommend that Congress insulate the FBI from having direct involvement in 702 and prohibit the FBI from being able to dip into this database.

If the intelligence community, other agencies in the intel community see something in the database that shows some suspicious activity going on in the U.S. that may be orchestrated, for example, by the Chinese military or the Chinese Communist Party, they can and will tip that information in an intelligence report immediately to the FBI.

The FBI can follow up on it using its traditional tools or using an individualized FISA order if it needs to. It doesn’t have to, we believe it doesn’t have to have direct access to the 702 program or involvement in the program.

That’s a big question. One that I think we’ll get a good amount of pushback from the executive branch and the FBI itself. Congress should take a hard look at that. We think that should be a condition for approval of any reauthorization of Section 702.

We have some other specific conditions we recommend and then some other structural reforms. And generally, a prohibition, which we think is a strong requirement, a prohibition on all federal agencies. Monitoring constitutionally protected rights, exercise of rights and speech by Americans, and trying to work with outside entities like tech companies to suppress constitutionally protected speech or the exercise of constitutional rights, free exercise of religion or religious convictions or parental rights over education of children.

So some of these things should be prohibited. You wish these things were bipartisan and strongly supported by all members, elected representatives of the people, we think they should be.

But in this day and age in Washington, things get politicized, all the political rancor and what you hear from the other side of the aisle is, “Oh, you’re just calling for these reforms because for political purposes, try to protect Donald Trump or make him reelected, or what have you.” So it’s unfortunate.

I don’t know how much chance there really is in some of these cases, but 702 has to be reauthorized, according to the executive branch. So there’s a real opportunity, there’s some real leverage there for Congress to get at least some minimum set of reforms in place.

Aschieris: As we’ve been discussing your report on how to fix the FBI, on the flip side, what is at stake if the FBI isn’t fixed?

Bradbury: Well, the liberties of the American people. That’s what’s under threat.

Do we really have free speech in this country? Do we really have a right to exercise our religious beliefs? Do we have a right to show up and protest at abortion clinics? Do we have a right, do parents have a right to exercise control over the education of their children in public school? All these things are being identified by some in this country as a threat.

It’s shocking to me at my age and what I’ve seen from the old-time liberals who stood up for the civil liberties of Americans and for free speech, even when unpopular. Now it seems like free speech is viewed as a threat to order and you’re hearing that from the radical Left and the woke policymakers in this country. It’s an upside-down world. It’s incredible.

There’s nothing more important than the civil liberties of Americans. That’s what makes this country great. That’s provided for and guaranteed under the constitutional structure. And it’s really a threat from a politicized federal government right now and the abuses of the FBI, I think, just highlight that in a very stark fashion.

Aschieris: Now, Steve, I just want to shift topics a little bit and discuss in further discussion, I should say, that I recently had with Diana Furchtgott-Roth, who is the director of the Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment here at The Heritage Foundation.

Now, we were discussing a proposed [Environmental Protection Agency] rule that, as Diana was describing it, would limit tailpipe emissions so that in order to comply, auto companies would have to sell 60% of new vehicles as electric by 2030.

Now, I know you submitted a comment expressing your opposition to this rule or this proposed rule. What are some of your concerns?

Bradbury: Yes, 60% by 2030, 67% by 2032. So you see the ramp rate that they’re trying to achieve, and they’re trying to achieve it not based on market demand, not based on what American families really want in terms of the vehicles for their purposes.

And keep in mind that the internal combustion engine automobile in this country has been the machine of freedom for most American families for more than a hundred years. So that’s really what’s at stake, is freedom. Again, freedom, the choice of American families to order their own lives and use vehicles, be able to acquire vehicles that will serve their interests and needs.

What they’re doing is using the coercive power of regulation to force this massive transformation in the auto industry. Again, I think the environmental concerns that are being addressed are really a false flag, if you will, a fig leaf. It’s really not focused on achieving certain environmental results so much as forcing this transformation for larger policy reasons, part of the climate change agenda of the Biden administration, lining up with the Chinese government, the European Union, etc., to try to force this change in the industrial base of the country.

That’s a scary thing if you think about it, to force a dramatic change in the industrial base of the country, particularly when the change we’re talking about, moving to all-electric vehicle fleets, will put us in extreme dependence on China because the process minerals that go into the batteries that make these cars run are all currently under the control largely of China and some other unfriendly foreign countries, but mostly China. They have cornered the market on the processing of these.

And oh, by the way, when they make these things, they process these things, what do they use? Coal-fired power plants. They’re building more coal-fired power plants every year than we have in this country, more per year than we have total in America.

I’m not advocating more coal plants necessarily in the U.S., but we got to look at the big picture what’s happening. The carbon dioxide emissions from China are skyrocketing and ours are going down. Ours are going down because we’re transitioning from coal-fired power to natural gas-fired power plants.

Oh, by the way, at the same time, the EPA is issuing these rules to try to force this change to all-electric vehicles, they’re clamping down on fossil fuels in the power sector, they’re putting a squeeze on the availability of electricity. Where’s that electricity going to come from to power these electric vehicles? That’s a big question I think a lot of Americans have.

American families, I think, are concerned. I’m not here to bad-mouth electric vehicle technology. I’m a fan of new technology. Whatever’s good, whatever works. I think the market should decide, American families should be allowed to purchase it if they can afford it and if it’s good. I’m not sure they’re going to be able to afford it and I think they’re doubtful it’s good in terms of serving their needs.

Among other things, I think people like the security and independence of having a tank full of gas in their car, in their garage, versus having a cable that’s connected to who knows what charging infrastructure and who’s going to control that infrastructure? [Gov.] Gavin Newsom in California is already restricting and putting rationing on access to that.

So in my comments, one of the things I do is address some of the legal questions this scheme raises. I’m a lawyer. I’ve dealt a lot with administrative authority of agencies to issue rules under statutes that grant them authority.

In this case, you’re talking about a statute enacted in 1970 to control the emission of pollutants that cause smog from the tailpipe of vehicles. It’s now being used to force a transformation in the industry toward the use of vehicles that, guess what, don’t have any tailpipes and, according to the EPA, don’t emit any of the pollutants that the EPA has jurisdiction to regulate. So where do they get the authority?

It’s interesting that what they say is, “Oh, we recognize that these electric vehicle technology, these electric vehicles are feasible because we see companies talking about transitioning to electric vehicles and starting to produce them so it must be feasible and companies are promising to do this, putting a lot of investment in. And because it’s feasible, we’re going to say they’re required to use it to comply with our standards.” That’s what’s called control technology.

So, because the electric vehicles are control technology, then EPA is going to be asserting, and it is in this rule, the authority to regulate the technology.

So you’re going to see the EPA, through the guise of pollution regulation, start asserting jurisdiction to regulate electric vehicles and also the sustainability of electric vehicles and the access to electricity.

What could that mean? That could mean EPA could get into the job with Gavin Newsom of rationing when the drivers of these vehicles can access the grid to recharge them, under what conditions, how much access, etc.

Where does it end? It has no end.

I think this exceeds their authority under the statute. I think this is very clearly in my mind one of those major questions that the Supreme Court has said under its major questions doctrine requires clear articulation by Congress, a very specific and clear authority to do this.

What we’re talking about is a rule that forces or attempts to force the entire auto industry to transition to a whole new type of technology, new type of vehicles.

It’s very similar to the Clean Power Plan that was thrown out by the court last year under the major questions doctrine. In that plan, the EPA was trying to use greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide regulation restrictions to force a transition in the national generation of electricity from coal-fired power plants to wind and solar. This is very similar. They’re trying to force this transition.

In many ways, it’s even more invasive because it’s requiring the auto companies to make the investments themselves and transition to new types of vehicles. Whereas in the Clean Power Plan that was thrown out last year, the coal-fired power plants owners were not required to develop wind and solar themselves. They were either required to reduce their own output or to pay, essentially, a subsidy at the margins, a marginal subsidy to help boost other operators to invest in wind and solar.

Here, the auto companies themselves are being required to comply with these rules in a way that requires them to build new types of vehicles. There’s no precedent for this. It’s not like any other type of tailpipe pollution restriction rule that the EPA has ever put in place.

There’s also another fundamental, but pretty simple legal defect with this rule, in my mind. When you’re talking about carbon dioxide regulation, restricting the amount of carbon dioxide a gas-powered vehicle can emit from its tailpipe per mile traveled, that’s no different from, in fact, it’s exactly the same as a fuel economy standard for that vehicle.

Because there’s a one-to-one direct relationship between the amount of carbon dioxide a gas-powered car emits per mile traveled and the number of miles that car can travel on a gallon of gas, which is fuel economy. OK?

And there’s a whole separate statute called the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, EPCA, which Congress enacted in 1975 after the Arab oil embargoes. And it empowers the Department of Transportation, and only the Department of Transportation, to set fuel economy standards for new motor vehicles. No other agency, federal or state, has that jurisdiction, that authority.

It’s exclusive to DOT, it’s done by NHTSA—National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—sets for every new model year vehicle fuel economy standards.

Well, the EPA, through these rules, is now superseding that mandate. They’re in the business when they set carbon dioxide limits, and they’re setting these at draconian levels so low that traditional internal combustion engine vehicles can’t really satisfy them.

They apply the standard, not vehicle by vehicle, but on at fleetwide average basis. That’s the way they do it, to force the automakers to transition to electric vehicles at a certain percentage rate that they want to achieve.

It happens to be the one that [President] Joe Biden wants and California Air Resources Board and probably the Communist Party of China. They’re all doing it. These different governments are trying to force it. They’ve just decided, “Here’s the rate we want to achieve.” And so they set the average standard at a level that that’s what the automakers have to make.

There’s a fundamental mismatch, though, between that mandate and market demand. We have not seen American families respond with that market demand.

Electric vehicles are pretty expensive. They also have these limitations, limitations on power, the range of the vehicle. If you tow a heavy load, the range goes way down. If it’s cold weather, the range goes down. So there are all these limitations and concerns people have. The cost is very high, so they haven’t really jumped on the bandwagon and embraced it. So we’re heading for a train wreck, to mix metaphors here.

If the automakers put tens of millions, they’re putting billions of dollars into these new factories because it takes whole new factories, whole new assembly lines to build these very different vehicles, electric vehicles.

And they’ve made huge investments. They’re planning to turn out hundreds of thousands of these and they’re starting to stack up in the inventories. They’re parked in a bunch of garages, and we’ve got 60-, 90-, 120-day backlogs with some of these electric vehicle lines. People are not lining up to buy them. There’s not a huge waiting list for them.

So if the demand does not follow the production, that is not a way to sustain a profit-seeking business. I’m telling you, it’s not always the case that if you build it, they will come. Just ask Facebook about the Metaverse.

So something’s got to give. The EPA and its rule-making—one of the things I point out in my comments, I walk through its analysis, the agency’s analysis of all the cost impact of this and the benefits they claim. And it’s all made up. And it’s all based on the most rosy assumptions.

And every step of the way where there’s a concern or a question mark as to whether the dependence on China will be there, whether the power grid will be able to sustain the increased demand, whether consumers will really embrace these vehicles, whether the costs will go down of the new technology. Every single question down the line, these are serious questions. There’s real question marks about whether this is all feasible.

In every single instance to support this rule proposal, EPA assumes everything will fall in place. It’ll all magically happen just as they want it to happen. Consumer demand will rise just in time. We’ll wean ourselves of China, we’ll start mining lithium in the United States. It’s comical. … Is the Biden administration going to approve all these new lithium mines and production facilities, which are quite polluting in their own right?

And that point I made about China and it’s production of batteries and how much carbon dioxide that alone produces—if you care about carbon dioxide emissions, I actually think carbon dioxide emissions are one good measure of positive economic activity. You can think of it as a positive. It certainly has positive effects on agriculture and other activities. Plants need more carbon dioxide to live.

But in any event, what you want to do is reduce carbon dioxide emissions globally. Well, look how much carbon dioxide is emitted from the production of these electric vehicle batteries.

We cited an automobile engineering report, I’ve got it in a footnote in my comments. A small battery pack for a small EV like the Nissan Leaf, the amount of carbon dioxide that’s produced from the production of that battery is equivalent to driving an internal combustion engine, gas-powered vehicle 24,000 miles.

Aschieris: Wow.

Bradbury: That’s two years’ worth of driving. That’s for a small EV. What about a big EV like the Tesla S? The battery pack for Tesla S, the production of that battery produces as much carbon dioxide as driving an internal combustion engine, gas-powered vehicle 60,000 miles. That’s five years.

So one way to think about it is, when you start out with a brand new electric vehicle, you’ve already got a head start on a gas-powered car in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.

The gas-powered car emits carbon dioxide every mile, it travels on gas. But your car is already responsible for admitting two to five years’ worth of driving of carbon dioxide. So you’ve already got a two- to five-year head start on the other guy who bought an old-fashioned internal combustion engine vehicle. That is completely omitted from any discussion in—

Aschieris: I’ve never heard that before, that is shocking.

Bradbury: The EPA does not address that. They say, “Well, we’re not going to take into account what they call upstream carbon dioxide emissions from the production of the vehicle or from the generation of electricity.” But mainly this production of the vehicle, the upstream, they’re not going to count.

So they’re very clear that they’re not counting it, but they also completely ignore the effects of that. And what does that mean then for their ultimate goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions?

Aschieris: Well, Steve, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it, you coming on, talking about your new report. We will be sure to include a link in our show notes so all of our listeners can take a look at that. And we’d love to have you back on as we continue to see the reaction to the report and also as we get more developments with this proposed EPA rule, whether or not it’s going to go through or not. So, Steve, thank you so much for joining us.

Bradbury: My pleasure. Thank you.

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