In his recent Huffington Post piece, Elliott Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists portrays the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), as “a front organization for the oil and gas industry.” The title of his piece says it all: “Unreliable Sources: How the Media Help the Kochs and ExxonMobil Spread Climate Disinformation.”
I founded IER in 1989 as a free-market voice in the energy debate and remain the CEO today. In 2008, in response to growing energy politicization, IER opened a Washington office, soon after which the AEA was founded. We are one of a plethora of 501c3 and 501c4 energy-related organizations that populate the nation’s capital.
IER/AEA is not a “front group” for anything but free-market entrepreneurial capitalism. We argue that decisions about energy should be made by regular citizens and instead of bureaucrats and politicians deciding what they think is best for the rest of America. Our work reflects a number of long-standing academic traditions, including market-process economics, Public Choice theory, and natural rights philosophy.
We are influenced by F. A. Hayek’s insights on the failure of central planning, not to mention the recorded energy planning failures of the 1970s. James Buchanan’s explanation of government failure elucidates the gulf between intention and result in the public sector. Julian Simon’s ultimate resource uniquely explains why so-called depletable resources expand over time in a business/economic sense. Milton Friedman’s numerous insights about energy through the decades have proven reliable. These four (three of them Nobel Laureates in economics) were not fronts for anything, much less a particular energy interest. Their work inspires our work today.
Politically, IER/AEA seeks to replace crony capitalism with consumer-driven, creative-destruction, government-neutral capitalism. In other words, we believe that Americans should be able to make their own energy choices instead of government subsidizing or limiting energy choices. We criticize and expose rent-seeking by politically-connected firms (including Enron, where I worked for 16 years, challenging the firm’s climate alarmism and renewable-energy subsidies). The list of energy firms who forsake the real market for special government failure is too long to list.
IER/AEA’s positions reflect the fact that renewable energies are dilute, costly, and unreliable and have distinctly negative environmental consequences. The growing grassroots environmental backlash against (government-subsidized) industrial wind turbines, not to mention inefficient and expensive biofuels, is testament to the unintended consequences, economic and environmental, of energy planning by political elites.
For more about IER’s purpose and mission, visit our website. I do not know anyone on our staff, or on the staffs of other free-market organizations, who does not believe they have a superior intellectual case and are proudly doing their part to advance a free and prosperous commonwealth. Ad hominem argumentation is beneath today’s energy and environmental debates.
IER/AEA did not ask for politicized energy, and this contentious fight would recede if government got out of the energy business. Basic human needs are not being met and economic growth is being foregone because of resource-intensive politicking. This needs to change, the sooner the better.
Robert L. Bradley Jr., founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, is author of seven books on energy history and policy and blogs at www.masterresource.org.