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The Free Market Energy Movement: Strong Theory, Rich History, Real-World Momentum

“It’s not unlawful to run an ad hominem presidency. It’s merely shameful. The great rhetorical specialty of this president has been his unrelenting attribution of bad faith to those who disagree with him. He acts on principle; they from the basest of instincts.”

- Charles Krauthammer, “There’s a Fly in My Soup,” Washington Post, May 23, 2013.

The alarmist/statist side of the energy/environmental debate is losing intellectually and now politically. The agenda of inferior energies simply cannot stand up to a combination of analytic failure, government failure, and real-world realities. The oil and gas boom … the cessation of global warming; improving air and water quality … alternative energy busts ….

And as the alarmists have become ever more argumentative and shrill, even (former) allies and sympathizers are seeing a quasi-religious, nonintellectual, even ugly aspect to the Climate Progress view of the world.

In short, climate alarmism and government-forced energy transformation is in real trouble.

Smears and Jeers: All You Got?

Guilt-by-association and ad hominem argumentation are in full force (as in a recent professor-versus politician debate on climate-change public policy). And so it was when Elliott Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists portrayed 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.” His Huffington Post piece was titled: “Unreliable Sources: How the Media Help the Kochs and ExxonMobil Spread Climate Disinformation.”

I responded at IER’s website as follows:

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.

I concluded on this note:

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.

A Challenge to Elliott Negin

I sent an email to Elliott Negin on May 23rd that included the following excerpt:

I can assure you that we are intellectually driven and derive ‘psychic profit’ from promoting a healthy, prosperous economy.

Over the last several decades, I have been near or at the center of the free market energy/environmental movement. I do not know of any colleague who did not believe in his or her ideas for a better world. If, however, you know of anyone at a free-market organization who is a ‘PR hack just trying to make a living’, or know of someone who changed views for pecuniary reasons, please document. That would be better than pure ad hominem argumentation such as in “Unreliable Sources.”

I have not received a response, so I now challenge Negin to invite the media to sit down with him and me to discuss the history of IER and the intellectual case for energy freedom versus energy statism. Let’s see if I am a PR hack. And I’m sure that Marlo Lewis at CEI, Jerry Taylor at Cato, or a host of others would be happy to have a media briefing on the same subject.

Mr. Negin, put up or shush up.

1 comment

1 Marlo Lewis { 06.07.13 at 12:56 pm }

Well done, Rob. And please do include me in that editorial briefing if Mr. Negin accepts your kind invitation. Cheers!

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