A Free-Market Energy Blog

Libertarian Party Energy Platform (‘the party of principle’)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- October 8, 2020

“While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.”

This week, the Green Party’s platform on climate and on energy was presented. Today, the Libertarian Party energy platform is reproduced. Adopted in July 2018, no changes were made at the 2020 Convention.

The LP platform is very brief compared to that of the Green Party. The general principle of private property rights, voluntary exchange, and the rule of law needs just a bit of elaboration. Beware of the prescriptive, in other words. Excerpts follow:


As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty: a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and are not forced to sacrifice their values for the benefit of others.

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power….

Statement of Principles

… where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual: namely, (1) the right to life — accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action — accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property — accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.

Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.

Economic Liberty

Libertarians want all members of society to have abundant opportunities to achieve economic success. A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.

2.1 Property and Contract

As respect for property rights is fundamental to maintaining a free and prosperous society, it follows that the freedom to contract to obtain, retain, profit from, manage, or dispose of one’s property must also be upheld. Libertarians would free property owners from government restrictions on their rights to control and enjoy their property, as long as their choices do not harm or infringe on the rights of others.

Eminent domain, civil asset forfeiture, governmental limits on profits, governmental production mandates, and governmental controls on prices of goods and services (including wages, rents, and interest) are abridgements of such fundamental rights. For voluntary dealings among private entities, parties should be free to choose with whom they trade and set whatever trade terms are mutually agreeable.

2.2 Environment

Competitive free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection.

Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights and responsibilities regarding resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Where damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law, restitution to the injured parties must be required.

2.3 Energy and Resources

While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.

2.8 Marketplace Freedom

Libertarians support free markets. We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives, and other types of entities based on voluntary association. We oppose all forms of government subsidies and bailouts to business, labor, or any other special interest. Government should not compete with private enterprise.

3.4 Free Trade and Migration

We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders.


Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval.


This is a whole lot to like above. Taking principle seriously, the energy and environment language is to the point and consistent.

One note regards eminent domain. Assuming that private parties are involved (such as a pipeline and a landowner), classical liberal law should separate the surface area from the ground below where the latter does not impact the former. Tunneling under one’s land can be done at depth and in a manner otherwise that preserves the rights of surface owners.

The surface owner, in other words, should not have a property right to the center of the earth. Getting property rights right, in other words, matters for the public policy that follows.


  1. Charles Battig  

    The libertarian manifesto is a creed of narcissistic self indulgence with no central moral compass. Every one for one’s self is no guide to the formation of a viable and cohesive society…there is no “glue” to hold it together. On individual issues, libertarian may have valid arguments.


    • rbradley  

      This is a political platform, but classical liberals (my preferred term for libertarian) believe in a very strong civil society with a limited-but-strong government. “Anything that’s peaceful” allows plenty of room for folks to be religious or whatever. Severely limiting the initiation of force by government is good enough for me.


  2. Charles Battig  

    Have there been any lasting libertarian based societies? Our constitution is based on a recognition of a God as the source of our rights; upon what is the libertarian constitution based?


    • rbradley  

      The libertarian tradition comes out of classical liberalism, which has in some iterations a religious basis. Why does the Libertarian platform need to tie itself to ‘God,’ of which there are more than 100 religious versions?


  3. Denis Rushworth  

    Section 2.2, Environment, is completely batty. We saw in the 1950’s through much of the 70’s what industry, unregulated with respect to environment, can do and since then we have seen what rational regulation can correct. The matter of regulating the regulators is a current issue.

    And Section 2.3, Energy, is equally batty. The consequence of unregulated energy markets are clear, so to speak, in the air of every Chinese city. And although I am a firm supporter of nuclear energy – to make it unregulated? Good grief!

    I could go on, but why bother?

    What the libertarians seem to be proposing is that we let Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates own absolutely everything and do with it whatever they want.


  4. Denis Rushworth  

    I suppose the Neanderthals had a lasting society. They never got much above 20 people or so in each individual society and never got beyond stone tools despite having 200,000 years to work at it.

    Perhaps that is the Libertarian ideal?


  5. Derek Madison  

    I stumbled upon this blog in hopes of finding true free market advocates for the energy space, but instead find it to be fake free market advocates. Behind these articles is the same ilk of people as those they claim to oppose.

    The authors are advocating for selecting technologies (oil, gas, coal) instead of letting the free markets do so, and the veneer of pretending to talk about free markets is pretty thin.

    Even above Mr. Bradley is defending eminent domain, which is a government enforced property acquisition tactic reserved solely for gas and oil pipelines. It is true that in most states’ constitutions surface rights and mineral rights are severable, a historical mechanism specifically created for the oil industry, but eminent domain also eliminates the private property rights of the mineral rights owner.

    Essentially, a politically appointed set of commissioners at FERC approves eminent domain for pipelines superseding any states’ or private property owners’ rights.

    To expose Mr. Bradley as a fake advocate, simply pose this question – he advocates for the defense of eminent domain above because it is a necessary requirement for pipelines to get economically built, but would he also support the exercise of eminent domain if Tesla wanted to build an underground freeway for electric cars and an underground DC transmission line to connect a solar facility in the desert to a city like Los Angeles? Of course he opposes that exercise of eminent domain for that purpose! Fake free market advocate indeed. It is becoming more and more difficult to find conservatives that actually have principles instead of manipulating them for a specific economic and political objective. They behave like the liberals they claim to detest.


    • rbradley  

      Derek: You mischaracterize my position. Landowners have rights to the surface area, but not to mineral rights or access rights below. Chapter 2 of my Oil, Gas, and Government expounds on a ‘homesteading” theory to this end. Obstructionism below the surface is not merited in a private property world. The surface area, on the other hand, is the owners to decide to prevent, say, a railroad track from being laid.

      Underground cables would be fine below the surface, but the cable company would need to have the right to enter the ground from a landowner for boring spots.


    • rbradley  

      Derek: Your statement ” It is true that in most states’ constitutions surface rights and mineral rights are severable, a historical mechanism specifically created for the oil industry,” in not correct. The severance of rights, such as in Texas, occurred well before commercial oil and gas deposits were contemplated. It was minerals more generally.


  6. Derek Madison  

    Point noted that mineral rights have been severable for quite some time for other extract industries and for many states before the oil industry was established. However, without access to eminent domain, interstate pipelines would not be so economic, and eminent domain is enforced by unelected technocrats.

    That is not really in line with either free market principles or limited government philosophy. It would almost be more intellectually coherent to construct the justification of eminent domain from a socialist paradigm where a pipeline taking a straight line from point A to point B is deemed in the public interest creating a social good of lower priced fuel.

    I’m not sure your homesteading theory matches reality. It is simply naïve to think surface rights and mineral rights do not encumber upon one another. In the exercise of the subsurface rights, the surface landowner cannot prevent the subsurface owner from access to the property via the surface for the construction, maintenance, and access to the infrastructure thus taking surface rights from the surface owner.

    Even using a limited perfect example of a pipeline once buried not disturbing a surface owner’s rights is false. A pipeline once built puts in place a surface easement restricting the uses of the surface above it. These restrictions include buildings and often restrict or require engineering review by the pipeline owner at their discretion of roads where weight impacts may affect the pipeline or communication cables and electrical infrastructure where electromagnetic interference between the two can cause adverse effects.

    The rights of the mineral owner supersede that of the surface owner. That is an explicit construct enforced by the government to facilitate extractive industries. The mechanism has some obvious merit though its implementation is messy, but you cannot arrive at that as a justified conclusion from free market or libertarian principles.

    In a libertarian society or in a free market the surface owner can refuse to transact or accept compensation for surface disturbance to access subsurface rights. The surface owner is not compelled by the government to consent to provide surface rights to the subsurface owner. The price in eminent domain is set by the government, not by two agents freely participating in a market to exchange property interests.
    You can arrive at this eminent domain construct (as well as the condemnation construct for roads and powerlines above the surface) from either corporatist or socialist paradigms where the government is enforcing allocation of property in a non-market manner for either the benefit of a select group or the benefit of “everyone.”


    • rbradley  

      Glad to continue this discussion. Yes, surface area is needed for the ‘homesteader’ to drill down to the deposit. But competition between surface owners for the area for directional drilling with oil and gas would make the cost affordable. (With hard minerals, this would be more difficult given the construction of an underground mine that moves laterally.)

      If we never had eminent domain, incentives would have been different. It is reasonable to conclude that a rights-of-way market would have developed where land title entrepreneurs would have secured rights between jurisdictions to then sell to the pipeline company (if the pipeline company did not do this itself). Don’t need to have a viable project yet, just secure the rights for the future.

      As it is, construction well below the surface area with spaced surface rights without eminent domain is a viable strategy under property right law.


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