A Free-Market Energy Blog

Blow for Energy Postmodernism: FERC Nominee Binz Bows Out

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- October 2, 2013

“It’s policy, it’s regulation, it’s industry structure and it’s incentives . . . It’s not physics, it’s not chemistry, it’s not even the electric grid. It’s what we decide we want.” – Ron Binz

“Postmodernism … can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.” – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

A small victory for consumers and free-market energy policy came yesterday when energy statist Ron Binz withdrew as a nominee to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington, D.C.

Binz put the blame on others rather than his own postmodern energy philosophy and coercive energy-policy views, which he unsuccessfully tried to hide before Congress. “I think it’s a cautionary tale because you don’t want agencies like the FERC to be subjected to this kind of political blood sport, which is what it became,” he complained. “There was a very large coalition of right-wing groups who coalesced to oppose me.” [1]

The president of the American Energy Alliance, Tom Pyle, offered a different view:

Stopping the Binz nomination was about more than a single regulator or a single commission. It was about American consumers and promoting affordable energy solutions for our nation’s ratepayers. The Obama Climate Action Plan is about restricting access to America’s vast resources of coal and natural gas, which together supply approximately two-thirds of our nation’s affordable electricity.

Ron Binz was only a part of that plan, and today’s announcement in no way means that the White House is backing down. The American Energy Alliance will continue to monitor these developments and redouble our efforts to promote just and reasonable energy policies at every turn.

Consumers first, anyone? Free markets and voluntary exchange? Climate realism, not alarmism? Enough industrial wind turbines? Binz’s arrogant open-ended statism was his downfall. [2] And regarding Binz’s analogy of “blood sport,” it is his energy policy based on coercion that can be reduced to bodily harm, not voluntary relations in a free market.

Here is how I sized up the ill-fated nominee in a letter published last week in the Wall Street Journal:

Your editorial “Target: Natural Gas” (Sept. 14) shows how Ron Binz brings postmodernism to energy with his statement that we can replace fossil fuels with politically correct energies with the stroke of the government pen. In his words: “it’s policy, it’s regulation, it’s industry structure and it’s incentives . . . It’s not physics, it’s not chemistry, it’s not even the electric grid. It’s what we decide we want.”

But there is economical versus highly uneconomical energy. There is consumer-chosen versus brute-force energy. There is energy density: the sun’s work over millions of years creating a stock of energy versus the dilute, intermittent flows of wind and solar power.

Perhaps Mr. Binz should be reminded of this simple fact: The market share of renewable energy has been 100% for most of mankind’s history—a history of poverty. Fossil fuels enabled the machinery of the Industrial Revolution—and they promise energy abundance for an open-ended modern future.

Robert L. Bradley Jr.

CEO & Founder   Institute for Energy Research   Houston

What now for Ron Binz? No doubt multiple creamy jobs await him with the anti-energy environmental groups if he chose to leave his consultancy.

But if there was justice in the world, Binz would go to timeout for his ill-fated dodge before Congress. His punishment? Reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of  Pure Reason from cover-to-cover comes to mind as a possibility. But even one sentence from Kant’s book—this one—might be cruel and unusual punishment.


[1] If Binz believes his critics “were able to successfully completely misrepresent me,” then he is invited to turn over a new leaf, intellectually and politically.

[2] Binz’s market-failure/costless government view of public policy comes out in this statement: “We’re all in this together….  We have a bias toward individualism in this country, which [can] prevent us from doing societal things, and there’s really no substitute for doing that right now [with energy policy].”


  1. tfisher  

    WSJ nailed it yesterday with this comment:

    “‘If this kind of handling of a nomination becomes the new normal, that’s going to make it a lot more difficult for good energy policy to grow,’ and that’s precisely the point. [Binz’s] view of ‘good energy policy’ is not shared by most of the country let alone the Senate, even if he planned to ‘grow’ it anyway himself by fiat at FERC.”


  2. rbradley  

    How about a “Fisher for FERC” movement now that Binz is defeated? Lots of free-market reform needed even under existing statutory authority.


  3. MonicaS  

    I agree with your suggestion, Mr. Bradley 🙂


  4. Wayne Lusvardi  

    Even post-modern California energy decision makers have had to quietly and stealthily pass a pro-fracking bill disguised as an anti-fracking bill. See my article:
    “CA Democrats Pass Pro-Fracking Bill” Calwatchdog.com

    California Democrats Pass Pro-Fracking Bill


  5. JohnInMA  

    I try to stay out of purely political conversations, but this one is too enticing. That Binz reacted in a purely political fashion to the challenge of getting confirmed tells me as much or more about him than his past statements. And for many who are not entirely partisan, the excuse of “blame it on the other party (GOP in this case)” is trite and simply not believable often. For Binz, it’s especially pitiful that he expects the people to believe his only challenge in a Democratically controlled Senate was the minority Republicans. He only needed a simple majority to be approved, did he not?


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