A Free-Market Energy Blog

Dear Elliott Negin: How About the Intellectual Debate? (Simmons/IER hit piece: big bark, little bite)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- June 1, 2017

“When The Washington Post reported earlier this month that President Trump appointed Daniel Simmons to run the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the paper called him a ‘conservative scholar.’ Conservative scholar? ‘Fossil fuel industry propagandist’ would have been more accurate.”

– Elliott Negin (Senior Writer, Union of Concerned Scientists). “Can Trump’s Koch-Funded Appointees STall Clean Energy Momentum?” May 19, 2017.

“Elliott Negin can earn his paycheck by impugning the motives of his opponents and trotting out superficial arguments for political energies instead of market-chosen ones. But he is fooling himself and propping up the Washington, DC Big Environmentalist shared narrative about benign, affordable renewable energy.”

Meet Daniel Simmons, the current acting assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Law degree, George Mason University. Member, Virginia Bar. Former research fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University. Undergraduate degree in economics, Utah State University.

A classical liberal. Son of university professor and noted classical liberal Randy T. Simmons.

Former positions (in chronological order): Vice President for Policy, Institute for Energy Research; Director of Regulatory and State Affairs, IER; Director, Natural Resources Task Force, American Legislative Exchange Council; Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University; Staff, Committee on Resources of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Scholarly output, with facts and analysis (sampling here).

Enter Elliott Negin, senior writer for the Union of Concerned Scientists. In Can Trump’s Koch-Funded Appointees Stall Clean Energy Momentum? he states that Simmons is not a “conservative scholar” but a “fossil fuel propagandist.”

Simmons, you see, is “a veteran of Charles and David Koch’s climate science denier network.” As in Holocaust denier.

Some excerpts:

A veteran of Charles and David Koch’s climate science denier network, Simmons has spent much of his career disparaging clean energy.

His [jobs have been at] three organizations [that] have received substantial funding from the Koch brothers, owners of the coal, oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries, who have spent more than $100 million over the last two decades on dozens of think tanks and advocacy groups to spread climate disinformation.

Tom Pyle of IER/AEA and myself come in for the same treatment:

IER and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), are particularly indebted to the Kochs for both funding and staffing. Between 2010 and 2014, they received more than $5 million from Koch-controlled funds.

And, like Simmons, top IER-AEA officials are well-entrenched members of the Koch network. IER founder and CEO Robert L. Bradley, Jr., for example, is an adjunct scholar at the Koch-founded and -funded Cato Institute and the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute. He also has been a featured speaker at the Koch-funded Heartland Institute’s annual climate science-bashing conference.

IER-AEA President Thomas Pyle, meanwhile, is a former lobbyist for Koch Industries and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. Pyle oversaw the Trump Energy Department transition team, which included Simmons and Travis Fisher, an IER economist who also is now on the DOE staff.

And so Simmons is locked-in to being a foe of energy/environmental goodness:

Given Simmons’ résumé, it’s no surprise that he belittles efforts to address global warming, disingenuously asserting that the “economic damages” of curbing carbon emissions “would be greater than the damage caused by a warming world.” Never mind that if we continue to burn carbon at the same rate, U.S. property losses by 2050 from sea level rise alone would be astronomical, ranging from $66 billion to $106 billion.

Predictably, Simmons also is a staunch opponent of federal support for wind and solar power.

And fellow ex-IER staffer Travis Fisher is implicated:

While it’s too early to find his fingerprints on anything, his former IER colleague, Travis Fisher, has already raised some concerns. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who also has received generous contributions from the Kochs over the years, tapped Fisher to conduct a study to assess if federal support for renewable energy threatens baseload power generators — nuclear and coal plants — and undermines electricity grid reliability.

Regardless, Perry likely plans to use Fisher’s grid reliability study as a pretext for rolling back incentives for wind and solar and boosting coal, one of President Trump’s campaign promises. Likewise, the study could give the Trump administration ammunition to attack state standards requiring utilities to increase their use of renewables.

Mr. Negin concludes:

The bad news is Koch surrogates have been targeting these state standards for years, and now two former IER staff members — not to mention their new boss — are in a position to do something about them.”

Some Rebuttal

What Negin has not taken the time to study (or does not want to study) is that fact that classical liberalism if a scholarly, multi-disciplinary tradition that a number of us have studied intensely for many decades to make a strong intellectual case for private property rights, market exchange, and the rule of law.

Negin has reversed the causality; Simmons and the rest of us reached our views and naturally gravitated to those groups and individuals that also shared the same views. Classical liberal philanthropists, in other words, did not bribe us into our views.

Koch Industries, Inc. (KII), in turn, is in the oil and gas business because there is a fundamental consumer demand for those (superior) products as judged by freely acting consumers. Coercion not. And KII is not in government dependent wind power and solar power, because of their bad economics and violation of Principled Entrepreneurship and Good Profit–and cronyism.

Elliott Negin can earn his paycheck by impuning the motives of his opponents and trotting out superficial arguments for political energies instead of market-chosen ones. But he is fooling himself and propping up the shared narrative of Washington, DC and Big Environmentalism about benign, affordable, renewable energy.

Never mind that industrial wind turbines, for example, despoil wilderness, generate intermittent power at a fraction of their theoretical capacity, injure/kill avian wildlife, and disturb (if not harm) nearby people. These things scarcely matter in the service of the Church of Climate where the ‘greenness’ of renewables is the prop for solving the ‘climate crisis.’


  1. Tom Tanton  

    Union of Concerned Scientists have lost the right to be called either….concerned or scientist.


  2. Mark Krebs  

    To follow up on Tom’s comment: Science unquestioned is not science.

    I got that from a comment about this article: You’re Calling Me “Anti Science?”


  3. Charles G Battig  

    In praise of “questioning”:

    “Scepticism is the first step to truth” Denis Diderot


  4. 29 Dec: Elliot Negin: EoP Re: Trump abolishing 50 years of federal law; Scientific legal enquiry: What is a Sustainable Footprint? – EoP Legal Submissions  

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