“IER’s philosophy and research reflects a number of academic traditions, from natural-rights philosophy to market-process economics to Public Choice. We are heavily influenced by the lessons of history, given the extensive role of government intervention in energy markets (remember, for example, the 1970s energy crisis?). We are not a public relations firm but one based on classical liberalism, better known today as libertarianism.”
Former Obama advisor and Democratic operative David Axelrod recently tweeted: “Donald Trump cites energy analysis from The Institute for Energy Research, notorious as the climate change-denying arm of the oil industry.” In fact, Trump cited an IER-sponsored study that predicted that legalizing energy production on federal domains could result in a half-million well-paying jobs annually and economic benefits of more than $100 billion annually.
What was the study that Trump cited and Axelrod decried? Is IER a front for the oil industry, as charged? And is IER peopled by climate-change “deniers.”
As the founder of IER, and its current CEO, I would like to respond to all three points.
“The Economic Effects of Immediately Opening Federal Lands to Oil, Gas, and Coal Leasing,” released late last year, was authored by Dr. Joseph Mason of Louisiana State University. The holder of an endowed chair of Banking in the College of Business at LSU, Mason has numerous academic credits. His assumptions, methodology, and conclusions are transparent if anyone would like to rebut. But it is hardly surprising that opening vast restricted federal lands, onshore and offshore, has major economic positives.
Second question: Is IER a glorified front for the oil industry?
Founded in 1989, IER has been a consistent free-market voice in the energy debates. Our structure of production starts with large books, treatises really, and goes all the way down to opinion-page editorials such as this one. I have been at the center of this output for the past 27 years.
IER supports the oil industry, as well as the natural gas, coal, and electricity industries, to the extent that they support free markets and do not engage in cronyism. We find ourselves in disputes as well as in agreement with business firms and their trade associations. We wish we were supported more by the energy industries, because we do not solicit or accept taxpayer monies, which puts us at a funding disadvantage compared to many of our ideological rivals.
IER does not support subsidies for any energy source. Wind power, solar power, ethanol, and electric vehicles to the (large) extent are political energies, dependent on special government favor. In a true free market, there would be remote (off-grid) solar and some ethanol blended as a gasoline oxygenate, but not much else. So we cannot expect support but opposition to these huge crony enterprises.
IER’s philosophy and research reflects a number of academic traditions, from natural-rights philosophy to market-process economics to Public Choice. We are heavily influenced by the lessons of history, given the extensive role of government intervention in energy markets (remember, for example, the 1970s energy crisis?). We are not a public relations firm but one based on classical liberalism, better known today as libertarianism.
Final question: Is IER in denial about climate change?
Like most every other organization in the conservative-to-libertarian spectrum, IER understands that climate is always changing. We do not dispute that there is or will be a human influence on climate from the enhanced greenhouse effect, created in part from the burning of fossil fuels.
The science is not settled that anthropogenic warming will be serious or even a problem. The middle ground in the climate debate is global lukewarming, whereby a modest and quite possibly beneficial effect results from anthropogenic climate change. There is growing support that the sensitivity of climate to greenhouse-gas forcing is less than previously thought—and will be lower still as more is found out about feedback effects. All this means less of a problem and less of an ability to do anything about it.
Like him or not, Donald Trump is promoting, in distinction to his major political opponent, a market-based, pro-consumer, pro-taxpayer energy policy, one that lifts excessive regulation to liberate home-grown energy production and usage.
Energy is a battlefront in the 2016 election, and the free-market, limited government position is certainly a contender for the hearts and minds of the electorate.