A Free-Market Energy Blog

The Institute for Energy Research: Becoming a Full Time Organization (Part III)

By -- October 5, 2021

Ed. note: The third part in this series covers IER as a full-time organization, which occurred in 2002, some 13 years after its founding (in 1989). Part I covered the history of the Institute for Humane Studies–Texas, the forerunner to IER. Part II reviewed the formation and early history of IER in Houston, Texas.


Q1. Roger Donway: The last interview explained your dual life as a full-time employee of Enron Corp. and the president of the “think bucket” IER. How did IER emerge full time?

A1. Robert Bradley Jr.: My Enron life ended a day after the company declared bankruptcy on Sunday December 1, 2001. I was part of the mass layoff the next day. Some 4,000 of us were let go where we were told to clear out our desks and leave.

So the full-time date of IER was December 2, 2001, right at the beginning of the holiday season.

Q2. So you had a job, a title, and work to do.

A2. Yes, and a desk and office at my home. What I needed was contributions to support myself full-time. That is when I decided to write a “lessons learned” book about Enron, something different from what the others with agents and book contracts were planning to write.

Q3. Certainly you were the person to do that. Would this be an IER project.?

A3. Yes. The tie-in was Enron as the corporate champion of climate alarmism, solar power, and wind power, and political capitalism writ large, a story I have detailed in blogs, essays, interviews, and books.

Q4. And also at your website, politicalcapitalism.org.

A4. Yes.

Q5. So how did the fundraising go for the political Enron book as your entrée to full-time IER?

A5. There were fits and starts. At one point, I thought I had attracted funding to join the Baker Institute at Rice University to write the book. It fell apart at the last minute, which was a blessing in disguise.

Q6. Did you have any academic affiliations?

A6. I had an intellectual ally in Michelle Foss at the University of Houston, and she gave me an honorary position with her group there. That was important for me at the time, leaving the corporate world. I was Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Energy, Law & Enterprise, University of Houston.

Q7. How long did that last?

A7. Until 2005. Three years or so.

Q8. Why did it end?

A8. Michelle took her talents to the University of Austin, where she formed the Center for Energy Economics within the Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences. She kindly made me a honorary fellow there. My title was Senior Research Fellow (Honorary), Center for Energy Economics, The University of Texas at Austin

A9: How long did that last?

A9. It was from 2005 to 2006. Everything was fine until I published an op-ed in the Austin American Statesman criticizing the windfall profits tax. My UT affiliation was mentioned. Some Lefty professor had a student investigate me, and the end result was that I lost that affiliation.

Q10: And IER is going along …. surviving….

A10: Yes. I was continuing to raise money for a small salary while working out of my residence. I had three-year money for my Enron book too.

Q11: So IER is a pretty shoestring organization. Any thoughts about expanding in some way?

A11: I knew the organization needed to expand given that energy issues were not going away but increasing from the global warming issue in addition to everything else. But I was wed to Houston, where my entire family was.

Q12: Where did IER need to be?

A12: Washington, D.C. I had a number of contacts there from my Cato work and from my Enron days. So I rounded up some free market types and had a one-day presentation in Washington, pitching the idea of an expansion to the nation’s capital. The good news was that there was interest from the free market, classical liberal community. This was in 2006.

Q13: What happened next?

A13: I was able to find two great folks to do DC-type work for us, all on the 501c3 side (not the “advocacy” 501c4 side). Economist Robert Murphy and Mary Hutzler, recently retired from government service, were hired as consultants. After that ‘trial’ went well, we had a case for a physical Washington, DC office, and the rest is history with a new staff. A number of the original folks are still there.

Q14: What was your role?

A14: I went from President to CEO and added “founder” to my title. Soon after, the American Energy Alliance (AEA) was added as a 501c4, which I was not a part of. I was the intellectual, with books, articles, and blogs on free market history and policy in regards to energy. Education, 501c3.

Q15: So you remained in Houston, and IER (and AEA) were bigger than you?

A15: Yes. Our new President had a much wider skill set than me. I reported to the Board, but in reality it was important that I complement the DC activity and cover the issues that might not otherwise be covered. It worked well.

Q16: So there is now more than a decade of activity in the nation’s capital. That could be a Part IV of your series someday.

A16. Yes. And now most every free market institution is in energy!

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