A Free-Market Energy Blog

On the Origins of IER (for the record)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- January 2, 2020

As founder and CEO of The Institute for Energy Research (IER) since its inception (1989), the new year offers an opportunity to add to the historical record regarding the free-market think tank’s origins and purpose. This is also necessary given some misunderstandings and misreporting in the public domain.

In Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America (2019), for example, Christopher Leonard states the following:

The IER was an outgrowth of the Institute for Humane Studies, the libertarian think tank cofounded by Charles Koch. Fn

Fn The connection between IER and the Institute for Humane Studies was first revealed by the journalist Lee Fang. He reported in 2014 that the IHS temporarily lost its charter, and then reformed as the IER.

The Real Story

The Institute for Humane Studies – Texas (IHS–Texas) was formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1984 and shared the same board directors as IHS. The Institute for Humane Studies itself was founded in 1961 as a nonprofit educational foundation by F.A. “Baldy” Harper; Charles Koch joined the IHS board five years later.

The Texas offshoot became dormant 18 months after its formation when its sole dedicated employee, Greg Rehmke, was hired by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and relocated his programs to New York.

IHS–Texas continued on a volunteer, part-time basis with Robert L. Bradley Jr. (myself) directing student seminars. This effort was superceded when, effective effective June 26, 1989, IHS–Texas was renamed and rebranded as the Institute for Energy Research (IER). The original board was dissolved, and I became president and formed my own board. No funds were received from IHS or its staff or directors in the transition.

IER would be a part-time yet effective organization for the next 12 years. The “think bucket,” as one journalist described it, was composed of myself, part-time assistance from a family member, a board of directors, adjunct scholars, and audited annual financials. Fundraising was limited by the fact that I was a full-time employee of a Houston energy company.

IER became a full-time organization upon my layoff from Enron Corporation, December 2, 2001, after a 16-year career there (and 12 years as president of IER). The rest is history, as they say, with IER scaling up to where it is now, 30 years after its founding.

One Comment for “On the Origins of IER (for the record)”

  1. rbradley  

    This post has led to Christopher Leonard promising to revise his next edition of ‘Kochland’


    I hope that all is well. I am preparing to submit corrections on this issue to Simon & Schuster for the “Kochland” paperback, and here is where I am coming down on the issue:

    1. The one clear mistake was MY OWN reference to Charles Koch as a cofounder of the IHS. That seems to be clearly wrong.
    2. It seems to me that it is still correct to describe the IER as an “outgrowth” of the IHS. I understand that there was a clean break between the organizational life of IHS and IER because all of the people turned over, and IHS provided no real material support for creating and launching IER. However, Lee Fang seems to be correct in his reporting that the IER was started from the institutional remains of IHS, or that the IHS effectively rebranded itself and began anew as the IER.

    Please let me know if anyone has concerns with this.
    All the best,

    Christopher Leonard


    Yes and no to the last point above. YES, “However, Lee Fang seems to be correct in his reporting that the IER was started from the institutional remains of IHS,”

    NO to “IHS effectively rebranded itself and began anew as the IER.” It was the other way around. IER rebranded very significantly IHS-Texas, not vice-versa.


Leave a Reply