It is past time that Wiki correct a significant factual error and tone down the bias of its entry for The Institute for Energy Research. I and others have failed to persuade them. This post is dedicated to the same attempt at fairness.
In my social media discussions and debates, my opponents do a quick check on the Institute for Energy Research (IER) to fire back at my criticisms. One from this week follows, an exchange prompted by a mention of “Deadwood Releasing 10.9 Gigatons of Carbon Every Year – More Than All Fossil Fuel Emissions Combined“:
Bradley: Leave fossil fuels alone then…. Energy density is key.
Paul Bryan: EXACTLY the fallacious argument that the propaganda was designed to promote. Well done! But hardly surprising coming from IER:
“IER is often described as a front group for the fossil fuel industry. It was initially formed by Charles Koch, receives donations from many large companies like Exxon, and publishes a stream of reports and position papers opposing any efforts to control greenhouse gasses.” – Wikipedia Entry for IER
Bradley: First, why ad hominem? I will not use that on you. Just the arguments, and energy density is a huge one.
The Wiki piece quoted above is factually wrong, and they will not correct it.
I am a classical liberal; IER is a classical liberal think tank espousing time-honored and solid arguments that are pro-consumer, pro-entrepreneur, and taxpayer-neutral. And no initiation of force between consenting adults!!
And meanwhile, wind and solar are causing energy crises from Texas to California to the UK–and tearing up the landscape.
Here is Wiki’s description of IER:
The Institute for Energy Research (IER) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that conducts research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets. IER maintains that the free market provides the most “efficient and effective solutions” to “global energy and environmental challenges”.
Comment: The first sentence is correct and from IER’s website. The second sentence introduces bias by using quotation marks.
This description is not incorrect but shallow. A better description for the second sentence is what I gave above to Mr. Bryan.
IER is a classical liberal think tank. Classical liberalism is a worldview stretching from philosophy to economics to political economy. Even business theory and operation (contra contra-capitalism). Austrian school economics and Public Choice are two pillars….
IER reaches conclusions such as the superiority of private property rights in place of the commons/government ownership; the beneficence of market order vs. central planning; the perils of concentrated government power….
From this worldview, IER can claim to be pro-consumer and pro-taxpayer And pro-human liberty in that private transactions are respected, checked by the rule of law.
IER is often described as a front group for the fossil fuel industry. It was initially formed by Charles Koch, receives donations from many large companies like Exxon, and publishes a stream of reports and position papers opposing any efforts to control greenhouse gasses.
Comment: Wiki goes off the rails here. First, “often described as a front group” is a cheap shot. Adding the words “by critics” is fair. Or “Critics describe ….” And for balance, how about “Friends describe” IER as [principled, reasoned, scholarly ….]
Second, “It was initially formed by Charles Koch” is erroneous and officially debunked. IER was founded by me and my father in 1989 without money or influence from the person in question, the full story of which is here. I have corrected this above error with book author Christopher Leonard and a newspaper writer with a good deal of explanation. I was there. I know.
Mr. Leonard corrected the claim in the second edition of Kochland. The Austin American Statesman corrected it with the following: “Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct Charles Koch’s role in the founding of the Institute for Energy Research.” It is now Wiki’s turn.
Thirdly, the statement that IER has a position “opposing any efforts to control greenhouse gasses” is incorrect upon close examination. Emissions of GHGs have been and are being reduced where it is economical to do so. This is a byproduct of the free market. But government mandates to force (uneconomic) reductions are another story entirely, particularly with CO2 that has beneficial qualities, is global in scale, and is ubiquitous to modern living.
The Origin of Error: Lee Fang
The incorrect link between myself and Charles Koch originated with Lee Fang of Republic Report in a 2014 piece, “Charles Koch Personally Founded Group Protecting Oil Industry Hand-Outs, Documents Reveal.” Fang stated:
Documents obtained by Republic Report reveal for the first time that the group was actually founded by none other than Charles Koch…. IER has no information about its founding members on its website, and only lists a board composed of seemingly independent conservative scholars and businessmen. Earlier reports revealed that IER/AEA has received grants from Koch-funded foundations, and its leadership includes several individuals who have at times worked for Koch or Koch-related interests. But this is the first time it has been revealed that Charles personally founded the organization.
In October of 1984, Charles, then using a Menlo Park, California address founded a non-profit called the Institute for Humane Studies of Texas. That organization briefly lost its charter in 1989 for failure to pay the Texas state franchise tax. Four years later, incorporation documents reveal, the group rebranded as the Institute for Energy Research, or IER, which later formed a subsidiary called the American Energy Alliance.
Fang’s error (he got the date wrong too) was subsequently picked up by Leonard (above, since corrected) and KOCH DOCS, self-described as “Hard to find documents about Charles Koch and his agenda all in one place.” Here is what DOCS said:
The Institute for Energy Research was originally co-founded by Charles Koch and former Enron executive Robert L. Bradley in 1984, under the name “Institute for Humane Studies of Texas.”
The document was first reported by Lee Fang for Republic Report in 2014: “In October of 1984, Charles, then using a Menlo Park, California address founded a non-profit called the Institute for Humane Studies of Texas. That organization briefly lost its charter in 1989 for failure to pay the Texas state franchise tax. Four years later, incorporation documents reveal, the group rebranded as the Institute for Energy Research, or IER, which later formed a subsidiary called the American Energy Alliance.”
I sent an email to Lee Fang, who did not respond. Leonard did communicate with Fang in the course of correcting his error, so Fang knows about his mistake.
I again ask Mr. Fang to correct his article in keeping with journalistic ethics.