A Free-Market Energy Blog

An Open Request to Resources for the Future (RFF)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- January 27, 2016

Previous posts at MasterResource have documented the lack of open intellectual inquiry at Resources for the Future (RFF) regarding the physical science of climate change and the case for government-led transformation of energy sources.

A third post yesterday documented RFF’s buy-in to resource pessimism and gapism (more government intervention in place of price and allocation decontrol) in the pivotal 1970s.

Trends can change. They should change. RFF as a scholarly organization should:

1. Recognize the physical science of climate change as highly unsettled and thus open to contrary public policy positions.

Implication: Consider ‘global lukewarming” as a base case for economic analysis.

2. Recognize the benefits, the positive externalities, associated with the anthropogenic influence on climate.

Implication: Open a research program on the benefits of carbon dioxide emissions/concentrations, not only costs, as has been the case with RFF’s analytics to date.

3. Impute government failure in both the problem and the solution, not only alleged market failure, in cost/benefit analysis.

Implication: Study and apply real-world Public Choice economics to better understand existing government institutions and public policy choices.

New Perspectives, Please

New blood and viewpoints should enlighten and diversity RFF seminars, which have excluded critics of both climate alarmism and forced energy transformation–and thus foes of pricing CO2.

Two individuals are recommended (among many others not named here):

Climatologist Judith Curry whose Climate Etc. is a leading scholarly blog in today’s polarized debate. She has posited, for example:

“In my presentations on climate change, I have often asked the question regarding CO2 mitigation policy:  is the cure worse than the disease?  Specifically, I was referring to the costs of changing our power sources and energy infrastructure, concerns about reliability of the power supply, and damage to the economy.”

Economist Robert Murphy, who has thoroughly evaluated the case for pricing CO2 in general and a carbon tax in particular.

Although the organization’s earlier work has touched upon some problems of a carbon tax (e.g. this 1997 study stated that the tax interaction effect might completely swamp the then negative externality of CO2), RFF has not presented the arguments against fully and in public. Murphy has noted:

“Even many economists have bought into the claim–since it’s repeated so often by ostensible experts–that a carbon tax with receipts used to reduce other taxes would be a ‘win-win,’ both reducing emissions and boosting conventional GDP. However, the standard result in the literature is that this is not true. Once we take into account pre-existing distortions in the tax code and acknowledge real-world constraints on ‘optimal’ tax design, it is very much an open question whether a massive new carbon tax will end up providing more benefits than costs.”

A deserved, honest, scholarly debate about all things climate…. Is this too much to ask of RFF at this late date?


  1. RFF's Climate Anger (intellectual pollution hazardous too) - Master Resource  

    […] spite suggests that RFF will continue to exclude serious debate on such vital issues as the physical science of climate (global lukewarming?) and the positive side […]


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