Archive for the ‘Tom Tanton’ Category

[Update] Rot at the Core: Rob Bradley at "free market" MasterResource blog shows his true colors as a rent-seeker for fossil fuels

March 11th, 2009 2 comments

[Update:  I`ve added more background on Exxon, “Malthusians” and productive engagement.]

How has Rob Bradley showed his hand?  By shutting down reasoned (if challenging) debate at his blog, in the face of comments that were certainly more “free market” than displayed by Rob himself and his co-bloggers.

In a series of posts here and in comments at his blog, I have been critical of a number of obviously skewed and uninformative posts at MasterResource, the self-proclaimed “free market” energy blog of Rob Bradley‘s Institute for Energy Research, that downplay climate risks, cheer on coal and fossil fuels and point out problems with alternatives, while disappointingly show little evidence of a commitment to or understanding of free markets, much less a commitment to libertarian principles.  

Rob has fairly consistently simply ignored difficult questions from me on his posts, but what does he do when his guest bloggers (in particular, (a) Tom Tanton of  Pacific Research Institute, who jumped in on a post by Rob on drawbacks to wind that ignores the external costs of coal, and (b) climate scientist/paid policy consultant Chip Knappenberger) have no good answers to my comments and questions?  Even when I am just responding to his guest bloggers and others on the thread, he simply stops posting my remarks.  I am now blocked (“on moderation”) on all threads.  Granted, both Tanton and Knappenberger were in difficulty, but rather than allowing all (including other readers) to learn by having an open conversation, he apparently decided that open discourse with someone who can hold their own isn`t worth the potential embarrassment and distraction from the “mission”.  Tanton, to his credit, though he shows little understanding of market principles, at least chased me back to my linked blog post to throw in a few more parting words.

Of course the blog his plaything – or that of whoever funds it for him – so it’s entirely his right to decide whom he allows to comment.  But by deciding that hard questions and critical comments from a fundamentally libertarian, market perspective were too inconvenient, he’s tipped his hand that his interest is not in promoting “free markets” in energy, but in protecting the interests of his fossil fuel funders.  I noted on a previous post by Rob that boosted coal while bashing the “Malthusian anti-energy crusade” that:

I haven’t concluded here that Rob’s a rent-seeker; more evidence would be needed, but it’s fair to inquire and to wonder.

However, Austrians are problem solvers, not trying to win government
favor for a particular industry or bashing those with different views
for the benefit of clients.
It doesn’t looking like Rob is trying very
hard to be even-handed.

I think it’s fair to question what precisely are the objectives and
who is funding Rob, “Master Resources”, the Institute for Energy
Research, the American Energy Alliance and affiliated
institutions/personages. My understanding is that fossil fuel firms are
the principal funders, and it looks like the funding is rather generous.

So the jury is now in.

Too bad, as it’s just another manifestation of how powerful corporate interests work to manipulate the public debate (of course the wealthy citizens and corporations that fund enviros also deserve mention).  Further, it`s a turning away from principled and productive engagement over resource problems and the role of government in providing, facilitating or getting in the way of solutions to them. 

I queried Rob about his methods of engagement in response to a post by him entitled “Long Live King Coal?” in which he said that “coal looks to remain a mainstay in the domestic energy mix and bodes to help defeat the Malthusian anti-energy crusade.”  My comment?:

TokyoTom { 02.05.09 at 2:50 am }

are the John Badens, Terry Andersons, Bruce Yandles, Elinor Ostroms and
others who want to find ways to manage our commons better – by
improving ownership, incentives and pricing signals – also part of a
“Malthusian crusade”?

I just wanna make sure I know who to hate.

As for that big fly ash breach/spill in Tennessee, I’m glad that you
didn’t point out how this was a result of government ownership of TVA,
with the added benefit that costs will be borne not only by direct and
indirect victims, but by taxpayers as well. No sense in pointing out
how government is so often in the way, particularly if it detracts from
our “we hate enviros!” message. Last thing we ever want to do is to
reach a shared understanding with enviros of the institutional
underpinnings of problems, since that means our funders might lose some
of their fairly purchased, government-given special privileges.

Interestingly, though, apparently ExxonMobil – a well-run firm that Rob Bradley praises – has decided to actively promote carbon taxes. As I pointed out in a recent post, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson,in a speech on February 17 at the Stanford University-centered Global Climate and Energy Project (the world`s largest, and internationally collaborative research prject focussed on clean energy), which Exxon commenced funding six years ago and has committed $100 million over ten years to, specifically endorsed carbon taxes AND pointed out its support as an effort to persuade others:

is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this
case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives
under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best
course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in
the business community and beyond will come to share.”

This must pain Rob to no end, as IER was once funded by Exxon; Exxon cut off funding last year to IER and certain other climate change denial groups.  An Exxon spokesman noted:

“We discontinued contributions to several public-policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention
from the important discussion about how the world will secure the
energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible

Rob`s skewed data flow and perhaps even his own denial on climate science, investments and politics could be seen on his recent post in which he highlights comments from Exxon`s Tillerson about Exxon`s unwillingness to invest in renewables due to the unreliability of the government-provided incentives.  When I managed to get in a comment that pointed out Tillerson`s explicit endorsement  of carbon taxes, Rob responded that Exxon had not endorsed carbon taxes, but had argued that carbon taxes were simply preferrable to cap and trade.  Rob`s parsing of Exxon is ridiculous, as Exxon has clearing been signalling for the past few years that it believes that coordinated government action on climate change is merited.  But on top of that, I responded to Rob with a link to Tillerson`s Stanford speech, which clearly shows that Exxon HAS endorsed carbon taxes and that Rob is wrong.  But Rob won`t post this correction (which I made in earlier “moderated” comments as well), obviously preferring to continue to mislead his readers (with the statement that “ExxonMobil has not come out in favor of a carbon tax or pricing carbon
per se
; they favor a tax over cap-and-trade. Two different things.”).

If Rob doesn’t want to let me in over there (I’m hoping he’ll change his mind), I guess I’ll just have to start an “anti-MasterResource” thread here.  Maybe I’ll see if I can get funding from Exxon!