Home > Bob Murphy, cap and trade, Coal, IER, Scott Horton > Bob Murphy on climate change at Antiwar Radio; a puppet for the "King Coal" hand that feeds him?

Bob Murphy on climate change at Antiwar Radio; a puppet for the "King Coal" hand that feeds him?

The following is an email message that I sent to Scott Horton, host of Antiwar Radio, regarding his September 18 interview with Bob Murphy. The exchange regarding Bob`s thoughts on the cap and trade bill monstrosity appears at 24:14 to 29:47. (Minor edits and link added.)

Scott, I listened with interest to your interview with Bob Murphy
whom I generally like, but feel compelled to point out that Bob was
not being fully honest with you – on an important point – when he
discussed his role in studying and commenting on cap and trade and
energy policy as an economist at the “Institute for Energy Research”.
This group is a part of a lobbying front for big coal and the
utilities that rely on coal – not “big oil”, such as Exxon, which has
specifically stopped funding IER because of its anti-climate change
message and which now expressly supports carbon taxes!

More on IER and Murphy`s involvement with it here:

In other words, the legitimate criticisms that Murphy can make of cap
and trade (note that Exxon, Jim Hansen and most economists prefer rebated carbon
taxes) – such as existing bills are a way for government to give
favors to insiders – have to be balanced by an awareness that, for the
past few decades, government policy has been heavily skewed in favor
of investors in and consumers of fossil fuels. Murphy talks on this
topic only because he is paid to by the lobbying group that is getting
the shortest end of the stick – big coal.  If only he were honestly
even-handed, instead of in the pay of lobbyists, we might make some
progress in addressing a range of real problems in the energy sector.



Categories: Bob Murphy, cap and trade, Coal, IER, Scott Horton Tags:
  1. TokyoTom
    October 4th, 2009 at 06:37 | #1

    ls, you`re having a tough time reading me.

    1. I think I`ve fairly clearly stated that I think that Bob`s expressed opinions on climate change are influenced by the fact that they are supported by a rent-seeking interest. When I said “This doesn’t need to imply…” I was referring to whether or not he believes what he SAYS – as opposed to what he omits to say – and expressed the view that he probably does mean what he says (as well as that I agree with much of what he says).

    2. I don`t think I`m being evasive at all, but rather straightforward. And I don’t consider my fairly open challenges to Bob on this matter to be “somewhat irresponsible” within the “context of sincere and productive debate”. Instead, I reluctantly find them to be necessary, given the ubiquity of rent-seeking and the ways that it perverts both legislation and the debate over it.

    3. I like Bob and don`t really enjoy making this criticism, but I think he would probably be the last to say that questioning his entanglement with rent-seeking interests is off-limits, particularly when rent-seeking is PRECISELY one of his chief substantive criticisms of cap-and-trade. Bob`s personal familiarity with Austrian criticisms of the influence of business and other interest groups on government policy does not create immunity from criticism on the same grounds.

    4. “I don’t think TT will be so forthcoming”. Care to take back your words? In the future, perhaps you`d be good enough to leave me time to reply before you speculate on whether I will?

    5. “a sin [sic] of omission, is proof of a sin of commission. It is a non-sequitur.” You`re using a lot of big words, but I`m not sure I follow you. I`ve said Bob failed to disclose something that was relevant to the discussion. Period. (Bob may have some thoughts on if it was a sin and what kind, but if it was deliberate I`m not sure I see a distinction between omission and commission.)

    6. “anyone can make any claim that Bob has not provided enough background”.

    Sure, but there are only certain times when “full disclosure” is relevant; on most things Bob comments on whether someone funds him is irrelevant. But when he is talking about legislation that will have a significant impact on someone who is paying him to speak, that fact that he is acting as a spokesman is VERY relevant. That`s why Scott Horton asked the question, and why Bob dodged it.

    7. “by making an ad hominem”

    Sorry, but if you want to split hairs, a “cui bono” argument is not ad hominem argument. In any event, Austrian economics tells us that we need to worry about the perversion of government via rent-seeking. If the wheels of our worrying about rent-seeking are ever to hit the road, it means that we have to keep asking “who benefits”.

    This of course complicates debate and cuts many ways; sorry that I can`t make life simpler for you.

    8. “while avoiding discussing any issues Bob may be incorrect on.”

    Are you serious? I`ve had several years of substantive discussions on climate on the LvMI blog, and argue routinely with Bob on substantive matters, both on my blog and over at his. All you`re showing here is an unadmirable ignorance or shortness of attention.

    In any case, your attention is welcome, but we can have a more intelligent and productive discussion if you`d check your inclination to reflexive negativity.

  2. TokyoTom
    October 4th, 2009 at 05:29 | #2

    Nir, it`s good that apparently you`re NOT interested in swallowing anyone`s ideas and arguments wholesale.

    But if so, why does it bother you that I provide you with additional information about Bob and the interests that are funding him? Are you uninterested in Austrian insights about rent-seeking?

    Maybe you should take your complaint to Bob, who himself suggested that listeners might want to take his views with a grain of salt.

  3. liberty student
    October 3rd, 2009 at 18:42 | #3

    Nir, I don’t think TT will be so forthcoming.

    TT is fallaciously claiming a sin [sic] of omission, is proof of a sin of commission. It is a non-sequitur.

    The fact is, anyone can make any claim that Bob has not provided enough background, about LvMI, about Chaos Theory, about his personal religious beliefs, about what sort of car he drives.

    By making an ad hominem (challenging Bob’s person and not his ideas) now TT can duck and weave the “we shouldn’t draw anything from this thing I have decided to make a big deal about” while avoiding discussing any issues Bob may be incorrect on.

  4. liberty student
    October 3rd, 2009 at 18:34 | #4

    TT, that is an evasive way of further undermining Bob’s credibility while trying to cover your own ass for taking potshots at him.

    “This doesn’t need to imply…”

    But that is exactly what you are doing. You have inferred numerous times in this post and comments, that Bob is compromised by his employer.

    Can you answer, clearly, yes or no that he is compromised?

    And if not, don’t you find your inferences somewhat irresponsible within the context of sincere and productive debate?

  5. nirgrahamUK
    October 3rd, 2009 at 10:57 | #5

    I hope Tokyo Tom will tell us who the most noble and self-funded commentator is on the topic, so that we might all swallow his ideas and arguments wholesale.

  6. TokyoTom
    October 3rd, 2009 at 05:03 | #6

    liberty student, I believe that the answer to your question is patently obvious:

    If Bob were to forthrightly acknowledge what interests are funding his opinion, readers would be more likely to  notice what the real PURPOSES of his remarks might be.

    It is precisely to mask such purposes that rent-seeking corporations like to channel their efforts through “think tanks”, pundits and the like.

    Both Bob Murphy and Scott Horton are well aware of this, which is why

    – when Bob identified himself the economist for IER, Horton immediately said, “Ah now, wait a minute. Does that mean that you`re a front man for Exxon or something?”, and

    – Bob chuckled, hemmed and hawed and replied, “Uhh, well, no, but, you can take it with a grain of salt if you want.”

    But sadly, Bob did NOT take the opportunity of Horton`s specific question to explain who funds IER – not Exxon or oil, but coal – even though most of his later substantive comments were ABOUT how Waxman-Markey is a fight between interest groups for government favors.

    As to whether who funds Bob affects what he says, it think that`s also fairly evident: if it didn`t, his funders wouldn`t bother to pay for his services. Of course this doesn`t at all need to imply that Bob doesn`t mean what he says (he probably does, and I agree with him on many points), but simply that he omits to say other relevant things.

  7. liberty student
    October 3rd, 2009 at 01:06 | #7


    Why would Bob admitting he gets paid by so and so change anything? Do you believe Bob’s opinion is compromised?

    If yes, could you substantiate such a claim?

  8. TokyoTom
    October 3rd, 2009 at 00:36 | #8

    Krazy kaju:

    I agree that Bob`s funding doesn`t discredit his ideas per se. It`s just that “Bob`s ideas” conspicuously deflect light from the whole picture.

  9. TokyoTom
    October 3rd, 2009 at 00:34 | #9

    liberty student, if Bob forthrightly informed everyone that he gets paid to talk about climate change by the group of investors who has benefitted the greatest from the non-free market status quo, I wouldn`t feel a need to mention it.

    It is absurd to suggest that libertarians – whose biggest peeves center on the entanglement between the state and business – either shouldn`t notice, or shouldn`t comment on, the way some of their erstwhile members make one-sided comments that happen to suit the agenda of statist corporations that are funding them.

  10. krazy kaju
    October 2nd, 2009 at 15:33 | #10

    I agree with Liberty Student. Only because Bob Murphy gets a part of his income due to “Big Coal” doesn’t discredit his ideas.

  11. liberty student
    October 2nd, 2009 at 15:10 | #11

    Challenge his facts and ideas. Challenging his paycheck is cowardly and dishonest.

  1. No trackbacks yet.