Who Is Robert Bryce?

Media outlets have turned to the Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce at least 39 times this year to comment on energy issues without disclosing that the Manhattan Institute is partly funded by oil interests. Bryce, who often promotes fossil fuels while disparaging renewable energy, has been criticized for making misleading claims.

Bryce Works For The Manhattan Institute, An Industry-Funded Think Tank

Robert Bryce Is A Senior Fellow At The Manhattan Institute. Bryce is “a senior fellow with the Center for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute.” The center “seeks to influence today's energy policy debate by developing and advancing ideas rooted in free-market economic principles” and disseminates its message “through research papers, op-eds and interviews.” According to The Manhattan Insitute's 2009 990 form, accessed through GuideStar.org, the center had expenses of $496,692. [Manhattan Institute, accessed 10/6/11]

Manhattan Institute Is Funded By ExxonMobil. According to ExxonSecrets.org, the Manhattan Institute has received $385,000 from Exxon since 1998, including $50,000 in 2010. [Exxonsecrets.org, accessed 9/13/11]

Manhattan Institute Has Received Funding From The Koch Family Foundations. The Manhattan Institute has received over $1.3 million total from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation and the David H. Koch Foundation over the years, both of which are associated with Koch Industries, an oil, gas and chemical corporation. From 2001 to 2009 (the most recent year for which data is available), the Lambe Foundation gave The Manhattan Institute $200,000 annually. The Lambe Foundation's board of directors is “comprised entirely of Koch family members, senior Koch executives, and staff who serve Koch foundations,” including the CEO of Koch Industries Charles G. Koch, according to Greenpeace. [Greenpeace, accessed 10/7/11]

Manhattan Institute Obscures The Science Supporting Manmade Climate Change. In a 2007 report, the Manhattan Institute stated:

To what degree are human-induced greenhouse gases responsible for warming the atmosphere? The answer is unclear. Despite the certitude with which the media and politicians treat the issue, the science remains muddled. Temperatures fluctuate: they go up in some regions, down in others, and may be affected by naturally occurring phenomena, such as El Niño. [Manhattan Institute, accessed 10/6/11]

In a second edition of the report, the Manhattan Institute stated in 2009:

Both the Earth's average temperature and global carbon-dioxide emissions increased during the twentieth century. But what should we make of research showing recent warming on Mars and Pluto, planets without power plants or automobiles? Is planetary warming simply a natural phenomenon? A better understanding of the issues surrounding these and similar questions is needed, if policymakers intend to craft prudent energy policies. [Manhattan Institute, April 2009]

Manhattan Institute Was Previously Funded By Tobacco Industry. In a 1990 memo, tobacco company RJ Reynolds said: “For the past few years, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company has been a corporate sponsor of the Manhattan Institute,” which “has done much to stimulate thought at policy-making levels about the ramifications on American life of the product liability situation.” The Manhattan Institute also received money from other tobacco companies. A 1997 RJ Reynolds strategy memo brainstorming ways to improve the image of the tobacco industry proposed working with the Manhattan Institute to “educate the public about epidemiology and put risk in perspective.” [Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, 10/19/90, 12/10/90, 4/11/95, 10/19/95, 10/25/95, 1/14/97, 2/4/97]

Manhattan Institute Worked With Philip Morris On Piece Criticizing Clinton Health Care Plan. A Philip Morris memo revealed that the tobacco company “worked off-the-record” with the Manhattan Institute's Betsy McCaughey on her “three-part expose in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you.” The plan included an increase on tobacco taxes. [The Atlantic, 9/28/09]

Bryce Has Been Criticized For Questionable Data, Misleading Claims

Texas Tribune: “Bryce Relies On Skewed Research And Fuzzy Math.” From an October 2010 review of Bryce's book:

In an author's note, Bryce writes that he “believe[s] in the relentless application of logic to our discourse on energy, power, and the future.” He accuses others of ignoring “logic and common sense as well as hard facts and figures.” Indeed, Power Hungry is loaded with charts, statistics and footnotes, but some of it doesn't wash. Bryce, for example, tries to prove that wind power consumes enormous amounts of land relative to nuclear power. He does so by including all the land on a typical wind farm rather than the actual footprint of a turbine, which is much smaller. By my calculation, his math is off by a factor of around 300.

Bryce relies on skewed research and fuzzy math as he tries to prove that wind farms do nothing to displace dirty-fuel power plants or reduce carbon emissions. As a grand example, he takes on Denmark's successful wind-power sector, asserting that it has had minimal effect on carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, the amount of CO2 produced by Denmark's electricity sector has dropped by nearly a quarter since 1990, even as the economy has grown.

Worse, Bryce lends aid and comfort to some tinfoil ideas. He cites something called “wind turbine syndrome”--the theory that low-frequency sounds from turbine blades make people sick. No matter that there is no peer-reviewed research documenting the effect. [Texas Observer, 10/14/10]

FrumForum: Bryce's Claim “Presents A Misleading Picture” Of “How Science Works.” Responding to Bryce's October 6 Wall Street Journal op-ed, science writer and libertarian conservative Kenneth Silber wrote:

This attempt to stuff climate science into a black hole is a non sequitur. That's not just because the neutrino finding, even if confirmed, has nothing to do with the data or theories of climate science. It's also because the analogy Bryce is making -- if relativity could be wrong, so could global warming -- presents a misleading picture of the respective scientific theories and how science works. [FrumForum, 10/6/11]

Energy Writer: Bryce's Book Includes “Questionable” Data Crunching “And Outright Deceptions.” From a review of Power Hungry by energy writer A. Siegel:

Masquerading as an unbiased, fact-based look at America's energy situation and viable paths forward into the future, Robert Bryce's Power Hungry is a mixed collection of factual material, thought-provoking constructs, selective 'truthiness', questionable (if not simply wrong) data crunching, and outright deceptions. This mix of material makes Bryce's work dangerous reading for those without a serious grounding in energy (related) issues while that same mix calls into question this work's value for anyone with that more serious background. [Climate Progress, 9/14/10]

Ecologist Matt Wasson: Bryce Relies “On Bad Science.” Responding to Bryce's April 25, 2010, Washington Post op-ed, Matt Wasson, ecologist and Director of Programs for Appalachian Voices, wrote:

Bryce's piece was part of the Post's "5 Myths" series, which invites readers every Sunday to “challenge everything you think you know.”

While challenging everything you think you know is generally a good idea, it's not a good idea to replace what you know with what Bryce thinks he knows because, as it turns out, he doesn't know much about renewable energy. Relying on bad science like the Nature Conservancy's “Energy Sprawl” study and thoroughly discredited white papers like “The Case of Denmark” from Bjorn Lomborg's Institute for Energy Studies, Bryce deftly turns common sense on its head to convince his readers that burning more fossil fuels is really the best path to a green energy future. [Huffington Post, 4/26/10]

Bryce On Climate Change: “Don't Know ... Don't Really Care”

Bryce: “I Don't Know Who's Right. And I Don't Really Care.” From Bryce's 2010 book:

I've seen Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and I've read some of the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I've also listened to and read some of the things published by the climate “skeptics,” including Richard Lindzen, the climate scientist from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have interviewed climate scientists. I regularly read blogs on climate from both camps.

My position on the science of global warming and climate change: I don't know who's right. And I don't really care. What can be demonstrated without any caveats is this: The carbon dioxide reduction targets being advocated by the U.S. Congress and the Democratic leadership in Washington are pure fantasy. [Power Hungry, Chapter 15]

Bryce Cited Unrelated Neutrinos Observation To Call Into Question Manmade Climate Change. From Bryce's October 6 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Five Truths About Climate Change”:

The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might--repeat, might--travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere. [Wall Street Journal, 10/6/11]

National Research Council: “The Core Phenomenon, Scientific Questions, And Hypotheses Have Been Examined Thoroughly And Have Stood Firm.” In a comprehensive report reviewing the state of climate science, the National Research Council said:

There are still some uncertainties, and there always will be in understanding a complex system like Earth's climate. Nevertheless, there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities. While much remains to be learned, the core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious scientific debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations. [National Research Council, 2010]

Bryce Boosts Exxon In Op-Eds Without Disclosing Conflict Of Interest

Bryce Discussed ExxonMobil Lawsuit In CNN.com Op-Ed. In a September 9 CNN.com op-ed, Bryce wrote about “a lawsuit filed by ExxonMobil Corp. against Obama's Interior Department in which the energy giant claims it has been 'singled out' for 'unprecedented adverse treatment.'” Bryce added: “Unless the Interior Department changes its position, years of litigation will delay the production of millions of barrels of domestic oil and, with that delay, a postponement of what could be $11 billion in royalties payable to the federal government over the life of the field.” [CNN.com, 9/9/11]

Bryce Wrote About ExxonMobil In Washington Examiner. In a May 15 Washington Examiner op-ed, Bryce criticized democrats for “vilify[ing]” ExxonMobil without disclosing that his employer is funded by Exxon. [Washington Examiner, 5/18/11]

In 39 Media Appearances This Year, Not One Mention Of Bryce's Ties To Oil Industry

  • Wall Street Journal, 10/6/11
  • National Review, 9/12/11
  • CNN.com, 9/9/11
  • Huffington Post, 9/7/11
  • National Review, 8/29/11
  • Politico, 8/18/11
  • Huffington Post, 8/12/11
  • National Review, 8/12/11
  • Washington Examiner, 8/10/11
  • Huffington Post, 8/1/11
  • Forbes, 7/19/11
  • National Review, 7/15/11
  • Huffington Post, 7/7/11
  • Wall Street Journal, 6/13/11
  • New York Times, 6/7/11
  • National Review, 6/7/11
  • Washington Examiner, 5/18/11
  • National Review, 5/8/11
  • National Review, 5/3/11
  • National Review, 4/12/11
  • Politico, 4/1/11
  • New York Daily News, 3/20/11
  • Daily Beast, 3/15/11
  • Wall Street Journal, 2/26/11
  • Washington Times, 2/16/11
  • National Review, 1/17/11
  • Washington Examiner, 1/11/11
  • Fox Business, The Willis Report, 9/1/11
  • PBS, PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, 8/29/11
  • Fox Business, The Willis Report, 6/17/11
  • Fox Business, Stossel, 5/12/11
  • Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 5/10/11
  • Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 4/26/11
  • Fox Business, The Willis Report, 4/22/11
  • Fox Business, 4/20/11
  • Fox Business, 3/24/11
  • Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 3/17/11
  • Fox Business, The Willis Report, 3/14/11
  • Fox Business, The Willis Report, 1/4/11

50 Journalism Professionals Call For News Outlets To Improve Disclosure. In an October 6 letter to the public editor of the New York Times, 50 journalism professionals and educators wrote:

Unfortunately, when media outlets quote or publish op-eds from “bought and biased” pundits, the conflict of interest goes unmentioned. Instead, Mr. Bryce and others are simply identified as a “senior fellow” or an “energy expert.” As a result, these pundits mislead media outlets and leave readers in the dark about their true ties. Surely, these outlets can't expect their readers to know about these connections.

We are asking the New York Times to lead the industry and set the nation's standard by disclosing financial conflicts of interest that their op-ed contributors may have at the time their piece is published. By simply asking a few standard disclosure questions, the New York Times can avoid any confusion and ensure better transparency. [TrueTies.org, 10/6/11]