Anti-Clean Energy ‘Pundit’ Unhinged By Basic Question: Are You Bankrolled By Fossil Fuels?

By Gabe Elsner

The fossil fuel lobby aggressively uses lobbying and propaganda to block public health protections, manipulate the energy debate, defend their massive government handouts and attack clean energy sources that threaten to displace them.

No tool goes unused: Traditional lobbying, “Super PAC” donations, software that floods opinion websites with favorable comments, and a network of well-funded front groups and commentators who launder fossil fuel industry talking points.

Robert Bryce and his employer, The Manhattan Institute, are among the most aggressive of a growing class of talkers underwritten by fossil fuels to write commentary talking down clean energy and playing down the cost and public health problems of fossil fuel dependence.

Bryce has written four books and appeared in hundreds of articles and opinion pieces, from the conservative National Review, to mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio and PBS. Mr. Bryce is quickly securing the top position as the leading marketer for fossil fuels.

Bryce, a former journalist, has consistently been able to position himself as an intellectually independent energy expert. He has never acknowledged fossil fuel underwriting – though Manhattan Institute records show that since 1985, it has received $6.7 million from fossil fuel interests, including the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil.

I asked Bryce if he had financial ties to the fossil fuel industry after his debate appearance before the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference on Monday. Not only did Bryce refuse to answer the question, he also launched into an angry, finger-pointing tirade saying that I’d “made up” the amount of fossil fuel support documented by Manhattan Institute records.

I break it down here:


And the raw video is here.

As 50 current and former journalists told The New York Times in a petition we launched last year, it’s fine for Bryce to echo fossil fuel talking points. But it’s not acceptable for him to hide that he’s doing that for the fossil fuel industry and leave himself positioned in bylines as somehow intellectually honest. Based on records and Bryce’s response, it seems pretty clear that Bryce is functioning as a paid spokesman of the natural gas industry (and other fossil fuels). But wearing that on his sleeve would lose his “echo chamber” effect because he wouldn’t be the seemingly independent voice that fossil fuel industries need to say things they don’t have the credibility to say themselves.

Note: Based on our experience from last year’s True Ties petition, this will draw a pretty aggressive response from Bryce’s fellow travelers, such as Washington Examiner Editorial Page Editor, Mark Tapscott (CPAC “conservative journalist of the year”), and National Review Online Editor, Ed Craig, a former Manhattan Institute PR guy. To put their mind at ease, we do answer the funding question here. We’re unabashedly clean energy, and we’d love to get support from clean energy industries (potential funders – please consider!).

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