1977 Charles Koch: “The Case for a Free Market in Energy”

This is an essay written by Charles Koch in response to the proposal by President Carter to create a U.S. Department of Energy to help America respond to the energy crisis that began before his election. Koch titled his piece opposing an Energy Department “The Case for a Free Market in Energy.” Similar versions of the article were circulated by the Institute for Energy Research (a group Mr. Koch co-founded) as “Let’s Try a Free Market in Energy.

Koch, who was 42 years old and had then been the head of Koch Industries for a little more than a decade, wrote in opposition to an article by Thornton Bradshaw, the CEO of the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), supporting pricing rules for petroleum and methane gas, also called “natural” gas.

Bradshaw “had advocated environmental values and such unlikely causes as a windfall profits tax on his industry,” as the leader of a multinational oil exploration company that also owned gas stations across the U.S. As the Los Angeles Times noted:

“The purposes of a corporation are more than simply producing a healthy return on investment,” he once wrote. “Those who believe as I do in the value of the market system must develop a more humanistic, responsible form of capitalism.”

Koch opposed Bradshaw’s support for a federal Department of Energy and asserted in this essay that government intervention was responsible for the energy crisis, claiming that more regulation would make matters worse.

President Carter signed into law a congressional measure to create the U.S. Department of Energy on August 4, 1977. Koch continued to oppose the agency after it was launched through publications and organizations he controls or controlled, and Koch-aligned politicians have continued his opposition into the 21st century–with GOP presidential candidates calling for the Department to be eliminated, despite the need for common sense national energy policies.

1977 Libertarian Review, Charles Koch “The Case for a Free Market in Energy”