Competitive Enterprise Institute

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Competitive Enterprise Institute, founded in 1984, says it "has grown into a $3,000,000 institution with a team of nearly 40 policy experts and other staff".[1]

One of the most important and vociferous anti-environmental think tanks in Washington, it is the main climate change-sceptical organisation in Washington as well as promoting "Sound Science" and denigrating environmentalists.

It is described by PR Watch as "an ideologically-driven, well-funded front for corporations opposed to safety and environmental regulations that affect the way they do business".[2]

It has close working relationship with other right wing think tanks as well as the Wise Use Movement. It is a member of the Wise Use umbrella organisation, the Alliance for America. [1]


CEI belongs to various conservative alliances, including the Alliance for America, Get Government Off Our Backs, the National Consumer Coalition (a pro-corporate front group headed by Frances Smith, the wife of CEI founder Fred Smith), and the Environmental Education Working Group (EEWG), a national umbrella group for organizations working to undermine environmental education in schools. It also sponsors several other subsidiary organizations, including:

Conko and Prakash – Pro-Biotech

CEI affiliates Gregory Conko and C.S. Prakash are two of the most vociferous proponents of biotech in the US. Prakash is professor of plant genetics at Tuskeegee University in Alabama, and a co-founder of the AgBioWorld Foundation along with Conko. According to his biography, "Dr. Prakash has also been actively involved in enhancing the societal awareness of food biotechnology issues around the world. His Internet website has become an important portal, disseminating information and promoting discussion on this subject among stakeholders such as scientists, policy makers, activists and journalists. He recently served on the USDA's Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee and continues to serve on the Advisory Committee for the Department of Biotechnology for the government of India". [3]

Prakash claims that his newsletter 'AgBioView' is read by more than 4,000 experts in 55 countries, and is "widely recognized as a premier news outlet on agbiotech issues because of its broad focus on technical, societal and ethical issues". [4]

But some of the material on AgBioView is highly suspect. According to GMWatch, "Prakash also shares the antipathy of the extreme right towards those with environmental concerns. Some of the material he has posted on his AgBioView list has accused critics of GM crops of fascism, communism, imperialism, nihilism, murder, corruption, terrorism, and even genocide; as well as of being worse than Hitler and on a par with the mass murderers who destroyed the World Trade Centre". [5]

Also the AgBioView list was central in undermining important research published by Nature that concluded that maize in Mexico had been contaminated. Some of the most virulent attacks against the research were on AgBioView discussion group. Prakash says that the AgBioWorld website "played a fairly important role in putting public pressure on Nature." [6]

The first attacks on the website were traced back to false e-mails linked to Monsanto’s PR company Bivings and Monsanto itself. There are also unresolved issues on whether AgBioWorld had also been set up by Bivings. [7]

Prakash was also at the announcement in May 2003 by US Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman that the United States - joined with Argentina, Canada, and Egypt - would file a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against the European Union (EU) over its "illegal five-year moratorium on approving agricultural biotech products".

Also at the announcement were T.J. Buthelezi, a farmer of biotech crops from South Africa; Dr. Diran Makinde, Dean of the School of Agriculture, University of Venda for Science and Technology, South Africa; and Dr. Ariel Alvarez-Morales, Center for Research and Advanced Studies, Irapuato, Mexico. [8] Conko was also at the press conference.

Later that day, all the above appeared at a CEI seminar in Washington "to speak out against the European Union's moratorium on trade in genetically engineered foods. Agricultural experts from around the world will discuss the negative impact of the EU moratorium on the developing world and urge the United States government to mount a World Trade Organization challenge".

The conference was addressed by Conko, Prakash and Nobel Prize winner and GM proponent Norman Borlaug, as well as Professor Makinde, Dr. Ariel Alvarez-Morales and TJ Buthelezi. [9] Buthelezi has been paid by Monsanto and the biotech industry. GM Watch notes that "with their assistance he has been brought to Washington, Brussels, Pretoria, St. Louis, London, Johannesburg, and Philadelphia to help promote GM foods". [10]

Conko used the conference to argue that, "The European Union's refusal to license new biotech crops is a clear and blatant violation of its obligations under trade treaties it has signed and ratified," said Competitive Enterprise Institute Director of Food Safety Policy Gregory Conko. "More importantly, it poses a genuine threat to the health and well-being of people throughout the developing world." [11]

Both Prakash and Conko work with other biotech proponents. Prakash has travelled overseas to speak at a number of events on behalf of the US State Department, including at the US embassy in London. He has also spoken at a debate staged by the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs in London in 2000, [12] and at the Seeds of Opportunity conference chaired by British contrarian Philip Stott in 2001. Also attending were known GM proponents such as Phil Dale, from the John Innes Center, and Lord Dick Taverne from Sense About Science as well as leading members of the UK's Royal Society. [13]

Conko has also worked with other right-wing activists such as Kendra Okonski, who used to be at the CEI and who now works at the IPN on trade related issues, calling for "more open trade, lower subsidies and better protection of property rights". [14]

He has written articles with Henry I. Miller of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Hoover Institution, one of which argues that the "new biotechnology pose no inherent risks" despite evidence to the contrary. [15] Another article on biotechnology suggests that the UN Biosafety Protocol was based on "trade protectionism" and "anti-science fearmongering", [16] which was originally published on the European Science and Economic Forum website (see below). [17]

In March 2003 Conko took part in a debate on 'GM food: should labelling be mandatory?' which was organised by the ex-Living Marxism organisation Spiked and the International Policy Network, at the London office of PR company Hill and Knowlton. [18] At the meeting Conko argued against any requirement to label GM foods. [19]


The CEI has a long-standing opposition to Kyoto and a commitment to debunking climate science. In 1996, RJ Smith said that "after the US State Department announced they were going to call for mandatory controls in Kyoto, we said, 'What do we do? How do we stop this?'" At a strategy meeting held in November 1996, participants included Ray Evans from Australia's Western Mining Corporation, along with a senior world vice-president for Ford Motors, the then American Petroleum Institute Executive Director William O'Keefe, and Dick Lawson, the executive director of the US National Mining Association. [20]

In February, Fred Smith warned that the insurance industry may use climate change as a way of off-loading liability onto taxpayers, comments that were dismissed by the insurance industry. [21]

In July 1997 the CEI held the first of its anti-Kyoto conferences in Washington. Entitled "The Costs of Kyoto", the speakers included Fran Smith from the Wise Use group Consumer Alert, Patrick Michaels from Cato Institute and British contrarian Wilfred Beckerman from Oxford University. There was also Australian Embassy Chief of Mission Paul O'Sullivan and Brian Fisher from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE), whose funders include Rio Tinto, Texaco, Mobil Oil, Exxon, the Australian Coal Association, the Australian Aluminum Council and Statoil, the Norwegian oil company. [22] Beckerman is author of Small Is Stupid: Blowing the Whistle on the Greens which argues that global warming is "no cause for alarm". [23]

Next came a conference in Canberra, whose speakers included US Senator Malcolm Wallop, who chairs the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, who said: "This conference is the first shot across the bow of those who expect to champion the Kyoto Treaty".

Other speakers were Patrick Michaels from Cato again, along with US Senator Chuck Hagel (known sceptic), US Congressman John Dingell (known sceptic), and Richard Lawson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the US National Mining Association. [24] Later that year they worked with the Heartland Institute to expose "the junk science and flawed economics often used in the debate over global warming." [25]

In the run up to Kyoto, the CEI employed a double PR strategy of singing the benefits of climate change and also talking about the economic catastrophe that was Kyoto. Fred Smith argued there were four benefits of climate change: "The growth rate of plants would increase faster than anyone thinks possible. Agricultural growing regions would expand northward. There'd be a reduction in heating needs, which is more than the cost of cooling. And warm is healthy". [26]

CEI statements also argued that climate change would create "a milder, greener, more prosperous world" and that Kyoto was a "power grab based on deception and fear". [27] The CEI also organised a rally of the Cooler Heads Coalition, where leading climate sceptic Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska warned that Kyoto would create an "economic disaster" and hurt US national security. [28]

Jonathan Adler, then of the CEI, dismissed fears about climate change: "Indeed, the more that is known, the less it seems that humans have to fear from global warming. The indications are that a warmer world would be far more benign than previously imagined. One recent study found no indication that global warming would produce killer heat waves in urban areas, environmentalist claims notwithstanding. Another in the British journal Nature suggested that global warming poses little threat to polar ice caps. Indeed, the report suggested that some ice shelves should expand, not melt, if the Earth warms. So much for the greenhouse apocalypse". [29]

In 1999, similar or related claims were to follow. Kyoto would "kill small business". [30] The "unusual weather does not equal climate change." [31] GOP Contender Dan Quayle lambasted Al Gore at the CEI, accusing him of promoting a global warming policy based on findings that were "highly debatable" with "no scientific consensus." [32]

The CEI continued to work against Kyoto through 2000. In October they filed a lawsuit against the then President Bill Clinton, alleging he illegally expanded the scope of, and spending on, a report by the US Global Change Research Program on climate change for political reasons which would have assisted Vice President Gore's presidential campaign. "At this point, [the national assessment] is opinion and advocacy, not science," said Christopher Horner from CEI, adding, "That's not what Congress asked for." Co-plaintiffs included Reps. Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Consumer Alert, 60-Plus Association, and the Heartland Institute. [33]

In January 2001, with Clinton gone, the CEI attacked the IPCC's scientists who predicted that the Earth's temperature could rise by as much as 5.8 degrees Celsius over the coming century. Myron Ebell retorted that, "The summary's scary predictions of much faster warming are based on discredited global climate computer models." [34]

March 2001 signalled the true intent of the Bush administration and the CEI claimed to play an intricate part in helping formulate its position. Firstly, President Bush "stunned environmentalists" by reversing a campaign pledge that his administration would not regulate power plants' emissions of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The CEI claimed a "great victory and everyone should congratulate themselves on the work they did to achieve this end." [35]

A letter from Adjunct Fellow Jack Kemp, who served for 18 years in the House of representatives as a Republican, praised the Bush Administration over its handling of climate change. His letter credited the CEI with providing Bush with the "intellectual support and political cover to 'do the right thing' on carbon dioxide emissions". Myron Ebell claimed that the Kyoto Protocol was now "a walking corpse. We want to keep that corpse walking as long as possible". [36] Kemp labelled Kyoto as "eco-extremism" based on "phony science" and "fear-mongering". [37]

Secondly, the Bush Administration rejected the Kyoto Protocol. "We had been working towards it," said Myron Ebell, "But it's so surprising because its a bold move, so decisive and so unlike his father, who would have fudged or have done something to paper it over." [38]

"Leading opponents of the Kyoto Protocol" put forward by the CEI included Myron Ebell, Christopher Horner, Frances Smith, the chairman of the National Consumers Coalition, Paul Georgia of the Cooler Heads newsletter, and John Carlisle from the National Center for Public Policy Research (subsequently the Capital Research Center). [39]

The CEI was also active in opposing any members of the Clinton administration left in post by the incoming Bush team, one of whom was Ian Bowles, in charge of international environmental issues at the National Security Council. "We thought the election was a break in policies," said Myron Ebell. "...[Bowles] is a zealot who believes that global warming is a problem and that Kyoto is the answer. It seems to me the administration would be better served by getting people who represented the Bush administration much more quickly." [40] It was no surprise therefore that Myron Ebell was named Villain of the Month by Clean Air Trust for his "ferocious lobbying charge to persuade President Bush to reverse his campaign pledge to control electric utility emissions of carbon dioxide."

Later that year Ebell was still talking about the "benign" effects of climate change and attacked the IPCC as "alarmist in order to support the global warming treaty. If they didn't do it, they would be out of a job." [41]

In early 2002, when Bush outlined his "Clean Skies" proposals for clean air and to tackle climate change, Myron Ebell called it "a misguided concession to environmental alarmism." Meanwhile the plan was attacked by environmentalists. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, called the program a "Valentine's Day gift to corporate polluters" that "will do nothing to curb global warming." [42]

In May 2002, the US EPA, in consultation with other departments, published the Climate Action Report 2002, to be submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention's Climate Change secretariat. The report warned that climate change was a clear and present threat to the US, based on predictions from modelling undertaken by the respected Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in the UK. [43] It stated: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing global mean surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise." [44]

The Competitive Enterprise Institute was at the centre of overt and covert action to undermine the US EPA's report on climate change and change the Bush administration position.

Firstly the CEI claimed that the EPA report violated an agreement made in September 2001 between the White House, CEI and other groups and three members of Congress settling a lawsuit challenging a national climate change assessment report released in 2000 by the Clinton administration.

"For the EPA now to accept the National Assessment's findings as valid undermines and contradicts President Bush's global warming policies," said Ebell. "The EPA needs to be told that the Clinton Administration is gone and Al Gore did not win the election." According to the CEI, the Bush administration agreed to withdraw and repudiate the 2000 report after that document was challenged in a lawsuit brought by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), as well as CEI and other right-wing groups, who claimed it was based on "junk science". [45]

A leaked e-mail from dated 3rd June 2002 from Myron Ebell to Phil Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, started by saying "Thanks for calling and asking for our help." It then goes on to say, "I want to help you cool things down." The e-mail discusses possible tactics for playing down the report and getting rid of EPA officials, including its then head, Christine Whitman. "It seems to me that the folks at the EPA are the obvious fall guys and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible." [46]

Ebell advised Cooney that he was "willing and ready to help, but it won't be possible to do much without some sort of backtracking from the Administration."

Just two days later, Bush repudiated the EPA report as having been "put out by the bureaucracy," reiterating his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. "The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States economy," he said. "And I don't accept that." [47]

Christopher C. Horner welcomed the move saying that Mr. Bush had distanced himself from the report "because of concern from the right that he was going to accept the European environmental world view, that he had changed his mind as the report indicated he had." [48]

The CEI also filed a petition with the administration "to prevent the distribution of a fatally flawed report on global warming", [49] accusing the EPA of publishing "knowingly fictional" science. [50]

It also publicly wrote to the Bush Administration attacking the EPA's line on climate change in a co-ordinated letter, whose signatories read like a long list of right-wing groups, Wise Use and known climate-change sceptics.

Later that month (June 2002), the CEI criticised the "Clean Power Act" [S. 556] proposed by Senator James Jeffords, Vermont Independent, and the "Clean Smokestacks Act" proposed by Henry Waxman [H.R. 1256], which would have established new controls on power plant emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide, as "Multi-pollutant madness". [51]

By August 2002 and the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the CEI was one of 31 conservative individuals and groups, including the American Enterprise Institute, Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Capitol Research Center, Heartland Institute and National Center for Policy Analysis who wrote again to Bush to applaud his decision not to attend the WSSD and to keep climate change off the agenda:

"Even more than the Earth Summit in Rio (de Janeiro) in 1992, the Johannesburg Summit will provide a global media stage for many of the most irresponsible and destructive elements involved in critical international economic and environmental issues," said the letter. "Your presence would only help to publicize and make more credible their various anti-freedom, anti-people, anti-globalization, and anti-Western agendas." Bush declined the invitation to attend. [52]

The groups argued that "potential" global warming is "the least important global environmental issue" and the letter calls upon US negotiators attending the summit in Johannesburg to "keep it off the table and out of the spotlight." [53]

Two state attorney generals have asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate because the memo "reveals great intimacy between CEI and [the administration] in their strategizing about ways to minimize the problem of global warming. It also suggests the CEQ may have been directly involved in efforts to undermine the United States' official report, as well as the authority of the EPA administrator." [54]

In April 2003 the CEI co-ordinated another letter, this time to The Honorable Mr. Pete Domenici, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, on the subject of climate:

"The undersigned organizations write to share our views... Because we share your commitment to policies that will promote continuing abundant supplies of affordable energy to American consumers and producers, we were surprised to find that your committee's draft contains a climate change title. We believe that this title is ill considered and, if enacted in anything like its present form, its effects will in the long run overwhelm the many positive elements in the bill. It would in our view create the institutional and legal framework and the political incentives necessary eventually to force Kyoto-style energy rationing on the American people.
Even more disturbingly to us, it would set us on this path without engaging in a full national debate over its enormous consequences. Instead, including this climate title in comprehensive energy legislation seems to assume that the debate is over, even though that debate has never occurred. It seems to us that before we settle on the main provisions of this climate title, we would first have to agree that global warming alarmism is scientifically warranted, that there are benefits as wells as costs to these policies, and that it is inevitable we are soon going to be living in a carbon-constrained world...
Fred Smith and Myron Ebell - Competitive Enterprise Institute
Paul M. Weyrich - Coalitions for America
Grover Norquist - Americans for Tax Reform
Malcolm Wallop - Frontiers of Freedom
David A. Keene - American Conservative Union
Paul Gessing - National Taxpayers Union
James L. Martin - 60 Plus Association
James P. Backlin - Christian Coalition of America
Amy Ridenour - National Center for Public Policy Research
Darrell McKigney - Small Business Survival Committee
Richard Lessner - American Renewal
Tom DeWeese - American Policy Center
Chuck Muth - Citizen Outreach
Steven Milloy - Citizens for the Integrity of Science
Ronald Pearson - Council for America
Kevin L. Kearns - US Business and Industry Council
Dennis Avery - Hudson Institute
Jim Boulet, Jr. - English First
Joan L. Hueter - American Council for Immigration Reform
C. Preston Noell, III - Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
Benjamin C. Works - Strategic Issues Research Institute of the US (SIRIUS)" [55]

The following month The CEI and 32 other right-wing organisations raised "concerns about the approach Congress is taking to climate change policy in a joint letter to House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde" (R-IL).

In a letter, the groups "explain the flaws with alarmist statements about climate change and science contained in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's State Department authorization bill, urging the House committee not take the same path. The Senate committee findings include exaggerations, misleading statements, out-of-context citations, and reliance on discredited sources. The Committee adopted resolutions based on these flawed premises."

"In our view, the resolutions are even more flawed than the findings," wrote Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming Policy at CEI. "The first two resolutions recommend that the US adopt Kyoto-style policies to limit energy use by American consumers. The third resolution urges the US to extend the Kyoto Protocol by negotiating a second round of binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions."

The letter continued: "The Kyoto Protocol is a dead end... and so too are all similar approaches based on forcing cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. Adopting Kyoto-style policies would have enormous economic costs without making significant reductions in greenhouse gas levels. Just at the moment that the Kyoto Protocol is collapsing and other industrialized countries that have ratified the Protocol are discovering that they cannot meet their targets is not the time to jump back on the Kyoto bandwagon."

Signed by:

The CEI has also filed other lawsuits and challenges against other government agencies who have issued reports on climate change, such as the EPA and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, calling their work unscientific. [57]

In 2003, the CEI attacked the US domestic Lieberman-McCain Bill on climate that would have regulated carbon dioxide emissions. Myron Ebell called it "pointless political grandstanding and a shameless con game". [58] Christopher C. Horner, another fellow, said it would cripple "America's economy in the name of a hysterical and spectacularly debunked theory". [59]

In November the CEI claimed a "victory" after they dropped their lawsuit against the Bush administration and its top scientific advisor, in exchange for the admission that a climate policy document written under the Clinton administration had not been subject to federal data quality guidelines. The Bush administration added two sentences to the US Global Change Research Program's (USGCRP) website explaining that a government report on climate change included third party information not produced by federal institutions, which were therefore not bound by the federal Data Quality Act. The CEI had taken issue with the 2000 report as it stated that global warming was likely to lead to hotter summers, warmer winters, and more extreme weather, including flood and drought. [60]

In December 2003 two of the US government's top atmospheric scientists argued in a paper in Science that that there was no doubt that human activity was already having a measurable impact on global climate. In response Myron Ebell argued that climate change was "nothing new" and "It isn't much to worry about." [61]

The following month, the CEI's anti-climate work continued unabated as an article published in Nature magazine concluded that one million species might become extinct because of climate change, [62] and that the UK's Chief scientist warned that climate change was a more serious threat to the world than terrorism. [63] The same week Myron Ebell was quoted in the US press as saying, "I don't think man-made climate change is an important issue." [64]

Ian Murray wrote an op-ed piece for Tech Central Station that attacked the article in Nature. Murray called the story "flimsy", arguing it should be "laughed out of the court of public opinion." [65] The month before, Murray had attacked "environmental alarmists" and "statist environmentalists" for their position on climate change. He also remarked that, "we should remember 2003 as the year that saw the death of the most economically damaging idea ever to come out of the United Nations, the Kyoto Protocol on climate change." [66]

On the 12 January, the CEI and ten other right-wing think tanks and front groups wrote to the Department of Energy, urging them not to establish "a system of emissions credits as part of its greenhouse gases reporting program." It was joined by the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, American Legislative Exchange Council, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumer Alert, Frontiers of Freedom, National Taxpayers Union, 60 Plus Association, and the Small Business Survival Committee. According to the CEI, a "credit program would mobilize lobbying for energy rationing schemes such as the Kyoto Protocol, Senator Jim Jeffords' Clean Power Act, and the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act." [67]



  • Jack Kemp The CEI's "Distinguished Fellow" served four years as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and as the US Representative from New York state (18 years). In 1996, he was nominated by then Senator Bob Dole as the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate.


  • Ronald Bailey Editor, Earth Report 2000. Is the science correspondent for Reason Magazine and, most recently, the editor of the Competitive Enterprise Institute book Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths [72] published by Prima Publishing. He is also the author of ECO-SCAM: The False Prophets of the Ecological Apocalypse.



The CEI does not publish a list of its institutional donors, but the following companies and foundations are known to have given $10,000 or more:

Other known CEI funders include:

Exxon has donated $1 million to the CEI since 1998. [76]

According to an article by Bob Burton for IPS, Monsanto has also been amongst CEI's funders.[5]



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  5. ^ Source Greenpeace - data from company reports for 98, 00, 01, 02 – data not available for 99 and pre-98.
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  18. ^ For more information see A. Rowell (2003) Don’t Worry - It’s Safe to Eat – The True Story of GM Food, BSE and Foot and Mouth, Earthscan, p154-160 and
  19. ^ For more information see A. Rowell (2003) Don’t Worry - It’s Safe to Eat – The True Story of GM Food, BSE and Foot and Mouth, Earthscan, p154-160 and
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