Adventures in Energy Economics

Econ_AIEE_2013_C — with Robert P. Murphy

Dates: July 2, 2013 - August 5, 2013
Status: Closed

About the Course

In this five-week course, Dr. Robert Murphy—who is the Senior Economist for the free-market Institute for Energy Research—will sketch the field of energy economics from an Austrian perspective. Readings will cover classic articles from Murray Rothbard and Walter Block, as well as the world’s leading Austrian energy economist, Robert Bradley. Topics will include finite resource depletion, how a free market would deal with “negative externalities” such as pollution, and an extensive treatment of the economics of carbon taxes (Murphy’s specialty). The final lecture will focus on the policy debate, where Murphy will discuss his adventures in energy economics in academia, the Think Tank wars, and Capitol Hill.

Robert Murphy writes:

“The first week will address the question, “Will we run out of energy?” We will cover the standard mainstream treatment (based on the classic article by Harold Hotelling) and then see the weakness in this perspective, because it fails to account for the role of entrepreneurship. To see the “optimistic” Austrian take, we will cover selections from Julian Simon and Robert Bradley who chose Murray Rothbard to oversee his dissertation on the U.S. experience with oil and gas regulation.

In week two we will cover the libertarian property rights framework of environmental issues as laid out in the classic article by Murray Rothbard. We will also mention some of Walter Block’s contributions in this area. Contrary to popular belief, “free market environmentalism” is not a contradiction in terms. In fact, the worst ecological basket cases in history occurred under strong centralized States.

In the third and fourth weeks we will focus on my specialty (which I have developed over the past six years in my role as Senior Economist at the Institute for Energy Research), which is the economics of climate change. We’ll first get a broad overview of the physical science, but then focus on the economic issues involved, such as the role of the discount rate, the nature of the (alleged) damage estimates, and a comparison of a carbon tax versus a “cap and trade” approach. As always in my Academy classes, we will cover the conventional textbook approach, before listing criticisms of the typical case for a penalty on carbon to correct the “negative externality” of greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, in the fifth week we will put the theory aside and discuss the real-world policy debates on energy issues. I have testified before Congress and toured several states during a “bus tour for affordable energy,” so I have been in the trenches. After slogging through some of the technical details in previous weeks, this lecture will consist of fun anecdotes, including my (subtle) attempt to push Dennis Kucinich to end the Fed.

Energy permeates every aspect of the modern economy, and it is thus no coincidence that the government seeks to regulate it in various ways. The latest assault comes in the guise of restricting greenhouse gas emissions so as to slow climate change. In this course, the student will learn the true history of governments versus property rights when it comes to environmental stewardship, and will also receive an excellent introduction to the economics of climate change. Enroll today, and I hope to see you in July!”


Live lectures will be held online Tuesdays at 5:30 pm Eastern Time. Lectures will be recorded and archived for later viewing for enrolled students.


All readings will be free and online. A fully hyper-linked syllabus with readings for each weekly topic will be available for all students.

Grades and Certificates

The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. This course is worth 3 credits in the Mises Academy. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.

Refund Policy

If you drop the course during its first week (seven calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.

Free Sample Lecture