Utah State University’s Institute of Political Economy / Strata

The Utah State University’s (USU) Institute of Political Economy and Strata are affiliated organizations run by Dr. Randy Simmons. Simmons was the “Charles G. Koch Professor of political economy” at USU from 2008 through 2013, and is the President and Director of Research for Strata, which describes itself as the “premier research hub on environmental, energy and public land issues.”

The Koch Bothers have provided Utah State University with at least $1.6 million in funding. USU is also the fifth-biggest recipient of money from Koch-linked foundations among all colleges since 2012. In addition to serving as the Koch Professor at USU, Simmons also runs the “Koch Scholars” Program, which receives an annual grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

In 2015, Newsweek published an op-ed by Simmons attacking wind energy tax breaks but the publication failed to disclose his ties to the Koch Brothers and fossil fuel funding. Newsweek added this note after publication recognizing Simmons ties to fossil fuel interests:

The author of this piece, Randy Simmons, is the Charles G. Koch professor of political economy at Utah State University. He’s also a senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center. These ties to the oil industry weren’t originally disclosed in this piece.

USU and Strata published two flawed reports attacking state renewable energy standards in Kansas and North Carolina. Michael Goggin at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) notes the serious flaws in the reports. He writes, “when major errors in the study’s methods are corrected, the study’s results actually confirm that state Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS) like those in Kansas create hundreds of jobs and save consumers tens of millions of dollars.”

Furthermore, Simmons’ study uses a “statistical trick to blame the Great Recession on renewable energy” and misses the most basic statistical principle: correlation is not causation. Strata and USU would have simply needed to look at one state that did not have a renewable energy standard to see that the economic downturn was not a result of the state enacting a renewable energy standard, but was the result of the Great Recession.

Additionally, the funding for USU/Strata reports has not been disclosed. And, when the funding question was brought up during a hearing in Kansas on legislation dealing with the state’s RES, state senator Rob Olson cut off his colleague’s line of questioning.

The Heartland Institute featured Simmons on a podcast and highlighted the USU report to advocate for the repeal of the North Carolina renewable energy standard. And, the State Policy Network member John Locke Foundation also published an article echoing the findings from Simmons in calling for the repeal of that state’s RES.