Isaac Orr

Isaac Orr

Credentials

Background

Isaac Orr is a former research fellow for energy and environment policy at the Heartland Institute. He currently works as a policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment. According to his Heartland profile, Orr specializes in writing, researching, and speaking on “hydraulic fracturing, frac sand mining, agricultural, and environmental policy issues.” [2], [32]

According to Heartland, Orr previously worked as an aide in the Wisconsin State Senate where he was a lead-office writer and policy advisor on frac sand mining and agricultural issues. [2]

Orr regularly writes and presents on the benefits of fracking, and has presented at the Heartland Institute's international conferences on climate change. He wrote a Heartland Institute “Policy Study” titled “Hydraulic Fracturing: A Game-Changer for U.S. Energy and Economies.” He is also the author of a chapter of the Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia, a publication edited by Heartland's Jay Lehr. [3]

According to Orr, we shouldn't worry about climate change, renewable energy subsidies must be eliminated, fracking cleans the air, the U.S. was right to withdraw from the Paris agreement, and the health consequences of fracking are “fabricated.” [4], [5], [6], [7], [8]

Stance on Climate Change

December 13, 2015

In an interview at DW Akademie, Orr repeated the #1 myth listed at SkepticalScience that past climate change casts doubt on the cause of the changes we are experiencing now: [4]

“I studied geology in college so I feel like I have a comprehensive view of the temperature record that the earth has had over the last 4.6 billion years and there’s always been a lot of variation – there have been periods where we've had higher CO2 concentrations, and lower temperatures.

“There are a lot of feedback mechanisms, so as the ocean changes temperature it can either hold more or less CO2. So it’s one of those things where I don’t think the jury is out. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty.”

[…]

“It's not to say that we're not having an impact on the climate, because I think we are having some impact. But how sensitive is the global atmosphere and temperature to our carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions? I just don't think they're necessarily as big a factor as some people say they are.”

In the interview, Orr also discussed climate change regulation and renewables:

“I think it [investing in renewable energy] is just a little premature right now and maybe we’ll find something else completely,” Orr said.

“[Trying to mitigate climate change] is just one of those things where these regulations have to have large implications on the prices of electricity and that’s going to affect people. That’s less money that you can put towards other things. […] I think a lot more people die of heart disease, cancer every year. We might do a better service to the world by figuring out that stuff first.”

Key Quotes

November 30, 2017

Orr criticized Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) estimates in an article at The American Spectator: [9]

“The SCC is based on flawed scientific and economic assumptions. As a result, the dozens of regulations imposed on the energy sector that were based on these calculations significantly and needlessly increase the cost of electricity without delivering any measurable environmental benefits,” Orr wrote.

November 23, 2017

“Eliminating subsidies for wind and solar is not simply political theater, it is imperative to guarantee Americans have access to affordable, reliable electricity,” Orr wrote at the Orange County Register[5]

June 1, 2017

Orr applauded President Donald Trump's decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement: [10]

“President Trump was right when he said in his speech announcing the decision to leave the Paris climate agreement he represents the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris. It’s refreshing to have a president who puts American interests first and refuses to partake in symbolic gestures that would hamper the economy in exchange for nothing more than trivial reductions in future global temperature,” Orr wrote at The San Francisco Chronicle. 

May 7, 2017

In an Op-Ed at The Virginian-Pilot, Orr wrote that rescinding the Clean Power Plan was insufficient, and that President Donald Trump should also rescind the Endangerment Finding on CO2: [11]

“If Trump truly wishes to create manufacturing jobs for Americans, he must make the United States more competitive on the global stage by reforming the tax code and rescinding jobs-killing environmental regulations,” Orr wrote.

“Trump has already signed an executive order instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to rescind the Clean Power Plan and other Obama-era climate change regulations, but unless he instructs the agency to review and rescind the Endangerment Finding, he is simply treating the symptoms of this problem and not curing the disease.”

May 2017

Orr spoke on the radio, reposted at Heartland, suggesting the U.S. should withdraw from the Paris Climate agreement. [7]

“I just don't see a point to staying in a treaty that was basically designed to transfer money away from the American people to developing countries and hurt our business. I don't see where we benefit from that,” Orr said. [7]

December 2015

“I like to think of shale as bubble wrap. You need to pop it in order to have fun,” Orr said in his presentation at the Heartland Institute's Eleventh International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC11), also the European Institute for Climate and Energy's 9th conference. [12]

October 22, 2013

Writing at The Orange County Register, Orr promoted the Heartland Institute's Non Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, “Climate Change Reconsidered-II Volume One: The Physical Sciences.” The National Center for Science Education compared the NIPCC report to the IPCC report on a number of counts. For example, the NIPCC cites only 72 papers, primarily written by its own members, while the IPCC cited 9,200 across all literature related to climate change. [13], [14]

“Over the past 16 years, the models used by the IPCC to predict rising global temperatures driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions have been contradicted by the observed evidence. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen without a corresponding rise in temperature and Antarctic ice mass sits near balance,” Orr claimed.

[…]

“The debate on climate science is not over, and it never will be. Instead of stooping to name-calling and belittling of those who hold differing views, real scientists check each other’s work to produce the best science possible. [Climate Change Reconsidered II] is a valuable resource for this pursuit.”

Key Deeds

May 9, 2019

Isaac Orr, representing the Center of the American Experiment, signed on to an open letter organized by the American Energy Alliance designed to fight against an electric vehicle tax credit. [33]

The American Energy Alliance has organized a coalition to proclaim in one unified voice that there should be no expansion of the misguided electric vehicle tax credit,” Thomas Pyle wrote in a statement, quoted at The Daily Caller. There is no question that the electric vehicle tax credit distorts the auto market to no gain.” [34]

According to Pyle and others who signed the letter, electric vehicle tax credits “overwhelmingly benefit the rich.” DeSmog's Koch vs. Clean project has systematically debunked this, among other well-rehearsed talking points and misinformation put forward by industry about electric vehicles. [34]

The letter cites research by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a group that has received over $600,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from “dark money” groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund

March 12, 2018

Orr wrote his first article at the Center of the American Experiment, a 501(c)3 think tank that, according to its website, “leads the way in creating and advocating policies that make Minnesota a freer, more prosperous and better-governed state.” SourceWatch describes CAE as a right-wing pressure group that regularly attempts to influence legislation in Minnesota. It serves as a member of the State Policy Network (SPN). [29], [30], [31]

Orr's article promotes copper and nickel mining in Minnesota, suggesting pushing forward two mines—Twin Metals and PolyMet—waiting on approval. “These two mines would not only have significant employment impacts, they would also make the United States less dependent upon foreign sources of copper and nickel,” Orr wrote. [29]

February 7, 2018

Orr was featured as part of the Heartland Institute's “The Patriot's Toolbox Speaker Series,” an event promoting their same-titled new book. Orr also wrote the second chapter of the book. [27]

[6:55] “The Obama administration was very good at implementing regulations that dampen the appeal of using fossil fuels for energy. And this was pretty intentional. You have the clean power plan that was designed to reduce the amount of co2 emissions from power plants by 32% of their 2005 levels by 2030. So this was really geared at promoting renewables, at the expense of more affordable sources of electricity like coal and natural gas.

“And it also had a impact on nuclear power as well. Lots of nuclear plants have closed as a result of so many renewables on the grid. Because you can't slow down a nuclear power plant without de-stabilizing it. You can do that with coal or natural gas, so one of the main negative repercussions of these policies is that they are getting rid […] if they are supposed to be limiting CO2 emissions and they are taking nuclear power off the grid, its, eh, pretty questionable whether your goals are aligning or the results of your policies are aligning with your goals.”

[14:14] “So, earthquakes: This is where you have a lot of people who are like, 'Hey, what about that?  […] Oklahoma went from having very few earthquakes above magnitude 3, to having hundreds of them.

“So, what happens is, when you produce oil or natural gas there's always some salt water that's left over from the ancient oceans that help deposit the bio-matter that was deposited in these rocks, so, in Oklahoma they were producing oil from a formation called the Mississippian Lime Formation, which is essentially a saltwater well that sometimes produces oil. You get about 10 barrels of salt water for every barrel of oil, and they needed a way to dispose of this, and this is only profitable to develop that when oil is at $114 a barrel, or something insane.

“So, they were injecting all this water into a limestone formation, but somehow this limestone formation was causing the faults in the ground to slip a little bit in a way that they hadn't done before, and they had been using this formation to dispose of waste water for a really long time. So the main […] the takeaway from this story is that, the happy ending, is they enacted some regulations on disposing of the waste water and the earthquakes have decreased by a lot. That's the main takeaway. Sometimes you do need regulations and I think that's important to talk about.”

During his speech, Orr also argues against CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards to improve fuel efficiency in cars, claiming that this reduces safety. He also claims biofuels cannot replace oil, that wind and solar get much higher subsidies than coal, natural gas, and oil, and that “global warming is not a crisis.“ [27]

Orr said that the Clean Air Act was very successful in combatting air pollution. He also says that he tends “to believe the numbers that they're posting here ” when it comes to pollutants. “We've been incredibly successful,” Orr said. “The clean air act has done a really good job.” [27]

Responding to a question from the audience, Orr admits that the Earth is getting warmer. “The fact is, things are getting warmer” the audience member notes. Orr responds, “Yea, that's fair. Yea.” [27]

November 23, 2017

Writing in the Orange County Register, Orr said that we “must eliminate renewable energy subsidies,” and claimed that “Wind and solar receive more federal subsidies than any other form of energy”: [15]

“Contrary to the common misconception that wind and solar are able to generate affordable electricity because they have no fuel costs (the wind and sunlight are free), electricity generated from wind is 2.5 times more costly than generating electricity from existing coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants, and solar is 3.5 times more costly. The subsidies paid to the owners of wind and solar systems hide the true cost of these expensive sources of energy and cushion states from the negative consequences of their detrimental policies mandating the use of renewable energy,” Orr wrote. [15]

Orr argued that eliminating renewable subsidies for wind and solar “is imperative to guarantee Americans have access to affordable, reliable electricity” urging Senate Republicans to “take the much-needed step to remove market-distorting energy subsidies now.” [15]

In the article, Orr cites 2013 numbers: “In 2013, the federal government shelled out $5.9 billion to owners of industrial wind turbines and $5.3 billion for solar producers. In stark contrast, oil, coal and natural gas received just $3.4 billion combined in tax credits.” [15]

More recent calculations in an October 2017 report by Oil Change International found rather that the oil, gas, and coal industries had subsidies totaling $20.5 billion a year in 2015 and 2016. Looking at the value of permanent tax expenditures, the Oil Change International report found: [16]

“The oil, gas, and coal industry received a total of $7.4 billion in 2016. By contrast, permanent tax expenditures available to renewable energy companies, including solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel and hydropower, were only worth $1.1 billion in 2016.” [16]

March 23, 2017

Orr was a moderator of multiple panels at the Heartland Institute's 12th International Conference on Climate change (ICCC12). [17]

August 8, 2017

Newsy's “The Why” host Chance Seales gave Isaac Orr a platform to discuss his doubt regarding the 97 percent consensus on climate change, and the “small, but influential perspective” of climate change deniers. [18]

“I think there's disagreement both on the scientific side and the policy side and I think it's important to talk about that,” Orr said. He added, “when we talk about wind and solar, we're talking about un-serious solutions to this problem.” [18]

July 17, 2017

Orr wrote an article at The Wall Street Journal criticizing German Chancellor Angela Merkel for using her closing speech to chide President Donald Trump for the US departure from the Paris Climate agreement. According to Orr, Germany should be more thankful for U.S. oil. [19]

“The German people will benefit far more from the American president’s focus on facilitating U.S. energy production and boosting exports than from Mrs. Merkel’s climate policies.” Orr wrote. [19]

August 18, 2016

Orr wrote an article at The American Spectator where he discounted studies linking health effects like birth defects, cancer, and asthma with fracking, calling them “fabricated.” [20]

According to Orr,  “This problem is the result of three factors. First, Scientists want to get published. Second, scientists want the studies they publish to get a lot of press in order to get more funding for future studies. Third, modern readers in the United States have short attention spans; they read headlines, and that’s about it. News organizations know this, so they make scary headlines with the hope their readers click on story links to boost ad revenue.” [20]

April 2016

Orr wrote a chapter, “Hydraulic Fracturing: A Game-Changer for Energy and Economies,” in the Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The Heartland Institute's “science director,” Jay Lehr, is the book's editor. [3]

Lehr also appeared on an episode of Heartland's podcast to discuss the book: [3]

December 11–12, 2015

Orr spoke at the joint Heartland-European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) conference in Germany, where he presented on “Fracking and its Effects on Environment.” In his presentation, he uses the same graph as his ICCC10 presentation where he compares renewable energy to “fats and sweets,” in that they are “good every once in a while, but they're not something you should try to use to sustain yourself on a daily basis.” [12]

With reference to drinking water contamination from fracking, Orr claimed that it is impossible. “This can't happen,” Orr said. “There's simply too much rock in between the shale development, the shale reservoirs, and the water table.” He does admit that leaking well casings can lead to methane contamination. [12]

July 2, 2015

Orr presented on a panel at the Heartland Institute's 10th International Conference on Climate Change, on the “The Environmental and Economic Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing”: [21]

In a graph comparing energy sources, Isaac compares solar and wind power to “fats and sweets… you're not really supposed to try and rely on that.” [21]

In his presentation, Orr selectively quotes EPA's study on the impacts of fracking on drinking water, where it said there is not a “widespread, systemic” impact. [21]

Note that in a more recent 2016 report, the EPA concluded that fracking can affect drinking water: [22]

The report, done at the request of Congress, provides scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources in the United States under some circumstances,” the EPA wrote in a press release announcing the study's final conclusions. “As part of the report, EPA identified conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe.” [23]

May 11, 2015

Orr co-wrote a Heartland Institute “Policy Study” claiming that studies that had found negative environmental impacts from the the mining of silica sand for use in hydraulic fracturing were “overly alarmist, downplaying the positive impacts of industrial sand mining while exaggerating the possibility of negative impacts and neglecting to inform the reader those negative impacts are unlikely to occur.” [24]

November 18, 2013

Orr wrote a Heartland Institute “Policy Study” study titled “Hydraulic Fracturing: A Game-Changer for U.S. Energy and Economies.” In a chapter on environmental impact, Orr argues that while “Environmental damage is a legitimate concern, […] it must be viewed realistically and in light of cost-benefit analysis and not absolute terms.” [25]

“[T]here has been no conclusive evidence provided to support the claim that hydraulic fracturing has caused groundwater contamination,” Orr claimed, adding “With no confirmed cases of water well or groundwater contamination directly linked to the process of hydraulic fracturing, calls for moratoria are not supported by science.” [25]

DeSmog's own study on fracking examined this common industry claim, and found that “This misleading statement uses industry’s definition of hydraulic fracturing to refer 'only to the process whereby hydrostatic pressure is used to force cracks in deep rock formations,'” as noted by Dr. Ronald Bishop of State University of New York, College at Oneonta. However, “even if you adopt industry’s definition of hydraulic fracturing (thus excluding incidents from drilling damage, failed well casings, spills, erosion and sedimentation, or tanker accidents), there is now evidence […] that the isolated process of hydraulic fracturing has been responsible for water contamination.” [26]

 Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

In addition to his regular articles and reports at The Heartland Institute, Orr regularly publishes at a variety of news outlets where he defends fracking and casts doubt on man-made climate change. Some examples below:

The Orange County Register

The American Spectator

San Francisco Chronicle

Human Events

The Detroit News

The Virginian Pilot

Resources

  1. Isaac Orr,” LinkedIn. Accessed January 3, 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  2. ISAAC ORR,” The Heartland Institute. Archived November 25, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/nFJrG

  3. Alternative Energy and Shale Gas Encyclopedia. Published online April 22, 2016. Archived January 3, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/hhCIW

  4. Climate change: Skeptics and believers,” DW.com, December 13, 2015. Archived January 4, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/cv4f4

  5. We must eliminate renewable energy subsidies to ensure reliable, affordable electricity,”The Orange County Register, November 23, 2017. Archived January 4, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/k9JR7

  6. Isaac Orr. “Isaac Orr: On fracturing: Clearing the air,” The Orange County Register, April 10, 2014. Archived January 4, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/aRByO

  7. Isaac Orr. “Heartland on the Radio: Isaac Orr on the Paris Climate Treaty!Heartland Institute. Archived .mp3 on file at DeSmog.

  8. Isaac Orr. “Health Impacts of Fracking Fabricated,” The American Spectator, August 18, 2016. Archived Archived January 4, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/8tys4

  9. Isaac Orr. “The Social Cost of Obama-Era Climate Calculations,” The American Spectator, November 30, 2017. Archived January 5, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/UrDq7

  10. Isaac Orr. “Trump’s exit from climate accord puts America first, for a change,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 1, 2017. Archived January 5, 2018. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/Jxj9z

  11. Isaac Orr: EPA's Endangerment finding must be abandoned,” The Virginian-Pilot, May 7, 2017.

  12. Isaac Orr, ICCC11,” Climateconferences.heartland.org. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  13. Isaac Orr: Debate is heated, but planet keeps its cool,” The Orange County Register, October 22, 2013. Archived January 5, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/d7IQF

  14. “Debunking the Heartland Institute’s Efforts to Deny Climate Science” (PDF), National Center for Science Education.

  15. We must eliminate renewable energy subsidies to ensure reliable, affordable electricity,” The Orange County Register, November 23, 2017. Archived November 25, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/jkP8b

  16. DIRTY ENERGY DOMINANCE: DEPENDENT ON DENIAL” (PDF), Oil Change International, October 2017.

  17. ISAAC ORR,” ClimateConference.heartland.org. Archived January 4, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/fdbX1

  18. Many Experts Dismiss Them, But Climate Change Doubters Are Powerful,” Newsy, August 8, 2017. Archived January 4, 2018. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/BOT7Y

  19. Isaac Orr. “Germany Should Say Danke for U.S. Oil,” The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/ZMkIo

  20. Health Impacts of Fracking Fabricated,” The American Spectator, August 18, 2016. Archived January 5, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/8tys4

  21. Isaac Orr, ICCC10 (Panel 4),” Climateconferences.heartland.org. Accessed January 3, 2018.

  22. Sharon Kelly. “Fracking Can Contaminate Drinking Water, Has Made Some Water Supplies 'Unusable,' Long-Awaited EPA Study Concludes,” DeSmog, December 13, 2016.

  23. (News Release). “EPA Releases Final Report on Impacts from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities on Drinking Water,” EPA, December 13, 2016. Archived May 13, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/o5k9P

  24. Isaac Orr and Mark Krumenacher. “Environmental Impacts of Industrial Silica Sand (Frac Sand) Mining” (PDF), Heartland Institute Policy Study No. 137 (May 2015).

  25. Hydraulic Fracturing: A Game-Changer for Energy and Economies,” The Heartland Institute, Plicy Study No. 132 (November 2013).

  26. “Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Our Water, Health and Climate” (PDF), DeSmog, 2010.

  27. The Patriot’s Toolbox Speaker Series: The Story of America’s Energy Renaissance,” YouTube video uploaded by user “The Heartland Institute,” February 7, 2018. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  28. All content by Isaac Orr,” Center of the American Experiment. Archived March 17, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/UbN9w

  29. Minnesota’s Copper and Nickel Deposits are World Class,” Center of the American Experiment, March 12, 2018. Archived March 17, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/FqiI5

  30. About Center of the American Experiment,” Center of the American Experiment. Archived March 17, 2018. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/gwUf4 

  31. Center of the American Experiment,” Sourcewatch. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/HcTF7

  32. ISAAC ORR,” Heartland Institute. Archived August 6, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.fo/Jtv8f

  33. Dear Senator Grassley, Senator Wyden, Representative Neal and Representative Brady:” May 9, 2019. Retrieved from The Daily Caller.

  34. Christ White. “CONSERVATIVES WARN LAWMAKERS: TESLA’S TAX CREDITSOVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT THE RICH,”The Daily Caller, May 9, 2019. Archived May 9, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/qzvF3

Other Resources