The Competitive Enterprise Institute, CEI, was established in 1984 by Fred Smith, Jr (pictured), a former employee of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The CEI is a small Washington-based conservative think tank which calls itself a “pro-market, public policy group committed to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government.” It has a staff of over 40 people.
CEI has consistently opposed environmental regulations beginning with its “Death by Regulation” project, and has promoted 'free market environmentalism' as an alternative to reuglation, a term it claims one of its staff, Robert J. Smith, coined.
One of CEI’s earlier publications was The True State of the Planet, a collection of papers edited by Ronald Bailey aimed at putting forward “a Major Challenge to the Environment Movement.” It claimed that:
In 1995 the CEI founded the Center for Private Conservation to promote "private, voluntary initiatives can help protect the environment".
The CEI has a budget an income of around $4 million much of which comes from wealth foundations and corporations including the Exxon Mobil Corporation and the Scaife, Bradley, and Koch family foundations. Other corporate funders have included Dow Chemical, General Motors, Ford, Amoco, Coca-Cola Co, Pfizer Inc, Philip Morris, and Texaco Inc
The CEI has also used lawsuits to oppose environmental legislation and measures including:
As well as publications and media appearances, CEI is involved in “coalition building, advocacy and litigation” or what executive director, Marlo Lewis calls “guerilla actions.” For example, CEI took the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to court over its automobile fuel-efficiency standards arguing that the standards would result in lighter cars that were more dangerous. It claimed: “The federal new car fuel economy program imposes a deadly trade-off of blood for oil.” CEI won the Federal court case in 1992 but lost it in 1995.
CEI is also involved in grassroots organising and claims it has a mailing list of 250,000 people it can call on to oppose legislation. It used this list to campaign against a proposal by the Clinton government to impose an energy tax, organising rallies, meetings, and advertisements in the media. The energy tax was defeated.