John Droz, Jr.,physicist and long time environmentalist, was recently invited to address Cape Cod citizens regarding industrial wind. According to responses, some 95% of attendees gave his presentation very positive marks.
Always seeking the opportunity for discussion about the science of industrial wind, rather than the emotion driving much of today’s debate, Mr. Droz also took the time to reply to the “the other 5%.” As example of the typical response of a wind supporter, Mr. Droz selected an interchange with a person he understood to be a farmer entertaining signing a lease for turbines.”
Mr. Droz changed the respondent’s name, of course; but chose to send along the exchange as an example of how civil discussion can take place when the emotion of industrial wind is replaced with discussion of the science.
Mr. Droz notes that the wind supporter’s response is constructive and not about being a NIMBY, but Science.
To the discussion:
On Oct 11, 2010, at 4:50 PM, Sam Smith wrote:
Dear John Droz Jr.
I attended your presentation at Wind Wise Cape Cod Oct 7, 2010. I would have to disagree that you are not a well spoken public speaker. You did a fine job presenting your material!
I was inspired to do some research on-line. I found this study (see the link below) and thought this was an interesting and very relevant, although contrary, to your presentation. I hope you take the time to review this work.
If you would like to discuss this topic further I would welcome you to respond by e-mail.
On Oct 11, 2010, at 6:40 PM, John Droz, jr. wrote:
Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad that my talk gave you some food for thought.
I took a cursory look at what you sent (<<http://v1.apebble.com/static/clean/BeyondBAU5-11-10.pdf>>), and here is my conclusion.
This report (like many others) has the appearance of legitimacy. After all it looks professional, and is authored by several credentialed people. It would be easy to assume that it is legit.
The litmus test though is: did it adhere to the Scientific Method?
Let’s do a quick peek at the five Scientific Method elements, and see what the result is.
1) Was it done by independent parties?
The study is sponsored by the Civil Society Institute. This organization is an strong advocate for making changes because of “Global Warming” (AGW). Surprisingly (since this is one of their main agendas), they present zero evidence that Global Warming is scientifically legitimate. Their position is: let’s just assume that AGW is real, and start making changes. That’s a science red flag.
The founder of the Civil Society Institute (Pam Solo: credited for reviewing and correcting the report) has a clear and stated bias against nuclear power. Little wonder that their hired personnel will mirror that position in their attack on nuclear power.
Regarding the authors, it appears that they all belong to the same church. For instance: “Goeff Keith has worked extensively with advocates and technology manufacturers to support the commercialization of clean energy technologies.” In other words, Goeff (listed as the lead author) appears to have a vested interest in promoting “clean” technologies.
Kenji Takahashi has been involved in a variety of environmental campaigns, like “Citizens’ Alliance for Saving the Atmosphere and the Earth.” Wow, saving the earth and atmosphere!
Alice Napoleon: another environmentally correct person working with “residential, commercial, and industrial working groups to recommend, develop, and quantify costs and benefits of possible state actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Etc. Etc.
Independence Score: 3 out of 10
2) Is it objective?
Objectivity is all about examining things in an unbiased manner as possible. Since we all have biases, a critical part of this is to minimize assumptions, and to carefully examine all remaining assumptions made. Real scientists: 1) clearly identify their minimized assumptions, and 2) provide genuine proof for such assumptions. These people didn’t bother with either of these niceties.
There there are numerous stated and implied unproven assumptions that are the basis for their subsequent conclusions. Remember, the most well-constructed building is worthless when built on sand.
Lets start at the beginning (page 5): “the risks associated with climate change are forcing us to consider quantum shifts in the way we generate and use electricity.” This is a totally unsupported political statement that sets the tone for the agenda that these persons are intent on distributing. What proven “risks” are there? What proof is there that we need to make “quantum” shifts? Oh, these are buried somewhere in their catechism, and we just expected to believe it. More science red flags.
The next few sentences cleverly throw coal and nuclear together, as if they have similar issues. Their tag on the nuclear apparently is “Nuclear power produces high-level radioactive waste, and the nation still has not established a long term repository for that waste.” Well, nuclear does produce a byproduct, but the facts are:
a) the byproduct is mostly usable fuel. If they are concerned about reducing this byproduct they should be advocating reprocessing.
b) that “the nation still has not established a long term repository for that waste” is hardly the fault of the nuclear industry, or an inherent issue with nuclear power. The disposal matter is a political issue, that has already been solved by scientists. Nowhere do I see either of those details mentioned.
Another key statement is still on that first page: “The goal of the study is to provide a highly transparent and objective analysis of the cost of moving away from coal and nuclear energy and toward efficiency and renewables.”
Note that they do not state that the goal is to determine if there are merits for “moving away from coal and nuclear energy and toward efficiency and renewables.” No, their a-priori position is that there are merits, so they are starting with a goal of “proving” that such a move is desirable. This is not how science works. Big red flags.
And then “The need to reduce CO2 emissions will force a major retooling of the electric industry.” What “need” have they proven? None. Just reference some other political polemic.
It goes on and on with the same unscientific mentality.
Objectivity Score: 1 out of 10
3) Is it comprehensive?
Comprehensive would include all pertinent technical, economic and environmental considerations. Let’s quickly look at technical, which tells us all we need to know.
Reliability is the cornerstone of our electric grid, and our current energy sources. Having reliable electric power is the foundation of modernity. If these supposedly competent people were offering an alternative owe source, one would think that there would be a thorough discussion of any and all reliability impacts. No such luck.
In this loquacious report the term “reliability” appears just ONCE! This is an damning fact.
Oh, and what is the one instance? Page 66 says: “Wind turbine performance and reliability have improved significantly over the last decade: average capacity factors for U.S. wind projects have increased from about 24% in 1999 to over 32% in 2005 (RETI 2008).” Apart from the fact that the cited report is also an unscientific screed, the fact is that this purported increase in Capacity Factor has little to do with reliability. That all these authors don’t understand this, is a telling indictment of their understanding of the electrical power business.
Envision this: a TV advertisement for an Iberdola automobile, where the announcer excitedly proclaims “Iberdola has made great advances to their 2011 state-of-the-art car, and it now works 32% of the time!” What type of any product would you use that worked 32% of the time? These authors, though, have the temerity to promote this as a selling point!
What about the economic part? Reference page 10: “See Appendix B for a discussion of wind energy potential and recent cost data. The most detailed analysis of U.S. wind cost and potential was performed for the DOE’s 2008 study 20% Wind Energy by 2030 and its predecessor, AWEA’s 2007 report 20 Percent Wind Energy Penetration in the United States (DOE EERE 2008 and AWEA 2007).” (BTW, the DOE “report” they cite was also written by AWEA and their allies.)
These people are so bold that they have no qualms in saying that the “most detailed analysis of US wind cost” comes directly from lobbyists??? Simply astounding.
How about the environmental part? Well, if these authors were objective and comprehensive, they would certainly discuss the environmental impacts of what they are proposing, right? I can’t find anything reasonable about the environmental impacts of wind energy anywhere, so show me if I missed it.
Comprehensive Score: 2 out of 10
4) Is it transparent?
Transparency is about having all a study’s data available for inspection. In this case, their transparency is problematic, as their date comes from other reports — most of which are based on computer models and have little transparency. Put in laymen terms, the data they are citing is mostly suspect. The phrase “One lies and the other swears to it” comes to mind.
Transparency Score: 4 out of 10 (I’m being generous)
5) Is it based on empirical data?
I am familiar with most of the “reports” they cite, and (surprise) essentially none of them are based on empirical data. For example, neither of the AWEA reports cited are based on empirical data.
Empirical Score: 2 out of 10
The bottom line is that although this document may have been written by scientists, it is categorically NOT a scientific report. It does not even remotely adhere to the Scientific Method.
In reality it is more a report about other reports. The authors apparently started with an agenda (pro-wind, anti-coal, anti-nuclear) and then carefully selected other reports that supported their foregone conclusions. Since there are hundreds of unscientific “reports” out there, that is an elementary assignment.
To put it politely, though, it would be an embarrassment for real scientists to have their name even associated with such an agenda-promoting PR piece. Unfortunately (due to economic and political pressure) this has become the norm of our time.
Sorry to be blunt, but you asked about this report’s legitimacy. The answer: zero. After you’ve waded through a dozen or so of similar puff pieces (I’ve looked at hundreds), you’ll get the clear message that any real science in these polemics is strictly accidental, and that the scientific basis for wind energy is minimal.
john droz, jr.
physicist & environmental advocate
Correspondence ends … for now.
Allegheny Treasures Notes:
Mr. Droz is a physicist who has also been an environmental activist for some 25 years. Mr. Droz is a member of the Sierra Club, the Adirondack Council, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, and the Resident’s Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, among others, noting that the views expressed on his web site are his as a scientist promoting science, and may not be consistent with the political agendas of those organizations.]
Mr. Droz noted that the examples cited in his response were but a small sample. There are dozens more which he elected not to include “for the sake of brevity.” Mr. Droz’ provides an extensive library of additional information at his web page, Wind Power Facts.
We highly recommend that you sign up for his very informative email newsletter by writing him at email@example.com.
We thank Mr. Droz for permitting us to share his experience.
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