Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Ethical Oil Institute on oil sands emissions

The illogical (not to mention deceitful) framing of Alberta oil sands development as a supposed choice between “ethical oil” and “conflict oil” continues to fall apart. In the latest fiasco playing out at Huffington Post Canada, Ben Amunwa, a prominent critic of Shell Oil’s environmental  record in Nigeria and the Alberta oil sands, has shredded spokesperson Kathryn Marshall’s ridiculous assertion that he is on the “same page” regarding the ethics of oil production (h/t Holly Stick).

So far, however, controversy has centred overwhelmingly on the distracting “ethical vs conflict oil” arguments and less on the equally misleading statements on the real environmental issues in the oil sands from (a.k.a. the Ethical Oil Institute). So today I’ll take a detailed look at the Ethical Oil position on the oil sands carbon footprint, as seen in former spokesperson Alykhan Velshi’s error-filled and confused post entitled Mythbusting: Are the Oilsands Major greenhouse Gas Emitters?, part of his “Myths and Lies” series.

I’ll focus on the two most significant problems in Velshi’s piece:

  • Velshi’s original premise was that not only are oil sands greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relatively insignificant, but that they are actually declining. This has been partially corrected, presumably in response to my initial commentary on this issue, but in such a way as to render his argument completely illogical. And Velshi’s conclusion still repeats the utterly mistaken assertion that oil emissions “are falling”, whereas in fact they are rising at a rapid rate.
  • Ethical Oil’s credibility is further damaged by misleading statements concerning the supposedly tiny contribution of oil sands emissions when compared to total global human and natural emissions. This echoes barely veiled climate “skeptic” arguments in Ezra Levant’s 2009 book that started the whole “ethical oil” rebranding effort. And an examination of Levant’s previous statements on climate science would appear to confirm that a strong anti-science stance is not far from the surface, despite the efforts of Ethical Oil spokespersons to hide it.

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Said and Wegman 2009: Suboptimal Scholarship

Today I present an analysis of a 2009 article by Yasmin Said and Edward Wegman of George Mason University. “Roadmap for Optimization” was published in the inaugural edition of WIREs Comp Stats, one of a new family of Wiley publications conceived as a “serial encyclopedia”. Wegman and Said, along with David Scott of Rice University, are also editors of the journal; the three are best known as co-authors of the 2006 “hockey stick” report to Congress, commissioned by Rep. Joe Barton.

As the title implies, the article was meant to provide a broad overview of  mathematical optimization and set the stage for subsequent articles detailing various optimization techniques. However my analysis, entitled Suboptimal Scholarship: Antecedents of Said and Wegman 2009, demonstrates the highly problematic scholarship of the “Roadmap” article.

  • No fewer than 15 likely online antecedent sources, all unattributed, have been identified, including 13 articles from Wikipedia and two others from Prof. Tom Ferguson and Wolfram MathWorld.
  • Numerous errors have been identified, apparently arising from mistranscription, faulty rewording, or omission of key information.
  • The scanty list of references appears to have been “carried along” from the unattributed antecedents; thus, these references may well constitute false citations.

First, I’ll present an abridged version of Suboptimal Scholarship summary as an overview of the analysis. Then I’ll take a look at a few examples showing the derivation of “Roadmap” from its antecedents, including some remarkable errors introduced in the process.  And finally I’ll place this latest embarrassment in the context of the pattern of dubious scholarship evidenced by Wegman and Said over the last several years.

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