I can still remember my initial looks at the web sites of wind industry proponents like AWEA and CanWEA. Their copy certainly looked impressive, with all that certainty, all those references and my intuitive sense that wind energy was a good thing. Then I made the mistake of actually following through to the references and right away the “wait-a-minute” flags started flying. I may have no experience in the energy industry, but I do have a scientific bent and I’m pretty good at detecting nonsense when I see it. And boy did I see it! I cannot remember when I’ve seen a major industry so consistently present such crappy evidence, regardless of the particular topic. Their talk of “sound science” is truly Orwellian. Intrigued, I dug deeper and the result is this web site. I’ve gathered some of the most egregious examples below.
General Purpose Nonsense
- Sierra Club’s Real Truth – NOT
On Health Issues
- The King Report vies with the Colby Report for truly dreadful and dishonest.
- The CanWEA/AWEA Health Review is one step above the Colby Report, but still qualifies for inclusion here.
- The Colby Report, aka Chatham-Kent, was a real disservice to public health.
- The Salford Report never even looked very hard.
- This RES Canada Advertisement looked good (of course) until you took the time to actually read their references.
- Dr. McCunney hadn’t bothered to read his reference.
- Maine’s health study- part 2, by Dora Mills, certainly pleased her boss.
- Maine’s Health Study – part 1, by Dora Mills, was an example of haste and waste.
- NHMRC Rapid Review – part 2, in Australia, never even looked
- NHMRC Rapid Review – part 1, in Australia, just a taste of what was to come.
On CO2 Emission Issues
- How did the New South Wales Standing Committee #5 arrive at their conclusion?
- Where did NREL’s 20% by 2030 Report get their CO2 numbers?
- More problems with NREL’s 20% by 2030.
On Property Values
- Canning and Simmons’ report is truly dreadful, terribly dishonest.
- Hoen and Wiser’s report has some major problems, not quite as bad as Canning.
You might be wondering, what gives me the right to make these critiques. I guess I’ve got as much right as the next guy, and I stand upon my research and conclusions. Take a look at my post on Carl Sagan’s writing about the scientific method if you want to get an idea of my credentials.
Here’s a quick summary of how I view the scientific method, slightly adapted for evaluating wind energy issues.
- Scientific “facts” are based on careful observation, experimentation, documentation and verification. Not on assertions, no matter who they come from, nor how popular they are, nor how obvious they seem.
- Scientific “truth” is an oxymoron. Anyone who uses any form of the words “science” and “prove” in the same sentence has an agenda that does not value honesty. Science never claims to know the complete and final truth about anything. There’s always more that we can learn. If the uncertainty is thought to be small or insignificant we might generally consider something “true”, but we must always be open to new information.
- There are times when we must act in the face of uncertainty, but we should never pretend that it doesn’t exist, and if important we should try to lessen the uncertainty as best we can.
- All observations constitute possible evidence, and must not be arbitrarily discarded. Some of those observations are weak (i.e. anecdotal) and others are strong (i.e. careful experimental). If enough weak observations are carefully gathered they become stronger.
- Normally it is the job of the person making an assertion, like “wind turbines lessen CO2 emissions”, to use scientific techniques to verify that assertion. Those making an assertion cannot claim it is “true until disproved”.
- The main exception to this is where the assertion involves human health or the environment, where most first-world nations have adopted the precautionary principle – if there’s any reason to suspect harm, you stop doing what you are doing until the question is settled in a scientific manner.
- Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. You cannot claim something is false just because you have no evidence that it is true – especially if you haven’t looked very hard.
Wikipedia has good articles on both “scientific method” and “precautionary principle”, obviously with more details than I have room for here. If you have major disagreements with any of these, as opposed to just quibbles, maybe you ought to think about it some more. None of these are controversial.