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6 Comments

  1. Very well said. I am an engineer as well. I understand from where Bill Rogers speaks.

    Side note: RPS = Renewable Porfolio Standard. We are suffering under this here in Washington State. As Bill points out, we already had a substantial amount of renewable power generation with all the large dams along the Columbia River and elsewhere. But they don’t count. What counts are increases in hydro generation capacity (small efficiency improvements), wind and solar. Of course, wind and solar generation is favored with take or ‘pay anyway’ provisions in the law. Due to this, we have had incidents of near grid instability on windy days in Spring (with high river flows) when there was too much power (that must be taken!) . The grid was controlled (barely) by engineers putting their careers and billions of dollars of equipment at risk. The reward for the engineers was their regular paycheck and a few ‘atta boys’. The makers of this policy causing this mess get to skate free, and blame the engineers if anything does goes wrong.

  2. Thank you Bill.

    This is why in the debates between folks, my opinion leans toward those whose name goes on the legal paper, who must be prepared to legally defend every word, as opposed to those who get to make wild and unproven claims of any type and kind without having to defend themselves or their statements in court. Policy wonks get to blow a scam society’s direction without having to prove what they say.

    Wind and Solar are SCAMS. A way to extract extra funds from folks for something they don’t need and which will not fix what they really need. I have long viewed the whole global warming thing as an excuse to extract much more money from people for the exact same product.

    While the science on AWG might even be unassailable (I not sure about this), once I understood where the money was flowing I could see that those selling stuff were not at all interested in actually reducing CO2. They were interesting in selling as many devices as they could, as many “solutions” (smart grid) as they could before anyone figured out they were paying a whole lot of money for something that would be a failure. An establishment scam.

    I have lived in rolling blackouts. Do you know how many electronics need to be replaced when voltage spikes and browns?
    So, what’s our shopping list for poor lonely companies that only need to make a dollar.

    Let’s see, Windmills (Ka-ching)
    Solar panels (Ka-ching)
    Biofuels (Ka-ching)
    Smart Grid (Ka-ching)
    constantly replaced electronics (ka-ching)
    overpriced power (Ka-Ching)

    I mean what’s not to like? (sarcasm alert).

  3. Rod – thanks for pulling this out of the comment thread and giving it the prominence it deserves and needs. Bill – thanks for putting in the time to write this. It’s so important to know just what the signoffs mean for engineers (and businesses!). I have never had anywhere near that level of responsibility; I’ve just been a beneficiary of all the infrastructure that professionals like you create and maintain. Thank you!

    1. @ Bill, I agree – this is a very thoughtful post. I wanted to paste two paragraphs from my own response to Bill only because they help frame why social science research still has “value” even if it’s not as rigorous as Bill’s legal testimony:

      “Yes, the type of social science research that I do is both more difficult, and less precise, than the work that you do. I have had the pleasure (or displeasure) of doing legal testimony before, and then it was as you said: every fact is double checked, every word examined, every paragraph edited, and usually in a team process. If social science had to hold up to that scrutiny I’d bet most (maybe even more than 90 percent) wouldn’t cut it. Why? Well, for one, the methods used are often qualitative, not quantitative, and my own favorite method is not meta-analysis (what I’d call this avian study and my greenhouse gas study) but field research, which is messier still. Second, doing testimony and fact checking it your way is expensive and very time consuming. Most universities and departments wouldn’t be able to afford it, after all we’re in the public sector, not the private. Third, in some ways designing and engineering are “simpler” than trying to decipher why the US fails to transition away from fossil fuels, or to understand some paradox involving what we think society should be doing, but that it isn’t. This is why I often tell my students that doing social science research is like trying to nail jelly to the wall.

      That said, I appreciate your professional position, and I understand that much of my (and the research of others) wouldn’t “cut it,” so to speak, under your standards. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since social science is usually judged according to different standards. For instance, the motivation for my avian study in the first place was a sort of “Everyone talks about birds and wind energy, but I wonder if other energy systems have similar impacts that nobody has talked about …” It started with that simple puzzle, or question, and it led me to look into it as best I could (perhaps not as good as others like yourself could have done). But I love that about social science: I identified a problem, put together a method (however narrow or flawed it may have been), collected the data, wrote up what I found, and contributed to the discussion. I think having this type of “experimental” method where anybody can do research has its merits, and as long as one is explicit in its limitations and assumptions, as I try hard to be, we end up learning more (as a community) than we otherwise would. For example, before my study nobody even thought about birds and other energy systems. Now, this discussion and its 80+ posts are proof that they are.”

      1. I find it interesting that while your premise “Everyone talks about birds and wind energy, but I wonder if other energy systems have similar impacts that nobody has talked about …” is a general question, I am curious as to why nuclear power plants were singled out for comparison when obviously fossil fueled and solar thermal plants have all the same issues only on a larger more destructive scale. I see similar bias when people compare the time frame for building a 1.7 Gigawatt nuclear power plant as being too long but comparing it to a 7.5 megawatt wind generator instead of the 680 it would require to produce about the same amount of power.

      2. “That said, I appreciate your professional position, and I understand that much of my (and the research of others) wouldn’t “cut it,” so to speak, under your standards. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since social science is usually judged according to different standards.”

        I think you should reexamine that last sentence. Many of the horrible decisions and waste that have occurred over the last decade happened precisely because social science is not held to high standards.

        It could be held to higher standards, but the people setting the standards don’t bother. I’m sure this is beneficial to the folks who like to have the facts twisted and obfuscated for their personal benefit, but make no mistake, it is not doing society any favors.

        Let me put this in definite terms:
        ========================
        Your profession’s lax standards are doing real harm to society on a massive scale. Millions have died because of the lies and careless errors which slip through.
        ========================

        I admire that you are here having a discussion with us. I believe that you are exploring the possibility that you should strive for a higher standard in your own work. I think this may be difficult for you to face.

        The fact is, and I say this as both an engineer (aerospace and electrical) and an attorney (St. Bar of TX since 1992), using social science standards to make decisions regarding the infrastructure of society is a formula for negligent killing, or manslaughter on a massive scale.

        Folks like to say, “Oh, it’s only money. So what if things are a little more expensive.” Well, the folks at the bottom of the social ladder aren’t that fortunate. In the aggregate, small increases in cost add up to deaths at the bottom of the social/economic ladder, and the air pollution which would have been eliminated if engineers rather than policy wonks set energy policy kills everybody, regardless of income.

        Our politicians accept reports containing reasonable sounding conclusions from policy wonks, which would get most engineers fired. It’s no excuse that the politicians don’t know any better. They’re **depending** on the wonks to supply them with reliable information — except when they’re paying them to lie and reach a predetermined conclusion despite the facts.

        When a wonk writes a report to reach a predetermined conclusion, his guilt rises from manslaughter to at least reckless killing and probably all the way to knowingly killing people. At least, as a social scientist, paid to examine the effects of social policy decisions, he should realize that lying (paid advocacy, by any other name) about policy issues will lead to inefficiencies and needless deaths.

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