Remember when the Bush administration was distorting science to support their policy preferences? Well, the Obama administration, in this area as in so many others, is mimicking the Bush administration’s worst habits. They are issuing rosy “analyses” of the oil in the gulf, supposedly “reviewed” by scientists within and outside the Federal government. Strange thing, all of the named “reviewers” deny ever reviewing the report. Meanwhile the reports conclusions re being disputed by independent scientists. Dan Froomkin reports:
In responding to the growing furor over the public release of a scientifically dubious and overly rosyfederal report about the fate of the oil that BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA director Jane Lubchenco has repeatedly fallen back on one particular line of defense — that independent scientists had given it their stamp of approval.
Back at the report’s unveiling on August 4, Lubchenco spoke of a “peer review of the calculations that went into this by both other federal and non-federal scientists.” On Thursday afternoon, she told reporters on a conference call: “The report and the calculations that went into it were reviewed by independent scientists.” The scientists, she said, were listed at the end of the report.
“What we were trying to do was give the Incident Command something that they could at least start with,” said Ed Overton, an emeritus professor of environmental science at Louisiana State University. “But these are estimates. There’s a difference between data and estimates.”
Overton said NOAA asked him: “How much did I think would evaporate?” He responded with some ideas, but noted: “There’s a jillion parameters which are not very amenable to modeling.”
He said he didn’t know what NOAA did with his input. “I pretty much did my estimates and let that go,” he said.
And Overton bridled at the way the report was presented — with very precise percentages attributed to different categories. For instance, the report declared that 24 percent of the oil had been dispersed.
“I didn’t like the way they say 24 percent. We don’t know that,” Overton said. “They could have said a little bit more than a quarter, a little bit less than a quarter. But not 24 percent; that’s impossible.”
Michel Boufadel is on the list, but told HuffPost he did not review the report or its calculations. And the Temple University environmental engineer also said its specificity was inappropriate.
“When you look at that dispersed amount, and it says 8 percent chemically dispersed and 16 percent naturally dispersed, there’s a high degree of uncertainty here,” he said. “Naturally dispersed could be 6 or it could be 26.”
Ron Goodman, a 30-year veteran of Exxon’s Canadian affiliate who now runs his own consulting company, was incorrectly listed on the report with an academic affiliation: “U. of Calgary.” He is only an adjunct there. He said he responded to a series of questions from NOAA — “and that was it.”
And once the report came out, he said, “I was concerned that the amount dispersed was very low. I think it was higher by maybe a factor of two or three.”
But all the scientists on that list contacted by the Huffington Post for comment this week said the exact same thing: That although they provided some input to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), they in no way reviewed the report, and could not vouch for it.
The skimpy, four-page report dominated an entire news cycle earlier this month, with contented administration officials claiming it meant that three fourths of the oil released from BP’s well was essentially gone — evaporated, dispersed, burned, etc. But independent scientists are increasingly challenging the report’s findings and its interpretation — and they are expressing outrage that the administration released no actual data or algorithms to support its claims.
HuffPost reached seven of the 11 scientists listed on the report. One declined to comment at all, six others had things to say.
In addition to disputing Lubchenco’s characterization of their role, several of them actually took issue with the report itself.
In particular, they refuted the notion, as put forth by Lubchenco and other Obama administration officials, that the report was either scientifically precise or an authoritative account of where the oil went.
The Obama officials officials copied the Bush officials in respect, the loaded their “independent reviewers” with individuals with close links to the oil industry:
Also worth noting: Four of the “independent scientists” listed on the report work for the oil industry, have until recently, and/or work for consulting companies that do business with the oil industry.
Strange, isn’t it, that the Obama administration wants to run the fall campaign against the Bush administration?
August 20th, 2010