It's Time To Rethink The Value Of PhD
Distrusting the "other" doctors advice on engine fuels
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
About a century ago, the tobacco industry responded to growing health concerns by using medical doctors in their advertising to promote smoking. Executives at tobacco companies duped the public by relying on the near universal trust in physicians to keep the world addicted to their poison. The outcome was three decades of pseudo medical research and MD endorsements to pretend that cigarettes were not harmful.
Tobacco advertising that promoted doctor-endorsements appeared in all consumer media as well as leading medical publications like "The New England Journal of Medicine" and "The Journal of the American Medical Association."
According to Robert K. Jackler, MD, Sewall Professor and Chair, otolaryngology - head and neck surgery at Stanford University Medical Center, "Cigarette companies also wanted doctors to smoke their brands."* To this end, tobacco companies participated in medical conventions by sponsoring doctors' lounges and giving away free cigarettes. At least one cigarette manufacturer created an internal Medical Relations Division to find medical personnel that could substantiate their illogical advertising claims. In the case of RJ Reynolds, their Medical Relations Division was housed in the offices of their advertising agency.
The petroleum oil industry, the other nefarious harbinger of death, has taken many pages from tobacco's advertising playbook, especially the use of doctors to support their invented claims and pseudo scientific research. The big difference is Big Oil's misuse of the "other" kind of doctors to advance their misinformation. Big Oil likes those with a PhD or a JD after their name. When they find an individual with both a PhD and JD after their name it is better than striking gold.
I'm not against people taking money from various interests to further their commercial goals; I'm just against the misuse of someone's academic or non-related credentials to make didactic statements about issues they know little or nothing about. The oil industry, like the tobacco industry before them, uses the public's virtual worship of the title "doctor" to try to silence any criticism. Unfortunately for the health and well-being of the world, it's working pretty good for Big Oil, even though the PhD and JD "doctors" they're using seem to be devoid of any practical knowledge of ethanol production, internal combustion engines, or day-to-day business.
I think it's more than an interesting coincidence that PhD is the abbreviation for "doctor of philosophy" - the word "philosophy" being the operative word. In other words, they may understand the notion of the subject matter, but not its hands-on application. Consider if you will the British legal system's two types of lawyers: the solicitor and the barrister. And even in the medical field there is the difference between MDs who are consulting doctors and those who are practicing surgeons. Or another way to look at it is the difference between those who sit in the stands to watch a baseball game, and those on the field who can hit a 90 mph fastball into the center field stands.
What I'm getting at is that the reverence over someone having a PhD or JD after their name should be tempered, a lot. Or maybe a new title is in order, such as ExD: doctor of experience. This way we would go to a PhD to hear the philosophy of how something might work, but then rely on an ExD to learn how it really works.
In the years that The Auto Channel has been actively advocating alternative fuels (particularly ethanol), we've come across a number of quack** PhDs and JDs who oppose alternative fuels (particularly ethanol). The opposing focus on ethanol is because ethanol is the primary competition to petroleum oil fuels. Some time ago, when compressed natural gas appeared to be the serious up-and-coming alt fuel, the oil industry made CNG a bigger target with its lies and exaggerations - although CNG is ironically one of their own derivative products.
Now that no automaker in America regularly manufactures CNG-powered vehicles, and they've coerced Federal and state governments to virtually outlaw the conversion of gasoline engines to use CNG, the oil industry feels safe in promoting their ugly step-child and they go hog-wild in finding more natural gas. It's literally a fracking mess.
On the other hand, the oil industry and their quack spokespeople generally don't oppose electric vehicles because they know that electric vehicles are no real threat to the oil industry. It may become a real threat in the 22nd or 23rd century, but for the coming decades of this century electric passenger vehicles are simply an expensive curiosity.
I've written to and about several of the oil industry's quacks, such as Richard Rahn, Barry Ritholtz, George Banks, David Pimentel, and Tim Searchinger. Of these five, only "Doctor" Ritholtz has responded. His response was to ask me six questions, and after I sent him my reply of 16 pages of answers I never heard back from him - even though he was supposed to provide his own answers to the same six questions in order to explain his anti-ethanol position.
But I just came across a new "person of interest," as the law enforcement authorities say; well, new to me at least. This person is Bernard L. Weinstein. I think he may be the most heavily credentialed of the oil industry spokespeople that I've ever seen. You can do your own Google search, but when I tell you that this guy's academic credentials are impressive, I mean that they are knock-down drop-dead out-of-the-universe impressive.
The problem is, I don't think he knows what he's talking about when it comes to ethanol, alt fuels, and energy...at least as far as I can judge from reading an article he wrote for Investor's Business Daily in August 2016. The title of his article is "It's Time To Rethink The Ethanol Mandate." This, of course, is how I arrived at the title to this article, as indicated at the top. (Doc Weinstein's story can be found at http://www.investors.com/politics/commentary/its-time-to-rethink-the-ethanol-mandate)
As with the articles written by the other five "doctors" that I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, Mr. Weinstein's article is very troubling. It's troubling to me as a true business expert and automotive chronicler; it's troubling to our country as we try to free ourselves from foreign oil domination and right our sinking economic ship; and it should be very troubling to the academic institutions that he works for.
Least among the troubles are those I feel. Since I know the truth about the issues he addresses, I am only troubled because of patriotism. I can always ease my suffering by writing an exposé like this and burying my sorrow in a chilled delicious glass of Yankee-rita (a margarita made with corn alcohol instead of tequila). Our country and Mr. Weinstein's academic institutions truly have something to worry about.
If our country follows the "philosophies" set forth in Weinstein's IBD story then we will be kept chained to foreign oil, grow our national debt, and continue to allow the oil industry to force poison down our throats...and I'm not just talking about figurative poison, I mean real deadly poison.
For the institutions that Mr. Weinstein is aligned with, they have a charlatan on-staff. I understand that he wouldn't be the first person rich-in-academic-degrees, but poor-in-practical-experience to grace the halls of educational edifices, however what it ultimately says about those schools is that their courses are not worth the paper their degrees are printed on.
The only people to make out well from the an article like Mr. Weinstein's IBD story is the oil industry. They get to buy a man's life-work for a measly sum and then turn their collective back on him when someone like myself takes him to task...and they will abandon him, as they have with all the others they've used. Of course, destroying the reputation of a man like Mr. Weinstein is irrelevant to the oil industry because they are responsible for the actual deaths of millions of humans around the world. What's one more professor to the devils that inculcated two world wars and several major regional armed conflicts?
Here's what he said in his IBD story:
Mr. Weinstein states that one of the problems with the Biofuel mandate is that oil refiners and importers often have to buy credits in order to comply with their blending requirements set forth in the biofuel mandate, and that the price of these credits has jumped markedly over the past year, which will further depress the profitability of those oil industry companies that are struggling with a global glut of gasoline and diesel. To begin with, the credits are only necessary because of the oil industry's financial inducements to our politicians to ensure that gasoline became and remained our primary engine fuel. There was no practical reason for gasoline to become our primary engine fuel (as I've covered in many other published articles), and there is no reason for it to be our primary fuel now. All modern passenger vehicles in the United States (and many other countries) can use ethanol as its primary fuel. At the most, vehicles manufactured since the mid-1990's would require nothing more than a computer software update to permit an easy and safe transition to E50 or higher ethanol-gasoline blends. Such adoption would immediately make it possible to meet all emission requirements anticipated for the next few decades, right now.
The idea of buying "credits" is as despicable as paying outrageous scalper fees for entertainment tickets, or outrageous dealer-packs on desirable cars, or egregious prices on popular illicit drugs. Having to worry that ticket scalpers, disreputable car dealers, and dope pushers will have their profits shaved should never be of concern to the public. Biofuel mandate credits are simply a scammy way to let the oil industry off the hook for a century of poison. If we're gonna have a biofuel mandate for health reasons, or for economic reasons, or for environmental reasons, or for all of these reasons combined, then mandate requirements should be MANDATE REQUIREMENTS.
No, Mister Dope Peddler, it's not okay for you to sell cocaine to elementary school children, regardless of how much money you donate to the school lunch program. Get it?
Then Mr. Weinstein goes to the banal bromide that "research has shown that (ethanol-gasoline) blends above 10% can damage car engines and fuel systems for millions of vehicles on the road today." On the contrary, Doctor, research has shown that the vast overwhelming majority of vehicles on the road today are unharmed by ethanol-gasoline blends above 10%. And global on-road use of higher ethanol-gasoline blends have proven the research to be correct. What's more, damage that could be done to the relatively minor number of vehicles that are not ethanol compatible can be overcome with minor parts replacements that can be accomplished during routine maintenance. And, to top it all off, no one - not even me - has suggested that we remove ethanol-free gasoline from the marketplace, so for them what can afford to own a beautiful classic/antique car that rarely gets used, they will always have a fuel they are more comfortable with.
Mr. Weinstein moves on to hiding behind the newly-minted lies that ethanol is having limited effect on greenhouse gas emissions. This absurd claim is as easily defeated as simply looking-up. That's right, go to any large city in America that suffered from heavy smog, and look up. That blue you see on a cloudless day is the sky. If you land at LAX Airport and look north on a cloudless day you will see something that looks like mountains. They are mountains. Before the mid-1990's you would very, very rarely ever see the Hollywood Hills.
To clarify this issue, in order for the reduced benefit claims to be leveled against ethanol a concoction of irrelevant rationales have to be assumed. An example of the attempt to denigrate ethanol was the report released in mid-August by another quack professor, John DeCicco. Although DeCicco's August claims were nothing new for him (he's made the same claims earlier), he was again soundly rebutted by reports, such as those from MichBio and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The concoction of irrelevant rationales needed to vilify ethanol includes everything involved before, during and after production of ethanol. But if you're going to add in everything and anything related to ethanol in order to undermine it's effectiveness in reducing greenhouse gases, then you have to do the same to gasoline and petroleum diesel by adding in anything and everything related to its production - and this would have to include all the wars, all the protections of shipping, all the manufacture of war materiel, all the environmental disasters, and all the acts of terrorism.
Why does a man with so many academic accomplishments not readily know and understand this?
Mr. Weinstein next resorts to criticizing ethanol for causing water and food prices to rise. He utilizes a ridiculous numerical figure for how much water is required to produce ethanol. I guess no one bothered to inform this professor of economics that The World Bank long ago retracted their original statement that food price increases were due to ethanol production (it was their initial report that begat the rising food price lies). And I guess that no one informed Mr. Weinstein that most of the water required for ethanol production (the growing of the base crops) comes from rain. And if he's going to use a government report to diminish the greenhouse gas benefits of ethanol, then he should rely on another study from the same government that states that water needed for ethanol production has decreased significantly in the last 20 years, and that water requirements for ethanol is just slightly more than the water requirements to produce gasoline.
It's one thing for someone like Robert Bryce to continue clinging to the outdated, debunked information that he included in his junk book "Gusher Of Lies," but there's no excuse for Doc Weinstein to do so in a brand new August 2016 report.
The water issue naturally flows into the fertilizer issue (pun intended) because that's the flow of the sewerage that comes from the mouths of the oil industry's PR firms. Yes, there is a problem with the fertilizer that flows into and out of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. But not all that fertilizer comes from corn growing. Lots and lots of runoff comes from growing other crops - Weinstein must know that other crops are grown in the mid-west, don't you think?
In addition, lots of fertilizer runoff comes from the nearly 10,000 golf courses located in the states that border, or have rivers that flow into, the Mississippi River. Does America really need so many golf courses? C'mon it's just a game, who needs it?
Then you have all the residential, commercial, and academic properties that use fertilizers for their green areas. So unless Mr. Weinstein is a great lover of Iowa wine (yeech), and therefore is seeking to protect it, how can he ignore all these other contributors to the fertilizer problem.
And how is it possible for Mr. Weinstein to not know that all the algae that grows in the Gulf of Mexico from the fertilizer runoff could be turned into ethanol...enough ethanol that it might supply the entire needs of the country? And it doesn't even need rain water!
Unless Bernard Weinstein and his related institutions are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the oil industry for his endorsement there is no reason or excuse for him to write his IBD article. As I've written in a previous article, this kind of ignorant endorsement makes a mockery of our academic institutions.
** I'm not suggesting that these PhDs and JDs have phony academic credentials, but I question their capability to do anything other than express general opinions.