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Experts?

Calvin Martin and Eric Bibler respond to the “experts” in “To pee or not to pee on peer review?”

May I make the following modest proposal:

I suggest we visit Mr. Kimmell at his next press conference — and bring a five pound hammer. I suggest that we insist that Mr. Kimmell allow us to smash the fingers of his right hand against the lectern, where he is speaking in front of the assembled ladies and gentlemen of the press, taking care not to break any bones, which might provide obvious evidence of “harm.”

Then I propose that we observe Mr. Kimmell’s reaction to this “mere annoyance.”

If Mr. Kimmell protests — even if he howls — we will inform him that although we “sympathize” with his distress, we respectfully ask that he get hold of himself and refrain from unnecessary “hysteria” over his condition. Regrettably, there is no “peer reviewed study” to confirm any harm and “smashed finger syndrome” is not an established medical condition. So, therefore, there is no harm.

(Read the entire article by clicking on the image.)

The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy. — Alex Carey

At last night’s Wind Energy Research Panel, Dr. Kaplan adopted the new “experts” report on the health impacts of wind turbines.  Yep, he swallowed it whole after having given it a “whole evening’s” thought. In his words, “I’m pretty much one with it…”  He also went on to admit the financials were “over his head” and that, amazingly, the financials “didn’t matter to him.”  Essentially he says he would be fine with bigger electric bills or higher taxes if the project would “help save the globe.”  Is  Kaplan idealistic and out of touch with the reality of green politics and what the huge amounts of federal and state money involved might do to corrupt decision makers and the political process?  Will all the good citizens of Lenox be as happy to pay a “bit more” to wreck our ridge and erect turbines? Perhaps someone should buy him a copy of Rampton and Stauber’s book!

When Kaplan was pressed about his third change of opinion in his last three appearances, he strongly maintained he hadn’t changed his opinion.  ”I don’t believe the town of Lenox will vote for turbines within a mile of peoples houses…. and… I would not advise a patient to live within a half a mile” of a wind turbine.”

Meanwhile the Berkshire Eagle has published an editorial which also displays a lack of critical thinking as they unconditionally drink the Ken Kimmel Kool-Aid contained in the new “Wind Turbine Health Impact Study: Report of Independent Expert Panel”

This is an insult to the panelists, who are not affiliated with the state or any wind energy groups, pro or con. Unlike foes they have no ax to grind.”

Give us a break!! First off it is obnoxious that the cowardly, anonymous author of this editorial INSULTS the good people who are working hard to raise their families in a healthy place and who are  opposed to or concerned about the unwise development of wind turbines here on the watershed on Lenox Mountain or in Berkshire County as “unconditional opponents of wind” and “fear mongers.”   The Berkshire Eagle writer should have, at a minimum, spent a minute or two with Google before letting fly with ludriciously uninformed opinion like this:  (Who knows, maybe they will use the recent Wikipedia blackout for an excuse for their ignorance of the facts.)  It is lazy and unprofessional to foist uniformed opinions on your readership.  The community deserves better.

Let’s look closer at the facts:

On the state web site describing this trumped up panel of supposed experts there is a FAQ section:

5. How were panelists selected?

MassDEP collaborated with MDPH to develop a scope of work and then identified the types of scientific expertise that would be needed to assess wind turbine attributes and health concerns that have been expressed by some Massachusetts residents. Steps the agencies then took to create an independent panel included asking each potential member to tell us about their experience with wind turbines and what their views and/or positions on wind turbines and health effects were. The purpose of soliciting this information was to help ensure that panel members did not come into the process with any bias. Based on the answers provided, no member of the Wind Turbine Science Panel reported being directly or indirectly employed by or receiving funding from the wind turbine industry. In addition, no member of the panel expressed a particular position about wind turbines and health effects.

Are the panelists really unbiased?  Have these supposed experts really never formed an opinion on these important issues?  How can that be?  Well let’s look at three of the panel “experts”:

Dr. James Manwell — Industry Co-opted Engineer?

Jimmy Manwell (the most senior member of the panel) currently runs the Wind Energy Center at UMass.  Jimmy has spent his entire professional life working to promote wind energy.  As far as anyone can tell, It is not just a hobby for this guy, it has been his sole means of making money for the past 30 years. No angle is too small, for Pete’s sake, he is an author of a textbook on wind energy which he hawks to students at $100 each.

Jim Manwell’s salary is paid by taxpayers and 98 percent of Manwell’s Wind Center’s total income in the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2008 came from state funds according to Ben Storrow writing in the Hampshire Gazette. Also, according to Wind Center staff, in FY 2008, $873,000 of this funding came from the state’s Renewable Energy Trust (RET) and the remainder from the Department of Energy Resources andthe Division of Capital Asset Management. The RET is funded by a surcharge on commercial and residential utility bills. Yep, that’s our money.  What does he do with it?

Of the 42 feasibility studies of potential wind projects in Massachusetts conducted by Manwell’s office, all but a small fraction were endorsed by his work. Although there are at least 50 residents who today suffer from noise and health effects from turbines operating in Falmouth, Ma, there was no indication in the Manwell’s feasibility study that such effects would occur. Quotations from the RERL’s preliminary site assessment of the Falmouth project predicted that noise was not considered to be problematic.

“The site is removed from the more thickly settled areas of the town.” “Noise: Massachusetts state law does not allow a rise of greater than 10 dB above existing background levels at a property boundary (Massachusetts Air PollutionControl Regulations, Regulation 310 CMR 7.10), due to new activities at the site. This sound level is unlikely to be a reached in any case at any of the sites we examined. Furthermore, any eventual turbine will most likely be inaudible or minimally audible at the nearest residences.”

Dr Manwell’s prediction was plainly and disastrously wrong. Dr. Manwell’s research has been, and remains, the product of funding from the State of Mass. This
funding, in turn, has clearly been directed toward to development and establishment of wind energy in our state. The promotion of wind power in Massachusetts therefore is in the pecuniary interests of  Manwell’s research activities and renders his participation in the (supposedly unbiased) committee in collision with common sense — WindWise Massachusetts

He also actively solicits funds, equipment, etc from the industry:

Collaboration

The Wind Energy Center actively solicits industrial, academic, and other stakeholder partners with whom to advance wind energy research and education.

If you are interested in exploring how partnering the Wind Energy Center could advance your organization’s mission, please contact the Center Director, James F. Manwell.

Funding Opportunities

Support Wind Energy research and education in two ways:

1. In-kind contributions of equipment and/or software have been critical to our ongoing research and to educating tomorrow’s wind energy engineers. If you wish to explore this opportunity, please contact the Center Director, James F. Manwell.

As far as his representations to the DEP/DEC (and all of us citizens) about not having any preconceived opinions about wind turbine noise and health effects of wind turbines, even the simplest of Google search will turn up his writings on sound and wind turbines — which stretch back as early as 2002. No bias? No financial interest? How stupid do these people think we are?

Wind Power Advocate Interview:

A photo of Jim Manwell
Wind Power Advocate Interview: Jim Manwell, University of Massachusetts

Date: 11/10/2005

Q. You have been and continue to be active in New England wind energy development. What do you see happening with onshore wind implementation in the area in the next 5 years?

A. Development of onshore wind energy project is difficult in New England because of the NIMBY factor. I expect to see slow, steady progress in wind energy development over the next few years. As people see more turbines (and get used to them) and as the price of electricity increases, the pace may pick up a bit.

+++

Q. New England is the NIMBY capital of the United States, yet historically people in this region have been concerned with environmental quality. How do you see this playing out over the next 20 years?

A. Speaking as a native New Englander, that’s a tough assessment of us, but it may well be true! So far, much of the discussion about environmental quality has been abstract, and it has been harder to realize actual projects here than to talk about the wonders of renewable energy. The situation is actually more complex and perhaps fluid than it appears on the surface. There are many factions involved in the energy debate, and it is certainly possible that with increasing energy prices, weather effects that are linked to fossil fuels, the need for economic development in the region, and a change in administration, enough people may come over to the side of renewables that a great deal of activity could suddenly begin to take place.

Dr. Dora Mills — Doctor of Deception?

She hasn’t always kept her job…

As we know, the second senior member of the “experts” panel, Dora Mills, wrote a white paper for the state of Maine declaring the health benefits of wind turbines in 2009.

In my review I found no evidence in peer-reviewed medical and public health literature of adverse health effects from the kinds of noise and vibrations heard by wind turbines other than occasional reports of annoyances… Reviews found in peer reviewed journals of the possible health effects of low frequency noise have not found evidence of significant health effects —Dora Mills, June, 2009

Also in 2009, Dora was caught red handed (through a freedom of information act request) withholding two articles by Canadian researchers that raised concerns about health impacts of turbines.  An MD had asked for Dora’s support for a moratorium on wind development in Maine. The MD, Dr. Aniel wanted to wait until health issues could be  properly researched before making a decision to site turbines that could impact someone’s health and had asked Dora for help.

Dr. Dora? Well, our dear, Hippocratic oath loving Dr. Dora had just reviewed the two Canadian articles, including one that discussed the effects of low frequency noise, and discussed the articles with the Maine DEP. In an email to the Maine DEP, Mills wrote that “[t]here are no firm statements I could find from non-industry sources stating there are no adverse health effects from wind turbines…” Mills then, amazingly, told Commissioner Littell that she would not disclose this finding to the public.

And then, instead of sending she Dr. Aniel the two recent articles that might support Dr. Aniel’s efforts to protect the citizens’ health, Dora sent him older articles questioning the claim of health issues from wind turbines.  She also did not reference the Canadian articles in a document being prepared for the press.

Susan Santos, PH.D. — Minister of Propaganda?

If that were not enough nonsense, the panel’s “facilitator,” Susan Santos, holds a PhD in Risk Communications — in other words she is an expert in how to package the bad news in order to gain acceptance for an environmentally risky project.  She is the president and owner of Focus Group Communications (“Defining the way you communicate”) whose clients include such environmental giants as:

    • Alcoa Corporation
    • American Cyanamid
    • Arco Corporation
    • AT&T
    • Chemical Week
    • Chem Nuclear Systems Inc.
    • EXXON Chemicals
    • General Chemical Corporation
    • General Motors Corporation
    • Hampshire Chemical Corporation

A common source of frustration in many risk communications efforts involves the participation of the news media… Some conflict between risk communicators and journalists and other intermediaries is probably inevitable.  The key to understanding and avoiding these conflicts is to be aware of the differences between risk communicators and journalists.  Possibly the most overarching difference involves information access.  Risk communicators work to control access to information while journalists seek to gain access to information. — Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Risk Communications

Yea! Finally we have found a true expert. Susan is an expert in the modern day, science based version of propaganda.  She’s the one who crafted the message and is running the press conferences. Apparently she has expertly snookered the Berkshire Eagle editorial writer along with 90% of the press in Massachusetts.  Probably not very difficult, for an expert.

Now add in a dash of secrecy for our super secret turbine sauce:

10. Are the panel’s meetings open to the public?

No. The Attorney General’s Office has determined that the panel is not subject to the Open Meeting Law and may conduct its business without convening public meetings. The agencies met with the panelists at their first meeting to make sure that they understood the scope of work for the panel…


The next, and most likely final, meeting of the Lenox Wind Energy Research Panel will be 7pm, Thursday, 1/26/2012. Large portions of the report will be in final draft and the meeting is likely to be contentious.  Perhaps another PLM supporter will blow his lid.  It’s always great political theater and we can use everyone’s support.  Mark your calendars.  Invite your friends.


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