Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Liars, damned liars, and Ecowatch

The American Burying Beetle, Nicrophorus americanus-- we'll call it the ABB -- is a nifty creature. Like all carrion beetles, it and its mate locate the carcass of a small dead animal, bury it, and lay their eggs in an adjacent tunnel. The larvae feed on the decaying carcass for a week, pupate, and then emerge to fly off. The beetles used to range widely across the eastern and midwestern US, but have been much reduced due to habitat loss, and are critically endangered. (Picture and range map from Wikipedia)

Anyway, Ecowatch, the self-described "nation’s leading environmental platform", reported on Thursday

Senior Officials Accused of Skewing Science to Benefit Keystone XL Pipeline
This refers to a case in Oklahoma, where officials of the Fish and Wildlife service apparently manipulated the range map for the ABB. The FWS report is here. Allegedly, two officials produced a range map that was not based on county lines, was inconsistent with FWS policy to err on the side of the endangered species, and chose a model that was incompatible with observations. The resulting range map was about 25% smaller in area. The two scientists published their work in the peer-reviewed literature, and it seems to this observer much close to the observations than the county based map (how can FWS claim the species is present in a county when there are no observations for that county and no suitable habitat in that county?) Nonetheless, there are established procedures, they deviated from established procedures, and I don't dispute that for that reason it was reasonable to find their actions
intentionally circumvented policy that compromised scientific integrity of the endangered species program in Oklahoma, and therefore constitute scientific misconduct
So what's the problem? The problem is that this relates only to Oklahoma. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will not pass through Oklahoma, or even Kansas, the state contiguous to the north. It runs from the Canadian border to Steele City Nebraska (actually, quite close to my home). Another pipeline section, called the Keystone Cushing extension, runs down to Cushing, OK, close to if not through ABB habitat. But that section is already built and operating, and has been for three years. And the southern branch of Keystone XL. from Cushing to the Gulf Coast, was already approved, has already been built, and is also operating. According to Energy and Environment News, the controversial FWS report was not used in the assessment process for the southern branch. And it has nothing at all to do with the Northern branch.

Nonetheless, in a piece of clearly intentional deception, Ecowatch showed a map of the (non-contiguous) Nebraska population of the ABB in their article.

In fact, the flawed FWS report has no bearing at all on whether or not the northern branch of Keystone XL, the only unbuilt part of the pipeline, is approved.

Having previous spent a lot of time debating Young-Earth Creationists, I'm well aware of how zealots will misrepresent the facts 'for the greater good' (as they see it). Environmental activists are equally guilty of the same sort of behavior, and this incident epitomizes how they will publish deliberate deception in order to achieve their ends.

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