Monday, February 21, 2011

It Made the Front Page! It has to be True!

The most frustrating thing about discussing our energy future is poor journalism. Journalists are rarely experts in any field other than journalism. So they rely on other sources like prestigious scientific journals for information about important new ground breaking discoveries. The problem with important new ground breaking discoveries is about 90% of the time they are wrong. Novel new approaches to solve previously unsolvable problems or predict previously unpredictable events should be viewed with skepticism.

Science progresses in baby steps. There are a few, very few, ground breaking papers that stand alone as "the" ultimate source of information on any subject. Normally a ground breaking paper is gradually picked apart, the good kept and the bad thrown away, eventually resulting in something that represents truth in science.

Most lay readers are aware that news should be verified. In science though, that verification is more difficult to find, it may take years. If you follow this blog you know I had a little rant a while back about Eric Steig and the Antarctic warming trend that may not exist. That was an extreme example of the press jumping on something that was not all it was meant to be. Now there is a new one that you can read about. On Storms, Warming, Caveats and the Front Page is an article by Andy Revkin which talks better about the subject than I can. Neither of these two papers are total garbage. Both offer interesting new ways to look at things, they just did not get it right the first time out of the chute. That's the way science works.

While this blog is about hydrogen in our energy future, climate change is one of the drivers that impacts our energy plans. Climate change is real enough to be a concern, though I doubt the high end predictions are correct. This may sound a little grim, but if the high end predictions are correct we are screwed anyway. So planning for climate change requires pragmatic actions for what we can impact, not crazy action that probably won't work anyway.

Hydrogen has the same kind of bad press. Many years ago Exxon had a ride at Epcot dedicated to energy options. As you might guess, Exxon was a touch biased toward fossil fuels. They really gave hydrogen a hard time. At that time, the 1980's, a good deal of what they said was true. Time changes and technology advances, so little of what they said is true now. Their words linger. So hydrogen has to overcome unrealistic criticism just like nuclear power. Rational thinking and pragmatism walk hand in hand. That is why I write stuff on this blog, to promote rational thinking. I don't have all the answers, I just have a bullshit detector that helps.

No comments: