Saturday, April 19, 2008

'Green' Oil?

Probably the best oxymoron I've ever heard! But that is genuinely a term used in this interesting article from TechNewsWorld.

Whilst we are rapidly running out of sources of sweet light crude oil, our little planet has a surfeit of heavy crude, which is difficult and expensive to make easy use of. So the development of a process that turns heavy crude into useful light oil sounds like a major breakthrough, and could well extend the time that humanity has to continue to utilise petroleum based products as the primary fuel of our modern way of living.

Be interesting to understand just just what potential EnviROI such a process has though.

"Genoil considers its process that converts heavy oil into light oil as environmentally sound. Lifschultz tells me, "Genoil's upgrading technology not only converts heavy oil into light oil, but also removes over 90 percent of the sulfur and a majority of the nitrogen which cause greenhouse gases that pollute the environment. In that sense, Genoil makes the oil green, or at least greener.""

But to describe oil as 'green'! Sorry, that's one of the worst attempts at greenwash I've ever seen. In fact its complete boll**ks!

Of wolves and moose .....

... a fascinating article on the delicate balance between the wolf and moose populations on Isle Royale on Lake Superior's north-western side; reported by the National Examiner. As neither species was indigenous to the Archipelago it has been a fascinating ongoing biological study site for decades.

Well worth a read as it clearly indicates just what a delicate balance there is between conflicting species. Until the wolves arrived over an ice bridge, the moose population expanded so rapidly that they almost overgrazed the islands and starved to death. Perhaps its an example that could mirror what may happen as mankind's population continues to expand at an ever increasing rate?

Been edited out on Wicked Pedia?

Seems that 'unfair' editing, moderation and censorship are quite the norm on Wikipedia too, as this from the National Post points out.

"The Wikipedia site in this way has become a paragon of modern propaganda, operating under the illusion of Internet openness and respect for democratic process, while in reality inhabiting a fantasy world in which up is down and words mean whatever you want them to mean."

Pretty damning! Interesting that the author permitted Wikidpedia 'editors' to post a rebuttal on the National Post blog without moderation, or deletion! And there are some good reasons not to use your real name on Wikipedia too!

I have to confess that I've personally had experience of additions/edits on wikipedia being removed. In my case, simply because the so-called 'experts' do not believe that solar dehumidifiers are actual errrmm, dehumidifiers. The fact that they work waaaayyyy better than mains powered dehumidifiers seems to escape their attention. But, if it is not a bit of equipment that blows air over a condenser to condense out water vapour, then it is not a dehumidifier! And no discussion permitted, they even edited out my discussion posts!

What at first sight appears to be open and public isn't necessarily so! Censorship, moderation and editing appear to be the norm, even in the allegedly 'open' world of t'internet.

Let me tell you what I.. er.. you think

Prequel: Suggesting a new form of journalistic/editorial action for when something factual but deemed 'unsuitable' by some gets changed to suit agenda pressures: it gets 'harraBINNED'.

I haven't mentioned this 'til now as it honestly seemed like an April Fool, but as it has got as far as Nature*:

Heated row over cooling article

Depending on where you read, the BBC has either not commented, or seen merit in brevity to the point of being a tad terse, as evidenced in the explanatory quote here.

I have had my eyebrow cocked over this since the first 'outing' a few days ago, if only having seen the extent of the exchanges, the speed of replies, the response time of the changes... and that this whole tidy bundle went up verbatim courtesy, I presume, of the proud heroine.

But is there any confirmation yet, preferably from Mr. Harrabin, that this exchange - as shared on many blogs verbatim - is in fact what went down?

The facts of the original vs. subsequent posts are already beyond doubt, sadly, for public trust in news reporting and editorial standards when 'passionate agendas' are at involved. Sorry, I can live with the original and still think the weather is acting damn strange, so it don't need 'clarifying' for me. Just another piece in the jigsaw.

But if proven, I fear the work of those of a more balanced viewpoint just got heaps harder in advocating that if things are as bad as some are saying (I don't take phrases like 'The most serious threat to mankind...' from major international public figures lightly) then some mitigating actions should be embraced, when such activities between protagonists like a minor activist and major medium end up splattered around like this.

The more you seek to suppress inconvenient views (even, or especially if they are possibly ready to be found wanting), the more you will make them attractive. The best action, surely, is to share, and debate, openly. It is a concern that highly significant data is subject to the interpretation and vetting of such a limited number of persons of questionable analytical qualifications in a huge, objective-by-charter media outlet. Who else, beyond Mr. Harrabin, decides what is or is not put up, changed or removed? And what science training and ethical objectivity is in place to guide them on 'our' behalves? Especially if so easily swayed by a lone voice with a different take?

I freely confess I don't know yet what is going on with Probably Man-Worsened Negative Climate Change, but in making judgements I certainly don't feel too on board with the notion that what I am getting fed is being pre-adjusted by such as my national broadcaster... to help with my understanding in a 'better' direction.

I will be very interested in how this plays... or possibly fizzles out. But whatever happens, if as described I suspect it will lurk as a rather potent card should the reporting of significant state-backed media ever be cited in support of contentious science issues.

The Spectator - An emerging truth

ADDENDUM - I have given it a wee while, but regret that, at time of writing, my comment to Nature's blog has not passed muster, and hence I have now had to designate it 'Moderated Out'. I can think of no obvious reason from the content I provided, which is a pity. I also note that there are no other comments posted either at present.

BBC - NEW - Climate change debate - A reply, of sorts, if not a very convincing explanation, and not quite from the author, but a sort of one from a BBC Editor. Interestingly, vindication is drawn mainly from, surprise, the Nature article that seemed unable to carry my comment.

I have no desire to get into a climate argument, pro or con. I know what I know. And I know what a bunch of people think I need to believe, 'pro' and 'con'.

My greater concern is with how such as our national broadcaster dishes up its 'objective' news reports and, more critically, how these get received by its audience... from those ready to pounce to those who could honestly give a monkeys. So, do I believe a word of this 'explanation'... not so much. It is hard to get around such as the 'is that better for you?' reply from the author to the activist, and the timings of changes. And I doubt the rather bland effort here will do much to blunt the more 'passionate' critics of AGM... and the BBC... and its reporting of the issue.

I also maintain an ongoing concern about news sources' comfort with the why and how of making subsequent changes without much by way of sharing the trail or the reasons for them. In an era when the earlier versions seem easily retained and subsequently shared in comparison, it seems foolish not to admit to all previous attempts and own the high ground of why they have come to be revised. Otherwise you simply feed fuel to fires that often need not flare up as much as some have... and often with reason.

If this denialist bunker mentality is maintained between such as the government and the BBC, I see real problems ahead if those who are being talked to cease to have any faith in what is being said.

No comments to this piece at time of writing (Sat 12 April, 17.30) and much as I am tempted I don't feel like pitching in first. Mind you, with the other trust-inducing aspect of our licence fee funded 4th estate - the glitchy and selectively moderated blog system - working so well still, I doubt much beyond glowing accolades will get posted anyway. Sad.

And, in this case, much as the tone of the piece would seem to suggest the stable door is again neatly closed and balance regained, that horse is long gone.

JunkScience - What did the WMO say and when did they say it? - While the blog is hardly CP, there is an interesting thread post that I think shares some of my own views and amplifies on my points. The notion of a double agent (the poor lady - who it should be remembered is only a minor activist who acted rather foolishly in pride at having effected, she believed, a result - has rather done a bit of damage, if only as a catalyst. I was, I must confess rather flabbergasted to learn from the BBC that the exchange was in fact as it was first advised) is rather delicious and may set a whole new set of conspiracy theorists off. Not to mention attempts all round to create the next.

Both sides (and such as myself) should take note: there is a fine, if not impossible to identify and navigate line between having an opinion and seeking to make others change theirs (almost all activists and AGM-related blogs, CP or CO, ultimately review what is written, said and/or broadcast for 'signs' of erring in favour of one view or other, and then apply pressure to 'correct' it).

That is why it is so critical that major media does all it can to be, and seen to be, objective.

The Register - The BBC, the UN, and climate bullying - There are few posts with contrary/explanatory views around, especially from those media of a more CP bent. I guess they are adopting the Brown 'Hunker in a Bunker' Defence 'til it blows over.

Newswatch - I have written:

I have just watched today's programme regarding the actions (or not) of Roger Harrabin.

In the introduction to this piece, which revolves around the interpretation of facts and what did or did not take place as a result of an exchange of emails, the host suggests that the main protagonist '... is SAID to have replied...' at one stage.

Bearing in mind it has been accepted that these emails are freely available on the internet, and I am looking now at what WAS written, is there not a danger that Newswatch is rather making the point for the critics of the BBC, who suggest there can be 'interesting' ways in which what should be objective information gets shared with its audience?

For all the good it will do me.

I actually have some respect for Ray Snoddy, but just about everything about the show is the stuff of a bad joke, from its graveyard scheduling to the endless line of rather irritated journos/editors who have been dragged out of bed early to say: 'It didn't happen. Well, if it did, it didn't matter. Well if it does... so what? I/we think it doesn't matter, it's too late ... and what are... can you do about it anyway?'.

An attitude that now seems to have spread throughout the whole feedback system that was in theory instigated to engage in frank and honest dialogue with the audience. For instance, the new blog posting system may have solved the 502 errors, but it's also chopping out the volume and variety of considered feedback to such as Editor's, Newsnight, etc.

Not so much death by a thousand cuts, but regaining control by driving those with better things to do away through dumbing down, looking for short, slick soundbites and pulling the plug before stuff gets going... and interesting.

And, frankly, simply still knowing they can get away with pretty much anything because there is nothing that can be DONE about it.

I have never been so disillusioned with the state of public service and how it gets conducted in this country, as I am now.