Saturday, November 19, 2011

Also not about firearms, but interesting, and shows a common bias on the Right

This is about energy, but it is also about a larger issue which is annoys me.  There have been a number of people on the right who misrepresent science and grants.

Sarah Palin did it when she made stump speeches ridiculing fruit fly research that she was too stupid and ignorant to understand, and which she characteristically was too lazy to research before commenting.

Tom Coburn did it in April of this year, when he wrongly and unfairly criticized grants made by the National Science Foundation in a report that got a lot of attention, but which did not receive the appropriate critical thinking that would have revealed the flaws and errors it contained.  The anti-science right does that sort of thing regularly.  An example of the coverage that did not receive the appropriate DIScredit of Coburn was this one :
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has long railed against wasteful government spending and urged his colleagues to shrink the federal budget. His latest salvo is a 73-page report released today that accuses the National Science Foundation (NSF) of mishandling nearly $3 billion. The document follows a well-trod path of asserting that a federal research agency is funding trivial and duplicative research in addition to exercising inadequate oversight of existing programs.
But the report, The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope, is itself filled with errors and questionable analyses, say science lobbyists. "The bottom line is that attacks on 'silly grants' are silly and irresponsible," says Howard Silver, executive director of the Consortium of Social Science Associations and former chair of the Coalition for National Science Funding, which advocates for larger NSF budgets.
Silver points to Coburn's criticism of several NSF awards in the social sciences as a prime example.
The biggest "savings" that Coburn identifies is actually a misreading of federal statutes, according to NSF officials. The report accuses NSF of failing to recover $1.7 billion in "expired grants," that is, money grantees didn't spend in the course of doing their research. But that's not true, says NSF. The number reflects all the money that has been obligated for multiyear grants, and the amount (as of last fall) drops as researchers tap their accounts over the duration of their project. "It's being used for exactly the purpose for which it was intended," explains one budget official who requested anonymity.
Only a tiny amount--roughly $30 million a year--is actually left on the table once a researcher has finished his or her project. And that amount is returned each year to the Treasury. "You'd think a U.S. senator would understand how the federal government funds multiyear research projects," says one lobbyist.
There were hearings held, as a result of Coburn's report.  I was never able to find any results from that hearing that supported Cobur's conclusions. It seems that despite the shrimp on a treadmill videos going viral that when examined by Congressional hearings ,  rationally, NONE of Coburn's claims of waste proved true.  I find it sad, but not really very surprising that the anti-science assumptions and attitudes seem to mostly fall along partisan lines.

It is a shame, that there is no similar inquiry which challenges the expenditure by Senator Coburn's office in generating the flawed report, or the cost of the hearings which were a waste of time and money...unless you count the entertainment value of political theater.  Those expenditures produced nothing of value in return for the expenditures, unlike the results of the NSF grants.

I don't see the right asking the very important question of their propaganda pushers, the question 'is that true'. There is a lot of political theater by both sides, but the right seems to have a more 'red meat' audience, and to engage in more factual inaccuracy and outright dishonesty.

So, I wonder in that context, how the following will be treated in the media.

From to turn spent grains into energy

Alaskan Brewing Co.
Alaskan Brewing Co. received a nearly half-million dollar grant to install a steam boiler fired entirely by spent grain.
The U.S. government is giving a nearly half-million dollar grant to a beer maker in Alaska that aims to install a first-of-its-kind boiler that is fueled entirely by spent grain.
All brewers are confronted with mountains of spent grains — mostly barley. Many get rid of the waste by routing it to farmers for animal feed, a noble service that can help grow a steak to accompany your fine ale.
For the Alaskan Brewing Co. in Juneau, this has involved an added step, since the closest market for its grains is a long-distance, boat-ride away in Seattle.
To keep the grains from decomposing during transport, the brewery first dries them in a machine that is heated by a biomass burner that uses about 50 percent of the spent grain as a fuel source.
Now, with the help of the $458,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy for America program, the brewery is installing a machine that will use the dried grain to power a biomass steam boiler.
"The new boiler will eliminate the brewery's use of oil in the grain drying process and displace more than half of the fuel needed to create process steam," the company said in an emailed statement.
Brewers use process team, for example, to boil the sugary water called wort, created when sugars are extracted from the grains, a key step in brewing beer.
The boiler will cut the brewery's overall energy use from oil, and corresponding carbon emissions, by more than 70 percent, according to Alaskan Brewing Co.
The system also eliminates the need to ship the grain south to cattle around Seattle, Ashley Johnston, a company spokeswoman, told me.
The grant is one of eight announced Thursday by the agriculture department, all of which are aimed at helping rural businesses to lower energy costs so that they can stay competitive and, potentially, hire more workers.
In total, 52 projects received over $31 million in grants and loan note guarantees through the program this year. The grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project's cost.


  1. I sure hope that Governor Mamagrizzly Inlipstick doesn't find out about this gummint boondoggle that won't hunt and shuts it down afore the commiebrewers socialize beer in Alaska!

    Oh, wait, she quit, didn't she?, in the middle of her term--to help govern MerKKKa, 'cuz Alaska was too small a stage for her brilliance.

  2. When Republicans don't like research spending, I always ask whether they like the Internet. That was a government project originally. There are also the many things that we've gained from NASA.