Media fails to report conflict of interest
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In a staggering lapse of judgment, the National Research Council let its panel of hydrogen advocates publish a deeply flawed report trashing plug-in hybrids.
Last week, the NRC’s “Committee on Assessment of Resource Needs for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies,” which is stacked with hydrogen car experts and advocates, but lacks comparable experts on electric cars or batteries, published a report “Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies–Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles” dismissing their major competitor in the “car of the future” race. That would be like letting a Coal with Carbon Capture and Storage Committee or the Nuclear Power Committee write a report on “Transition to carbon-free power — solar energy.”
Adding to the obvious perception of bias that should have rung many alarm bells for the NRC here is the fact that the chair of this panel is Michael P. Ramage, retired Executive Vice President, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. This bio says he still is “Executive Advisor ˆ’ ExxonMobil.” Guest blogger Marc Geller runs through the lop-sided affiliations of the other Committee members below. Not surprisingly, media outlets like the Washington Post ate the story up, while never mentioning the obvious conflict of interest.
Felix Kramer at CalCars has published a detailed debunking, as has the Electrification Coalition, which notes:
- The NRC study significantly overestimates current battery costs, placing them out of line with published research by DOE National Laboratories, exhaustive research by auto-industry analysts and current industry experience.
- The battery and vehicle costs assumed by the NRC generate inaccurate estimates of the cost-effectiveness of PHEVs. The flawed cost assumptions also result in subsidy estimates that are widely off-mark.
- The NRC study inappropriately discounts future reductions in battery costs derived from technological improvements and scale production
Chair Ramage states, “It is unusual for the NRC to reconvene a committee organized for one purpose to investigate another but this is an unusual committee in another way, too. I have never worked with a committee that was so dedicated, knowledgeable, and talented.” Uhhh, it is beyond “unusual” for the NRC to allow a group of advocates for pass judgment on its chief competitor! And if this committee is unusual in “another way,” it’s that it is filled will hydrogen hypers who have been consistently wrong about the prospects for and progress in commercializing hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Anybody who thinks we should listen to hydrogen car advocates on anything in the transportation arena should know that today most independent and objective observers — those outside of the hydrogen industry, outside the few remaining oil companies and car companies still pursuing the technology — understand hydrogen cars are a wildly impractical and cost-ineffective strategy for reducing carbon emissions, including our Nobel-Prize-winning Secretary of Energy. I’ll discuss that in Part 2, next week, but readers can start here: