The Democrat War on Science

by William Yeatman on June 8, 2011

in Blog, Features

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Liberal partisans claim that Republicans are at “war” with science, based largely on former President George W. Bush’s supposedly anti-science disposition, but they present only half the story. A strong case can be made that the Obama administration, too, is warring with science. Consider,

Manipulation of the Scientific Process!

The peer review process is fundamental to contemporary science. As liberal science reporter Chris Mooney put it:

[Peer Review] is an undisputed cornerstone of modern science. Central to the competitive clash of ideas that moves knowledge forward, peer review enjoys so much renown in the scientific community that studies lacking its imprimatur meet with automatic skepticism. Academic reputations hinge on an ability to get work through peer review and into leading journals; university presses employ peer review to decide which books they’re willing to publish; and federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health use peer review to weigh the merits of applications for federal research grants.

Given the importance of the “peer review” label, the Obama administration clearly committed scientific malpractice when it doctored a 2010 Interior Department report justifying a moratorium on Gulf oil production in the wake of the BP-Deepwater Horizon disaster, in order to make it seem as if the administration’s recommendation had been “peer reviewed” by the scientific community.

On May 27, 2010, the Department of Interior extended an offshore drilling moratorium for 6 months. Concomitantly, it issued a report, “Increased Safety Measures for Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf,” which explained and justified its decision.

According to the Executive Summary of the Interior Department’s report, “The recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.” The clear implication was that the peer review panel approved of the moratorium.

This was news to one of the seven experts, who promptly contacted his Senator, David Vitter (D-LA), who then called for an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. The OIG found that “the proposed moratorium had not been discussed with the peer reviewers prior to the issuance of the Report.” More importantly, it also uncovered that this wasn’t an honest mistake; instead, it was a deliberate effort to mislead the public.

According to the OIG report,

At 2:13 a.m. on May 27, 2010, [Climate “czar” Carol] Browner’s staff member sent an email…that contained two edited versions of the Executive Summary…Both version, however, revised and re-ordered the Executive Summary, placing the peer-review language immediately following the moratorium recommendation causing the distinction between the Secretary’s [Interior Secretary Ken Salazaar’s] moratorium recommendation—which had not been peer-reviewed—and the recommendations contained in the 30-day Report—which had been peer-reviewed—to become effectively lost.

The OIG determined “that the White House edit of the original DOE draft Executive Summary led to the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer-reviewed by the experts.” That is, the Obama administration creatively edited the report to make it seem as if it had been peer review, even though it hadn’t.

Muzzling of Dissent!

During the George W. Bush administration, global warming alarmist and NASA employee Dr. James Hansen leveled a high profile charge at the President that he had been muzzled by political appointees. It was a strange accusation, because Dr. Hansen had conducted more than a 1,400 on-the-job interviews. Nonetheless it gained media traction, and fueled criticisms about the “Republican war on science.”

Something similar to Dr. Hansen’s fanciful allegation—but more consequential—took place in the Obama administration’s EPA in the spring of 2009, as it was preparing the issuance of a finding for that greenhouse gases “endangered” public health and welfare. This was a very important decision. In effect, it’s the first step to the regulation of these “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act.

According to my colleagues Sam Kazman and Hans Bader,

[While the EPA was deliberating its “endangerment” finding], Dr. Alan Carlin, a Senior Operations Research Analyst at the EPA, had prepared a 100-page report containing “new research” and “information critical to the justification (or lack thereof) for the proposed endangerment finding,” and how recent data “cannot be explained by the IPCC models” relied on in the proposed finding. Confronted with this highly-relevant information, his supervisor, the NCEE Office Director, refused to allow it to “be considered” or forwarded, and ordered Dr. Carlin “not to spend any additional time” on the subject. In the supervisor’s view, “the time for such discussion of fundamental issues has passed . . . The administrator and the administration has decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.”

As a result, the report was hidden from public view throughout the comment period.

This concealment prevented the public at large from commenting on the report and the vital issues it raises, even though it addressed the very subjects on which EPA invited comment, such as “the data on which the proposed findings are based, the methodology used in obtaining and analyzing the data, and the major legal interpretations and policy considerations underlying the proposed findings.”

Unlike the “muzzling” of Dr. Hansen, the silencing of Dr. Carlin’s report actually had a tangible impact on the policy process, in that the public was denied the opportunity to comment on a dissenting voice from within the EPA.

Perpetration of Shoddy Science!

On January 13, 2011, the EPA vetoed the issuance of a Clean Water Act permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Mingo Logan Coal Company for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia. This is the first time the EPA has used this authority since the Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.

We are in the midst of a difficult economy, and EPA’s unprecedented action will result in the loss of 250 jobs, paying on average $62,000, so one would think that the EPA has compelling case against the Spruce No. 1 Mine. Unfortunately, that is not the case. An audit of the EPA’s veto, “Final Determination of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pursuant to 404(c) of the Clean Water Act Concerning the Spruce No. 1 Mine, Logan County, West Virginia (‘Final Determination’),” reveals some troubling findings.

The document is pure environmental hyperbole. It is riddled with mistakes, incorrect citations, and false certainty. Indeed, virtually all of the EPA’s definitive claims about the “unacceptable adverse impacts” to non-insect wildlife are unsupported by the literature it cites. Among the lowlights:

  • The EPA’s claim that “6.6 miles of high quality stream” will be buried conveniently omits the fact that 99.6 percent of the streams are intermittent or ephemeral, that they scored “below average” on a habitat assessment, and that they fall well short of meeting West Virginia’s definition of “high quality” streams.
  • The EPA asserts that five species of fish would be buried, despite the fact that no fish were found at the site.
  • The EPA commits numerous referencing mistakes, including two direct misquotes. Throughout the document, the EPA draws incorrect conclusions from the literature it cites.

There is much, much more, as I detailed in this study.

Why would the EPA perpetrate this shoddy science? To meet a political objective, of course. The President’s environmentalist base despises coal in general, but it especially hates a form of surface coal mining known as mountaintop removal mining. The problem for the greens is that this mining technique is sanctioned by the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. As such, the Obama administration had to engineer a legal justification to crack down on mountaintop removal mining. It came up with a doozy: The EPA is claiming that the states’ interpretation of “water quality” insufficiently accounts for an insect that isn’t even an endangered species.

The Obama administration knew that trading jobs for bugs is poor politics, especially during tough economic times. That’s why the EPA resorted to hyperbole in its January decision to veto the Spruce Fork Mine. It tried to bolster its case by including unscientific claims about harms to birds, fish, and amphibians, when its only evidence pertained to insects.


If there’s a “Republican war on science,” then there is also a “Democrat war on science.” In fact, science is politicized and manipulated by both political parties. It’s what politicians do in order to achieve political ends. To put it another way, if you think that American elected officials give priority to the purity of science over political ideology, and not vice-versa, then I’d like to introduce you to a wealthy Nigerian friend who needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland and who promises a hefty percentage of his fortune for assisting him.

Thomas Lee Elifritz June 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm

It should only take you one or two paragraphs to explain to the world why you are an ignorant and scientifically illiterate twit.

William Yeatman June 12, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Thanks for the feedback Thomas! Might I suggest that you sign up for my RSS feed?

Dr Bruce Goldberg June 8, 2011 at 7:45 pm

The peer review process is indeed fundamental to modern science, but, like every other human endeavor, is susceptible to flaws and weaknesses. The quality of the process is vulnerable to the personal biases of the reviewers, their capability to understand the material being reviewed, and their motivation to do a fair and competent job. Scientific research is rife with politics. Yet, the overall process has far more integrity than most other human endeavors. The “war on science” will never end as long as its results adversely affect an infinite number of special interests.

hebintn June 9, 2011 at 11:48 am

Re: Spruce 1 and all other surface mines. Bottom line… mountaintop removal mining is bad for everybody except the coal companies that make outrageous profits extracting coal from my mountains. A few job in comparison to the destruction done is nothing. These folks should get real mining jobs that go deep underground or better yet in alternative energy. And despite what the coal companies claim they leave behind wreckage beyond compare. Please Google “mountaintop coal mining” images. Look at a few of these masterpieces and tell me the earth is better off with us allowing this travesty to happen. If the answer is yes somebody needs to get psychiatric help.

William Yeatman June 12, 2011 at 5:58 pm

My answer is yes. I’m seeing a shrink, but not for this. When it comes to choosing between a mountaintop and human livelihoods, the humans win every time with me.

BobRGeologist June 13, 2011 at 3:01 am

The EPA has established itself as a bureau interested only in increasing its power to regulate a gas CO2, vital to the growth of plant life, with its outrageous ruling of it as pollution. Along with other greenhouse gases, CO2 being a very minor component, the EPA intends to regulate the entire spectrum (nitrogen, water vapor and methane) as an endangerment for overheating the Earth. Here is where the real endangerment to life on this planet begins. The EPA doesn’t realize the hard fact that we are geologically in a glaciation mode today and several several degrees below a safe global temperature, due to plate tectonic rearrangement of our geography that began 50 million years ago. Also the fact our Sun is too weak at times to prevent us from lapsing back into Glaciation
#6. And, the fact that greenhouse gases are our safety blanket that keeps us from a permanent coat of ice. I believe it would be counterproductive and ruinously expensive to try to maintain ice in our polar regions.

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