There is an obsession among environmentalists that experts from corporations shouldn’t be involved with studies pertaining to energy issues.
The corollary is the view that information is automatically tainted if it is developed by organizations that have received corporate money.
The underlying common denominator is the view that a conflict of interest exists whenever corporations are involved.
The opposite holds true when environmentalists are appointed to technical review panels – it’s automatically assumed they have no conflict of interest.
Invariably, this myopic approach results in one-sided, frequently biased conclusions.
Probably the most technically knowledgeable people are employed by corporations. They are not only conversant with the theory surrounding an issue, but also with the many practical complexities that exist in the real world where technologies are applied.
By excluding the experts employed by corporations, the country is denied the benefit of their wealth of knowledge and experience.
There is also the implied accusation that these “industry” experts will sully their souls by lying or distorting facts to protect their employer.
A recent example of this myopic process is the 2010 EPA study on fracking that was reviewed by a 22-member scientific advisory board that excluded people with industry experience.
Fracking is an issue of monumental importance to the people of the United States, and Americans were denied the benefit of those who were most knowledgeable about the subject.
The U.S. House Space, Science, and Technology Committee has recently requested that the EPA review its selection process for members of the scientific advisory board that will conduct the review of the latest fracking study.
Shouldn’t there be a fair representation of industry experts on a scientific advisory board that has 22 or more people?
Even if the representation were evenly split between members from the EPA, members from environmental organizations, members from Universities, and members from industry, the panel would still, most likely, be skewed toward environmentalists.
The importance of even a minority shouldn’t be discounted because the minority can issue a report explaining why they differ from the majority. In this manner, Americans can obtain a fair analysis of the matter being studied.
In a broader context, Americans need to disabuse environmentalists of the notion that industry experts are charlatans who put their selfish interests above that of the country’s.
This is important because Americans deserve to have the benefit of the knowledge and experience of all experts.
Read more of Donn’s columns at his blog, Power for USA.
Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network (Creative Commons)