The Implosion at Oil Watchdog

Once upon a time, I ran across a website called the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). Some of their hysterical claims about the oil industry gave me a great deal of easy essay material. This group demonstrates what can happen when a group of people with absolutely no technical people on staff start issuing press releases explaining how the oil and gas industry works, and how the business should be run: They make fools of themselves. Their concept is fine – reporting on the misdeeds of oil companies – but the execution has resulted in mostly reporting of phanton menaces.

The FTCR spun off a site devoted solely to oil and gas issues:

Oil Watchdog

Judy Dugan, whose title is “Research Director” was given the task of running this site. The FTCR has previously suggested that gas should be less than $2/gallon for consumers, and Oil Watchdog echoes the theme that consumers pay too much for gas. At the same time, they complain about how disgusting a habit oil consumption is, apparently failing to connect the fact that high prices lead to less consumption. They write about conspiracies when oil prices are falling and gas prices are rising, as they did in the spring and early summer. Then they are eerily silent when the reverse takes place, as is happening now.

I could write 2 or 3 posts a week rebutting the claims of Judy Dugan and pals. However, they allow comments following each essay, and this would seem like a good venue for challenging their claims. They were getting enough comments that most essays were being rebutted after they were posted. I had thought about registering there myself, but ultimately decided that they were doing a good enough job marginalizing themselves – especially since they don’t respond to the criticisms.

So, last night I hopped over there for a bit of comedic relief. I wondered whether they would be complaining that oil companies aren’t doing anything to promote biofuels, or instead complaining that oil companies are donating money to universities to research biofuels. The first thing I noticed was that there were no comments after the essays. Previously, Dugan’s essays would generate some challenges, which she always found herself unable to answer.

After reading the latest hysterical stories, I finally noticed at the bottom of each essay that it said “Click to display or hide comments.” On prior visits, comments had been displayed by default. Had they changed this policy?

Yes they had. Apparently Dugan’s answer to the critics was two-fold. Instead of actually answering their challenges, she decided to 1). Make comments hidden by default, so the criticisms are not observable to the casual readers; and 2). Engage in ad hominem attacks on those who challenged her. That’s right, Dugan’s “answer” to the challenges of her arguments was to label the challengers with the disclaimer:

This commentor has been flagged as a suspected shill for BigOil. You can view the history of their comments by clicking on the user’s screen name at the end of this entry.

Those are the actions of someone with no ammunition in the intellectual arsenal. I am simply amazed that this organization feels that instead of answering challenges, they can just call the challengers names.

As one commenter wrote:

I’m very disappointed in OilWatchdogs response to someone posting comments critical to their statements. Instead of refuting these statements with facts and further dialog, they have instead decided to make comments hidden by default and to label armchair123 as a “possible oil schill”. Perhaps they could leave it up to the readers to make the determination. I often find that the more you fight against someone it makes their arguments more believable. I’m starting to think OilWatchdog has something to hide itself.

It’s too bad that instead of being a place where one could engage in substantive debate about energy issues, Oil Watchdog has instead become a case study for what can happen when you are exposed as a pseudo-expert.

4 thoughts on “The Implosion at Oil Watchdog”

  1. Did you see OOIDA’s video on YouTube? Here is the link:

    Hot fuel – test it yourself

    I really doubt they could get 94.9 F out of a pump. Maybe for the first gallon or two, but once the pump draws any volume at all, it should start cooling down. Feel the nozzle on the pump after you’ve filled up. It is cool.

    Besides at 90 F and higher the lighter components in the gasoline start to evaporate. That should keep the gasoline cooler.

    I am very suspicious.

  2. Did you see OOIDA’s video on YouTube?

    No, I haven’t watched it. But I don’t put any stock in anecdotal evidence anyway. If they want to do a full-blown, refereed study that demonstrates their point, then that would be something I would accept. And in the end, it still doesn’t change the fact that changing the definition of a gallon is not going to change the fuel costs for anyone.

  3. Wow. Wow. (said like Brian Griffin)

    Judy Dugan puts Newsweek’s Sharon Begley to shame.

    Love the Darth Petrol nic getting all those BigOil Shill disclaimers. 😉

  4. Well, Dugan’s in California, and we run to extremes out here… I don’t normally read Newsweek, but I didn’t see much new / surprising / wrong in Begley’s “Truth About Denial”. Dugan is in a different universe.

    3-sided arguments are common, and the rational, scientific, evidence-based side [of which R-Squared is a truly fine example] often has a hard time getting heard over the noise from the other sides. most people are used to 2-sided arguments, and they get confused.

    In tobacco, we had:
    (a) Temperance unions saying smoking was immoral [early, before WW I].
    (b) Scientists studying the issue.
    (c) Tobacco companies doing everything possible to deny & obfuscate the science, especially as the data piled up. Allan Brandt’s “The Cigarette Century” is an excellent history of all this.

    Politically, (a) tended to be left, and (c) right. Often, (a) tend to take a real or potential problem and exaggerate it, sometimes to the point of turning off many people. [Dugan is good example.]

    (c) often do their best to minimize or obscure a real problem. (b) tend to speak in probabilities, with carefully-caveated discussions, rather than 10-second sound-bytes.

    (a) sometimes claim everyone who doesn’t agree with them are evil.
    (c) usually tries to tar (b) as (a).

    None of this makes it easy to figure out the truth of complex issues.

    We had something similar for acid rain, CFCs, and now climate change (which of course is heavily interlocked with energy issues). Some of the same people in (a) are the same, and many of the people in (c) are the same people / organizations / lobbyists who fought cigarette-disease links, fought restrictions on CFCs, and fight any recognition of AGW. For instance, I’ve followed Fred Singer’s work for years, and think Begley was overly kind.

    In climate:

    (a) Early, people who wish we’d go back to a much simpler bucolic lifestyle, and for whom Anthropogenic Global Warming was a good reason to get people to do that. Some of these are legitimately called “alarmists”. I grew up on a small farm, and going back to 40% US population as farmers would not be fun or workable.

    (c) Prefer to be called skeptics, but many (like Singer, or Frederick Seitz) are indeed organized deniers/denialist, and there’s a bunch more that Begley didn’t mention, many of whom have/had funding from coal or oil interests. They *know* that nothing must be done to conserve fossil fuels, and hence AGW must be denied. Every Singer book does that, even if the reasons are different each time.

    (c) like to label anyone who disagrees with them as an alarmist, including any serious climate scientist who ever says much straightforwardly in public. Hence:

    Google: james hansen alarmist

    gets 58,000 hits … which is truly absurd, as Hansen is a fine scientist.

    The truly unfortunate thing in these fights is that some problems, especially those with long-lived infrastructure, are most economically handled if one starts early and heads in useful directions. Avoiding a real problem for a long time, until it’s desperate, either guarantees a wasteful hurry-up, or else dumb political solutions. Sigh.

    [Note: I happily used to work with both climate scientists and oil exploration folks who were using supercomputers I’d helped design].

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