OUR VIEW: RESEARCH RUN AMOK

MAY 2012

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(Posted Fri. May 18th, 2012)

By Rick Tolman, NCGA Chief Executive Officer:

 

 

 

May 18:  Two pieces of research that were dropped this week and then picked up in the mainstream  media clearly demonstrate that there’s something off in the way research is (1) conducted, (2) summarized, and (3) reported to the public. None of this surprises us; as an organization that often must deal with controversy, we’ve seen it all before and there is nothing new under the sun.

 

In the first case, researchers at UCLA, without even testing high fructose corn syrup, announced on Tuesday that they discovered that HFCS may have deleterious effects on cognitive ability. They did this by feeding lab rats enormous quantities of a “fructose solution” and seeing how well they did running through a maze. The UCLA news release stresses HFCS; the research itself does not mention it at all.

 

And what does this research mean in the real world? Nada. According to one doctor, you would have to drink more than 50 cans of soda a day to achieve the equivalent fructose amount the rats were given. Not even the most final-exam-desperate college student drinks that much.

 

And because not all rats live in the lab, the auto and oil industries got together this week to launch an attack on ethanol that, well, fizzled so badly even the U.S. government shot back.

 

The generically named Coordinating Research Council published a report Wednesday looking at the impact of certain selective ethanol blends on engines. While the report found things to concern those who funded it, the U.S. Department of Energy would have none of it, calling the study “significantly flawed” because it “failed to establish a proper control group, a standard component of scientific, data-driven testing and a necessity to determine statistical significance for any results.”

 

The engines were compared against E0 (e-zero), a fuel that is not very common. E10, the de-facto fuel on the market was not even used at all in the testing to provide the right control. Laughably, one of the three engines that was tested with straight gasoline failed the test. So, automotive fuel without ethanol apparently has a 33.3 percent failure rate.

 

But also, while it would be hard for the UCLA researchers mentioned above to have made sure all rats were equally healthy, it would have been easier for the folks at CRC to make sure they had good engines to test in the first place.  Apparently, they could not bother with this trifle.

 

From the DOE: “Perhaps most surprisingly, the CRC decided to select several engines already known to have durability issues, including one that was subject to a recall involving valve problems when running on E0 gasoline and E10.”

 

We live in a great age, with scientific and technological breakthroughs taking place at a fast pace. But these two studies demonstrate that more work needs to be done. We need to demand honesty in research, especially when that research can make or break an industry and kill jobs.