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By Robert Rapier on Aug 12, 2007 with no responses

The Implosion at Oil Watchdog

Tags: FTCR, Judy Dugan

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.