Posts tagged “fraud”
First There Was Climategate, Now There’s Gleickgate
In 2009, shortly before the Copenhagen summit on climate change, a server at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. was hacked. Numerous communications from climate scientists were released to the public, and the name “Climategate” was coined to describe the ensuing controversy. The controversy involved specific comments in some of the e-mails that climate change skeptics immediately seized upon as evidence that some climate scientists were not as objective as they should be, but even worse that dissenting views were being suppressed.
When the Climategate scandal first broke, I had a feeling that the implications were going to be a lot larger than many climate change advocates believed. In fact, I included it among my Top 10 Energy Stories of 2009, writing:
Then came Climategate, which gave the skeptics even more reason to be skeptical. A number of people have suggested to me that this story will just fade away, but I don’t think so. This is one that the skeptics can rally around for years to come. The number of Americans who believe that humans are causing climate change was already on the decline, and the injection of Climategate into the issue will make it that much harder to get any meaningful legislation passed.
Some people commented that the controversy would fade away in a few weeks, but I think in hindsight my assessment was correct. Skeptics had claimed for years that much of the climate change debate was ideological, and Climategate seemingly gave them concrete evidence that this was indeed the case. (I am not making judgments one way or the other; just trying provide the context for the incident and how I felt it would be used by skeptics).
I have written several essays on Xethanol over the past few years. If you recall, they were a poster child for the theme of “overpromise, boost your stock price, and get rich quick” on biofuels. For me, this story dates back to 2006, when an investigative journalist working for Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban e-mailed me and asked about the company’s claims. They had announced that thy would “be the first to commercialize cellulosic ethanol” (if I had a nickel for every time I have heard that), and they issued press releases at every opportunity. It worked for a while – at one point their market cap was something like half a billion dollars – despite the fact that there… Continue»
I tend to get a lot of e-mails from people either claiming to have invented the next big thing in alternative energy, or from people who want to know if a particular company has something that seems worthwhile. Generally, I can sniff out the scams and pseudoscientists pretty quickly. There are lots of telltale signs. In general there will be no patents, nor patents pending. They will often tell tales of having their invention suppressed. A secret catalyst or secret formulation is another frequent theme. (People too often ascribe magical properties to catalysts. Catalysts can speed up a reaction, but they do not allow you to get around the laws of thermodynamics.) Scam companies will often incorporate a hot buzzword… Continue»