Oh my! I’m Making Big Enemies

My most recent Free Press column covered a lot of ground making the point that industry is using Ray Scott to rob Colorado of severance taxes, and that you can’t believe much of what they say. The article generated a response from Ed Baltzer, President of Avant Environmental Services, Inc.

According to their website, “Avant Environmental Services, Inc. safely provides high-quality environmental services on time to industry, governments, and individuals. Services include Phase I Environmental Site Assessments as defined by ASTM, Phase II site assessments, regulatory compliance, voluntary cleanup plans, asbestos inspections and abatement management, environmental health and safety, air monitoring, and related services. Avant provides careful attention to each client’s particular situation.  Avant endeavors to provide the correct level of service and to work with each client to ensure that they are in compliance with relevant regulations.”

This website appears to be new, several pages are still under construction. My Baltzer is the only listed employee. He was previously with Walsh Environmental Scientists and Engineers, LLC, which has offices worldwide, including in Grand Junction. Walsh helps clients get drilling permits, among other things.

So… the first Email I received from him was directed to my editor at the Free Press. It is pretty long, so he followed up with a second letter to my editor, which included a cc to Representative Ray Scott. What follows is first my response to the second E-mail, then his second letter to the editor, then the first letter to the editor. Your comments are welcome. As usual, there are lots of supporting links in the Homework Section, which you can scroll down to access.

Response from me to second E-mail:

Ed, who is your employer? (http://www.avantenvironmental.com/company.html)

I almost wrote you a thank you note for giving me some ideas for follow up columns, but you are way too determined to discredit me for me to extend that courtesy. The fact that you have now included Ray Scott (Hi, Ray!) in this exchange leads me to believe that you are not simply an interested citizen invested in newspapers printing the truth, but rather are an industry shill.

It does seem that you are confusing me with a reporter, which I am not. I am an opinion columnist. Certainly facts are important when trying to motivate one to support one’s point of view, and my facts are just that. One of your examples in your dismissive letter was that I “lied” (my term, not yours) about the head of the institute in TX losing his job. He is no longer the head of that institute. He may still be a professor, but he is no longer the head of the institute. He lost his job as head of the institute. That is a fact.

What you did was throw up some straw arguments that have nothing to do with my point, which was that the scientific “evidence” promoted by industry is losing credibility in part because of the money influencing the outcomes. The bill that Ray Scott is sponsoring that would allow new wells to avoid severance tax is a give-away to the industry, and he needs to be called on it. I doubt that most of my readers know, but surely you do, that most production in wells occurs during the first couple of years of production. Hence, the bill Scott is proposing robs the people of Colorado of just compensation for the privilege of harvesting the resource that is owned by the people. If the industry weren’t already the most profitable on the planet, I might have some sympathy for the costs they incur, but that isn’t the case, and I have no reason to want severance taxes to be waived. I can only conclude that you and Scott want that result because of personal financial reasons.

Climate change has to do with humans burning fossil fuels, so it is not the stretch that you make it out to be to conflate the production of natural gas with climate change—especially if one has 700 words in which to make a point. Fracking has to do with the production of natural gas. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. We are fracking in order to continue burning fossil fuels. There is a relationship between climate change and burning fossil fuels, whether you recognize it or not, and there are plenty of scientific studies that point to that relationship. Here’s a story about just one of the scientific reports: http://www.geotimes.org/feb07/WebExtra020207.html

Second Letter to the editor

From: Ed Baltzer (E-mail redacted)
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 7:24 PM
To: Tracy Dvorak
Cc: Ray Scott; Claudette Konola

Subject: shortened article

Dear Ms. Dvorak:  here's a shortened version.  I also attached a list of common logical fallacies for your reading enjoyment.  Thanks again for a great newspaper.  EMB

 Dear Editor:
 
Claudette Konola's opinion of January 25, 2013 (Climate Change is Real, and Ray Scott is Clueless) begs for editing.  In it she introduces her strong opinion about climate change, and states "despite all of the money flowing into universities to produce studies that deny climate change has…human causes, reality is finally rearing its head…".    She then presents evidence of bias in hydraulic fracturing research.  Climate change and hydraulic fracturing are unrelated.  She presents a thesis not supported by the evidence, which is the writing error of a non-sequitur, or the logical Fallacy of Irrelevant Thesis.  
 
So, I guess her thesis actually is how big oil money is biasing hydraulic fracturing research, not climate change research.  She states such bias resulted in "professors and department heads resign[ing] from American universities for agreeing to publish biased information", implying multiple resignations from multiple universities.    In support of her thesis, she states that one professor retired and one academic head (Raymond Orbach) "lost his job".  However, according to the University of Texas, Mr. Orbach resigned from his post as director of The Energy Institute at UT, but remains a professor, so he did not lose his job. What she wrote misrepresented the facts.  In fact, one department head resigned his post at one university, which had nothing to do with climate change research. 

 
Ms Konola then discusses a drilling bill proposed by our Representative Ray Scott.  The bill, HB-1122, is silent on hydraulic fracturing, global warming, AND scientific research.  This is another non-sequitur.   

Ms Konola uses language such as "hyped as being true to science",  "fantasy world of pro-oil and gas operatives", "flagrant disregard for truth and science", and "his pockets get filled".  This is using biased or emotional language to coerce the reader to accept a position, rather than using logic or evidence.  It is known as the Question-Begging Epithet, another logical fallacy.  I have other comments but am out of space.

Such errors are not unique to Ms Konola or Progressives.  All of us need to think clearly and write carefully.  Present a clear thesis and logically support it with undistorted facts.   This is hard work, but is required for intelligent discussion, which is vital to the preservation of our Republic.
 
Thank you for your time.
 
Sincerely   
 
Edward Baltzer

And now the original letter to the editor:

From: Ed Baltzer (E-mail redacted)
Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 9:10 PM
To: editor@gjfreepress.com
Cc: Claudette Konola; Ray Scott
Subject: Conoloa editorial (Konola note, for someone so picky about writing, he manages to mangle my name.)

Dear Editor:

Thank you for presenting a wide range of viewpoints in your paper – I really appreciate it. 

However, Claudette Konola's opinion of January 25, 2013 (Climate Change is Real, and Ray Scott is Clueless) begs for editing.  In it she introduces her strong opinion about climate change, and states "despite all of the money flowing into universities to produce studies that deny climate change has…human causes, reality is finally rearing its head…".    She then presents evidence of bias in hydraulic fracturing research.  Climate change and hydraulic fracturing are two unrelated topics.  She presents a thesis not supported by the evidence, which is the writing error of a non-sequitur.   A non-sequitur would have earned me an F in high-school English.  In logic, this is known as the Fallacy of Irrelevant Thesis. 

So, at this point, I assume that her thesis actually is how big oil money is biasing hydraulic fracturing research, not climate change research.  She states such bias resulted in "professors and department heads resign[ing] from American universities for agreeing to publish biased information", implying multiple resignations from multiple universities.    In support of her thesis,she states that one professor retired and one academic head (Raymond Orbach) "lost his job".  However, according to the University of Texas, Mr. Orbach resigned from his post as director of The Energy Institute at UT, but remains a professor, so he did not lose his job.  So a correct rendering would have been, "At the University of Texas, coincident with criticism of the study, a professor retired,  and another resigned from his directorship, but remained a professor".  What she wrote misrepresented the facts.  A reasonable interpretation, assuming the resignation and retirement are the result of criticism of flawed research, is that academia is routing out non-scientific research.  This is a good thing.

Ms Konola then describes a State University of New York (now Buffalo University) research report that was "hyped as being true to science" and resulted in a research institute being shut down.  I checked BU's web page and learned that the report presents robust data on environmental violations recorded in Pennsylvania between 2008 and 2011.   It was peer reviewed by two professors, a retired US DOT employee, and an environmental consultant.  It is exactly this type of research that is needed to understand the role of regulations and regulators in mitigating environmental impacts of hydrocarbon production.  In their decision to close the institute, UB stated that they are pursuing "a comprehensive program of scholarship and education with appropriate breadth and complexity".  Once again, assuming the criticism of the report was justified, BU corrected errant scientific research, which is good.  By the way, her use of biased and emotive language such as "hyped" in her statement above and "fantasy world of pro-oil and gas operatives" earlier in the article is known in logic as the Question-Begging Epithet, and is a logical fallacy.

After criticizing Range Resources for "bull[ing] EPA" (another Question-Begging Epithet fallacy) by legally protesting EPA's "scientifically baseless action" (hey, maybe it IS scientifically baseless, did she check?), Ms Konola discusses a drilling bill proposed by our Representative Ray Scott.  The bill, HB-1122, is silent on hydraulic fracturing.  This is another non-sequitur

I could go on, but it's late. 

Ms Konola and other progressives are not alone in their use of logical fallacies, flawed reasoning, misrepresentation, and writing errors.  We all make these and similar errors.  I encourage all people, especially writers, to think clearly and write carefully.  Present a clear thesis (is it climate change? fracturing pollutes? drilling is bad? Representative Scott is greedy?  No one can determine Ms. Konola's thesis from her article).  Then support your thesis with undistorted facts and logic that is free of fallacies.   This is hard work, but is a requirement for intelligent discussion, which is vital to the preservation of our republic.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely

Edward Baltzer

Certified Hazardous Materials Manager

Certified Professional Geologist

Homework:

Free Press Article

Avant Environmental Services Website

Baltzer's Linkedin Page

Walsh website

Good Story About Scott's Proposed Bill

 

2 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    We are known by our enemies as much as by our friends. You are making enemies in all the right places..keep pissin' em off, Konola…smiley

  2. Craven says:

    This is one of the reasons we love you.

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