By Dan Hebert, PE, Senior Technical Editor
Have you ever found yourself questioning the authors main premise when reading an article about automation or some other issue? This happens to me a lot, and when it does I like to check the writers affiliation to see if he or she is getting paid directly or indirectly for the opinion.
This is especially applicable to trade magazines, some of which freely intersperse supplier-authored articles with staff-written pieces. We dont do this here at Control Design, but many other trade magazines arent so careful and often succumb to the lure of free content happily provided by suppliers.
Here are a few examples of how to follow the money and find out the truth behind not only magazine articles, but also behind supposedly more authoritative research and studies.
Newsweek magazine tried and failed to follow the money in its Aug. 13, 2007, global warming cover story (ControlDesign.com/warming). The article attempts to discredit those who question global warming by showing that theyre getting paid for their opinions.
The cover story comes up with a few examples of individuals who wrote skeptical articles about global warming and who received money from industrial concerns. Some of these industrial folks have a vested interest in minimizing global warming hysteria, so Newsweek makes the conclusion that the only people who disagree with the global warming party line are corrupt.
But for every article that says global warming is occurring, is caused by man and will be a disaster unless government does something drastic, with enough digging, I can find at least one conflicting article that says the opposite. Some of these articles may be written by people receiving money from questionable sources, but many are not.
Newsweek concludes that global-warming proponents are virtuous men and women of science untainted by filthy lucre. But they see the negative influence of Mammon behind anyone who questions the global warming premise.
Newsweek neglects to report that global-warming proponents receive more payments than skeptics by a huge marginI would wager more than a thousand to one. I dont have the resources to track down all of the money spent on global warming studies, but the bottom line is clear.
Global-warming skeptics are a grass-roots bunch operating on a bare-bones budget. One of the worlds largest media firms, Time Warner, only uncovered piddling sums of money paid to skeptics by corporations to research and write about their point of view.
It took me just a few seconds and a Google search to find an announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency from the early 90s saying the U.S. government awarded $30.5 million in grants to developing countries to study global warming. Its easy to show why and how these government studies deliver the verdict first and the show trial second.
Each year, billions are spent directly and indirectly by various governments worldwide to study global warming. Most indirect expenditures are in the form of grants to quasi-government institutions like universities. The process goes like this. Big Government needs to know if global warming is occurring and if mankind is causing it. If there is no global warming, then the government organization charged with studying same should be disbanded and all employees should be transferred at best and laid off at worst.
Can anyone be surprised that virtually all government studies, both direct and funded, conclude that global warming is indeed occurring and will be a huge catastrophe if something is not done?
If global warming is occurring, Big Government needs to know if man is causing same. If man, as opposed to natural global climatic cycles, is the main cause of global warming, then government must be greatly increased in size and scope to closely regulate activity. Again, the right answer is apparent, and those who give the wrong answer dont get any more grants.
Global warming studies remind me of corporate relocation studies. Decades ago, former Fortune editor William Whyte looked at 38 industrial firms that left New York City during a 10-year period. After spending thousands of dollars on relocation studies, it was discovered that 31 just moved next to the chiefs home, dropping the average CEO commute to eight miles.