Is this the state of academics today? (Updated) Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Probably not, but it is so hilarious that it is worth noting.
Michael Goldfarb of the WorldWideStandard.com catches a Huffington Post author in some of the most egregious errors of fact that I've seen in a long time. It painfully points out that most academics are best off if they stay in their area of expertise and eschew opportunities to pontificate outside of that. The author is Barry Sanders (no, not the NFL Barry Sanders) whose bio says he "taught English and the History of Ideas at Pitzer College, where he was the first Professor to hold the the Peter S. and Gloria Gold Chair. The author of some fourteen books, including, with Ivan Illich, ABC: The Alphabetization of the Written Word, A is for Ox: Violence, Electrronic Media and the Silencing of the Written Word, Sudden Glory: Laughter as Subversice History, and most recently, with Francis Adams, Alienable Rights: The Exclusion of African Americans in a White Man's Land:1619-2000, (Harper Collins,2004). He currently enjoys a five-year appointment as Senior Fulbright Scholar."
That's impressive until you read this sample of his work. To begin with he's writing a series for HuffPo entitled "The Green Zone" in which he "discusses one of the least-explored but significant consequences of the Iraq war: the amount of pollution - including radioactive pollution — produced by the U.S. military and its effect on global warming. "
Got that? We have a English professor who will now inform us on not only how much the military pollutes, but its effect on global warming. Take it from me, if he is as misinformed and ill informed about global warming as he is about the US military, this should be a highly entertaining series - from a laugh a minute point of view.
The Navy uses an enormous amount of fuel for its nuclear and non-nuclear aircraft carriers. The recently decommissioned USS Independence, at its top speed of 25 knots per hour, consumed 134 barrels of fuel an hour, or close to 5,600 gallons an hour. (The ship boasts 4.1 acres of flight deck and a crew of 2,300.) On its way to the Persian Gulf in 2002, a trip that took fourteen days, the Independence went through two million gallons of fuel. Every four days, the ship took on an additional one million gallons of fuel, half of which went to supply the carrier's jets.
The Navy has exactly one, count them, one non-nuclear aircraft carrier - the Kitty Hawk, which is based out of Japan and scheduled for decommissioning in '08. At that point, the Navy will have no non-nuclear carriers. Zero. So here he talks about something which is no longer in service as an example of the "miltary's addiction to oil" when in fact, the Navy will soon be all nuke powered in carriers. That's zero carbon emissions from carrier propulsion systems.
UPDATE (Dale): The USS Independence did not, in fact, steam into the Persian Gulf in 2002. She was decommissioned on 30 September, 1998, and was rotting away at anchor in Puget Sound in 2002. He's managed to pile up a fascinating amount of detail, though, about the imaginary journey of a ship that was put in mothballs four years prior.
According to the 2006 Navy Almanac, at the beginning of 2006, the Navy held an inventory of 285 combat and support ships, along with 4,000 planes and helicopters. The DoD keeps classified the number and kinds of vessels stationed in the Gulf. But, we do know that President Bush ordered the USS Stennis and the USS Ronald Reagan to the Gulf in January 2007 as part of the surge. He also sent a "strike group," led by the nuclear aircraft carrier the USS Eisenhower, along with a cruiser, a destroyer, a frigate, a submarine escort, and a supply ship. Already sitting in the Gulf were ten other "Carrier Task Forces" built around the aircraft carriers Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Chester W. Nimitz, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry S. Truman, and the Abraham Lincoln. Ninety attack planes sit on each carrier's deck, ready at any moment to fly into combat.
Got that? Sanders claims that in January of this year, every single carrier we had, to include one that was decommissioned in 2003 (the Constellation) was in the Gulf.
Every one. 13. Because, you know, we always put all our carriers in one area in order to present a lucrative nuclear target while abandoning our world wide mission of keeping the sea lanes open. To put it succinctly we have never, nor would we ever, group 13 carrier strike forces together and certainly not in a waterway as restricted as the Gulf.
This has never happened.
It continues on this way for quite some time. The ignorance is just appalling and it also becomes obvious that math is not Sander's forte either. Some of his calculations are just ditzy.
UPDATE (Dale): Not only was the Constellation decommissioned on 7 August, 2003, but on 2 December, 2003, she was stricken from the navy rolls and put in reserve category X. The Independence wasn't formally stricken until 8 march, 2004.
But my favorite had to be this:
Trying to calculate CO2 pollution for military flying is near impossible. For one thing, if we consider the Stealth F-117, we know nothing of its fuel consumption. We do know, however, that sorties for that plane at the beginning of the Iraq War lasted 1. 6 hours. Flying out of some distant bases raised the average sortie time to 5.4 hours, with some sorties lasting up to seven hours—refueling accomplished in the air. Forty-two F-117s each flew over 1,300 combat sorties. Using an average of five hours per sortie, at 619 miles per hour, time in the air for just this one type of plane comes to 190,827,000 miles, resulting in an astonishing 26 million tons of carbon.
Did you catch that? 42 F117s each flew 1300 sorties. And yeah, you're right, it was really 42 F117s flying a total of 1300 sorties. So using his numbers (even if they are unlikely) but the real sortie level, you see 4,345,380 miles max. He was only off by a little over 186 million miles (and that's obviously off even more because they don't operate aircraft at their maximum speed constantly) and about 25.48 million tons of carbon.
His point (yeah he tried to make one)?
To get some idea of the magnitude of that number, it would take a fully loaded Boeing 747-100, flying from Los Angeles to New York, 328,165 trips to produce that same amount of pollution. On average, 40 flights leave from LAX for JFK daily, so those 328,165 trips, in commercial terms, would take 8,204 days, or almost 23 years.
But quoting another part of his post:
The environmental action group World Changing calculates that "a 5,000 mile flight produces a ton and half of CO2 for every person on the plane." If a Boeing 747-100, say, holds roughly 450 passengers, the carbon output for a flight from New York to Los Angeles totals almost 1,350,000 pounds, or 675 tons.
So his claim is not only off on the military side, but wildly off on the commercial side. In fact, it would only take 370 round trips between LA and NY to match the above total - or 9 days.
Another commenter to the thread sinks the whole floundering mess with some fairly basic contextual numbers:
A quick Google shows at least 30,000 commercial flights per day over the U.S., and easily more than 50,000 per day worldwide. Adding all of the Cargo, charter, and executive jets dwarfs the military.
There are 50 million commercial trucks in the US alone. Now add in all the behemoth earth moving, farm and construction equipment at work every day across the country. The military vehicle fleet is minuscule in comparison.
The world"s trading fleet is 50,000 ships. Our naval fleet, as you wrote, is 285. Throw in the worlds fishing fleet etc?you see where this goes. The largest ships in the world are oil super-tankers; they dwarf the navy"s largest carriers, and they are at sea as much as they can be. Time is money.
Your calculation that the military may have generated 4 times more CO2 than the entire nation cannot possibly be correct, given the numbers of ships and planes we"re dealing with, even if you assume 1/10 the fuel efficiency, and 10 times more mileage per unit, and ignore power plant produced CO2. The first thing I learned to do in engineering school with any calculation was step back and ask myself if it made sense. Reality Check here please!
Indeed. Not likely as the agenda has been set and it is, most likely going to be full speed ahead. I cannot wait to read the next 3 additions to this incredibly entertaining series. Be sure to take a look at John Noonan's take down at OPFOR as well.
Oh, and while I'm still thinking about it Mr. Sanders, the B-52 isn't nor has it ever been the "Stratocruiser". It's officially known as the Stratofortress although it's mostly called the BUFF. Apache helicopters belong to the Army, not the Air Force and we haven't had the F-111 or F-4 in inventory for a couple of decades.
UPDATE (Dale): And while I'm still thinking about it, I kinda liked this part:
Many of the contract workers are former military Special Forces troops, such as Navy Seals and the Army's Delta Force. The Seals conduct their operations with the philosophy of "spray and pray," a credo which seems to determine a good deal of the behavior of the mercenaries working for Blackwater USA...
I don't think anyone with any experience of SEALs—or Delta Force, for that matter—would classify them as "spray and pray" kinds of guys. They're actually more "double-tap to the forehead" kinds of guys.
But, of course, it's so much more fun to read it prof. Sanders' way.
I also liked this bit:
Trying to calculate CO2 pollution for military flying is near impossible. For one thing, if we consider the Stealth F-117, we know nothing of its fuel consumption.
He then manages to divine—without any knowledge whatsoever of the F-117's fuel consumption—how much carbon the F-117 spewed into the air, which, when you think about it, is a pretty neat trick.
According to the 2006 Navy Almanac, at the beginning of 2006, the Navy held an inventory of 285 combat and support ships, along with 4,000 planes and helicopters. The DoD keeps classified the number and kinds of vessels stationed in the Gulf. But, we do know that President Bush ordered the USS Stennis and the USS Ronald Reagan to the Gulf in January 2007 as part of the surge. He also sent a "strike group," led by the nuclear aircraft carrier the USS Eisenhower, along with a cruiser, a destroyer, a frigate, a submarine escort, and a supply ship. Already sitting in the Gulf were ten other "Carrier Task Forces" built around the aircraft carriers Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Chester W. Nimitz, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry S. Truman, and the Abraham Lincoln. Ninety attack planes sit on each carrier’s deck, ready at any moment to fly into combat.
He’s pushing his fact-luck with the JFK also, as I thought it was already stateside, due to it being decommisioned in March of 2007. It was already in Mayport on 2/20/2007, as it left there that day, so I would think it was there a bit before that.
He also gots his facts wrong about the 747 fuel capacity. According to Boeings website, a 747-400 Domestic has a MAXIMUM fuel capacity of 53,985 U.S. gal and a maximum takeoff weight of 833,000 lb. This is WAY, WAY, WAY different than the 675-ton carbon output he quotes in the article! The plane can’t even carry more than 27 tons of fuel!
Do you know how long it took me to find that out. Oh, about 5 seconds on Google then about 20 seconds on the Boeing website. He just must be too lazy to look up the information himself.
There’s got to be some sort of negative feedback for this kind of crap, and I’m going to give it the old college try.
I’m writing a letter to the Fulbright committee about the level of sheer unadulterated ignorance displayed by a "Senior Fulbright Scholar", and asking them if this the quality of intellectual discourse that they want associated with the name "Fulbright". I thought about doing the same to both Pitzer College and Peter S. Gold, but since Pitzer’s Home Page features a big blurb on "Social Justice", and a google search on Mr. Gold’s name brings up a Newsmeat page showing major contributions to Tom Lantos, that would be a waste of time. The Fulbright committee, OTOH, might worry about the "brand".
The guy is listed as "Emeritis", which is academic shorthand for "retired but we can’t kick him out". I suspect we’re looking at a flaming leftist in his dotage.
From the Huffington Post’s first paragraph "The Army tries to keep its entire inventory of Abrams tanks up and running in Iraq—all 1,838 of them." The Army has a heck of a lot more than 1800 Abrams, and the writer looks to be confusing the first Gulf War in 1990-91 with the current operation: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/m1.htm
The same with his bit about F-117s. The 1300 sorties were during Desert Storm.