R-Squared Energy Blog

Pure Energy

Mark Jacobson Responds to Vinod Khosla

Following the previous response by Vinod Khosla, I sent a link to Professor Jacobson and asked if he had any comments he wanted to make. I received the following, along with permission to post it:

Thanks for your email. With regard to the comment that Khosla stated publicly my study was funded by Exxon Mobil, this was reported to me by a student who was at his talk at the Business School at Stanford. The student was the one who asked him the question what he (Khosla) thought of the study at Stanford about ethanol health effects and who told me of the response. I never solicited this information from the student nor even knew Khosla was giving a talk.

With regard to the comment “He has heckled met at my speeches for a while,” this is a lie. I have been at two talks by Khosla, and at each talk, I asked him normal questions at the end of his talks, just like others did, in my case about the health effects of ethanol versus gasoline and also about why use ethanol instead of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Instead of responding politely, at the first talk, he went on a tirade and insulted most people in the audience by labeling me an “environmentalist” and calling environmentalists “stupid” (his exact wording) for supporting things like wind power instead of nuclear power. He did not have an answer the question on health effects beyond the statement to the effect, “E85 is better than E10”. In my entire career, I have never been at a professional seminar where the speaker used such demeaning language. There were over a hundred people in the audience as witnesses who can corroborate these events.

At the second talk, which was similar to the first, I asked him a similar question about the health effects of gasoline versus ethanol. This time, he hurled a personal insult at me, calling me an “idiot” in front of a large crowd in an effort to avoid answering the question. Again, there were many witnesses. Frankly, there is no room for this type of behavior by a public seminar speaker.

Also, in response to NRDC’s comments, can you please refer people to the point-by-point responses located at

http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/E85vWindSol

The original article is there as well.

Mark

Mark Z. Jacobson,
Associate Professor
Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Terman Engineering Center, Room M-31
Stanford University
Phone: 650-723-6836
Fax: 650-725-9720 Stanford, CA 94305-4020
Email: jacobson@stanford.edu
Web site: http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/

I will let both responses speak for themselves, and refrain from further comments on the matter.

May 22, 2007 Posted by | air pollution, ethanol, Mark Jacobson, reader submission, Vinod Khosla | Comments Off on Mark Jacobson Responds to Vinod Khosla

Mark Jacobson Responds to Vinod Khosla

Following the previous response by Vinod Khosla, I sent a link to Professor Jacobson and asked if he had any comments he wanted to make. I received the following, along with permission to post it:

Thanks for your email. With regard to the comment that Khosla stated publicly my study was funded by Exxon Mobil, this was reported to me by a student who was at his talk at the Business School at Stanford. The student was the one who asked him the question what he (Khosla) thought of the study at Stanford about ethanol health effects and who told me of the response. I never solicited this information from the student nor even knew Khosla was giving a talk.

With regard to the comment “He has heckled met at my speeches for a while,” this is a lie. I have been at two talks by Khosla, and at each talk, I asked him normal questions at the end of his talks, just like others did, in my case about the health effects of ethanol versus gasoline and also about why use ethanol instead of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power. Instead of responding politely, at the first talk, he went on a tirade and insulted most people in the audience by labeling me an “environmentalist” and calling environmentalists “stupid” (his exact wording) for supporting things like wind power instead of nuclear power. He did not have an answer the question on health effects beyond the statement to the effect, “E85 is better than E10”. In my entire career, I have never been at a professional seminar where the speaker used such demeaning language. There were over a hundred people in the audience as witnesses who can corroborate these events.

At the second talk, which was similar to the first, I asked him a similar question about the health effects of gasoline versus ethanol. This time, he hurled a personal insult at me, calling me an “idiot” in front of a large crowd in an effort to avoid answering the question. Again, there were many witnesses. Frankly, there is no room for this type of behavior by a public seminar speaker.

Also, in response to NRDC’s comments, can you please refer people to the point-by-point responses located at

http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/E85vWindSol

The original article is there as well.

Mark

Mark Z. Jacobson,
Associate Professor
Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Terman Engineering Center, Room M-31
Stanford University
Phone: 650-723-6836
Fax: 650-725-9720 Stanford, CA 94305-4020
Email: jacobson@stanford.edu
Web site: http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/

I will let both responses speak for themselves, and refrain from further comments on the matter.

May 22, 2007 Posted by | air pollution, ethanol, Mark Jacobson, reader submission, Vinod Khosla | Comments Off on Mark Jacobson Responds to Vinod Khosla

Vinod Khosla on Mark Jacobson

Note: In the interest of fairness, I will post a response from Mark Jacobson tomorrow.

In response to my recent essay, Vinod Khosla and The Truth, I got a response from Mr. Khosla in which he said that my source had not reported the facts accurately. Mr. Khosla and I ended up exchanging over 20 e-mails over this (we also covered a lot of old ground, and some of the e-mails were very frank). Mr. Khosla’s response was “off the record”, but I told him I would be happy to let him respond on the record. After cobbling together a response from various e-mails, I sent it to Mr. Khosla to make sure it accurately represented his position. He made a couple of corrections, and then sent the following statement (followed by a statement by the NRDC):

My talk was inaccurately reported as I never said Mark was funded by Exxon. I am also happy to tell you about the history of Mark’s interaction with me.

I am careful to say “I don’t know what Mark’s intent is but there are good people with good data, good people with inaccurate data, and bad people with bad intent who selectively use data. Many such efforts are funded by the oil industry (I seldom define any one company, especially if I don’t know for sure, fear of being personally sued. I have a lot to lose).

As to Mark Jacobson I have not read his paper but I did read the New Scientist description. “we would have 185 fewer deaths from a current total of 10,” “mostly in smoggy Los Angeles”. Which model is accurate enough to predict deaths at better than 2%? Also his data on smog does not match actual data of smog days in places ethanol is used. How accurate is this model? The NRDC specifically sent out a “debunking Mark Jacobson” memo. Why would an environmental organization disagree with him? He has heckled me at my speeches for a while and when somebody asked him why he told them that he was upset that biofuels were taking away funding from wind research. I cannot verify this statement but that is what I was told. I will suggest that my skepticism is justified especially since I am presuming (but don’t know for sure) that he started heckling me before he started working on this latest model. I see this kind of thing all the time with people from various research institutions, much like tobacco funding was directed at “pro-tobacco research results” for decades.

Vinod Khosla
Khosla Ventures
650/376-8500

He also included a response by Roland Hwang of the NRDC:

NRDC Statement on New Study of Ethanol (E85) Impact on Air Quality

April 26, 2007

NRDC believes there should be no rush to judgment on the impacts of ethanol used as high blends (E85, 85% ethanol, and 15% gasoline) on air quality based on a new study by Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University.

We urge Dr. Jacobson to join with NRDC, air pollution regulators, and scientists to clear the air regarding his statement that concludes that E85, “a high blend of ethanol poses an equal or greater risk to public health than gasoline.” This conclusion is at odds with previous studies and emission data from modern vehicles running on E85, and even appears to be at odds with the conclusion from his own study.

NRDC recommends the following to clarify the results of this paper and the air quality impacts of ethanol used as high blends:

First, NRDC recommends that a team of leading vehicle emission experts review the existing data on emissions from E85. Based on this review, if the panel believes the emission scenarios in Dr. Jacobson’s study are incorrect and/or additional sensitivity runs are necessary, air pollution regulators should re-run the air pollution model to develop a broader scientific consensus of the impacts on air quality.

Second, based on the results from the above work, we urge the CARB, US EPA, automakers and the ethanol industry to commit to additional testing of E85 vehicles if warranted. If such testing results indicate a need, we call upon CARB and US EPA to immediately set tighter emission standards on E85 vehicles to protect public health.

We look forward to working with Dr. Jacobson and vehicle emission experts to clarify and improve the quality of information being provided to policymakers and the public on this important issue of the pollution impacts of E85.
____________________________________
Roland Hwang, Vehicles Policy Director
NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, http://www.nrdc.org/
111 Sutter Street, 20th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
tel: 415-875-6100
fax: 415-875-6161

I have no comments on this. I just wanted to give him the chance to tell his side of the story. As I have said, my issue was not with the study itself. I don’t know if it is accurate or not. I do know that in the original press releases that Roland Hwang did acknowledge that Mark Jacobson is one of the best atmospheric chemists in the country. But my issue was that I felt Mr. Khosla was once again being loose with the facts, and we discussed this in some detail in our e-mail exchanges.

May 21, 2007 Posted by | air pollution, ethanol, Mark Jacobson, reader submission, Vinod Khosla | 7 Comments

Vinod Khosla on Mark Jacobson

Note: In the interest of fairness, I will post a response from Mark Jacobson tomorrow.

In response to my recent essay, Vinod Khosla and The Truth, I got a response from Mr. Khosla in which he said that my source had not reported the facts accurately. Mr. Khosla and I ended up exchanging over 20 e-mails over this (we also covered a lot of old ground, and some of the e-mails were very frank). Mr. Khosla’s response was “off the record”, but I told him I would be happy to let him respond on the record. After cobbling together a response from various e-mails, I sent it to Mr. Khosla to make sure it accurately represented his position. He made a couple of corrections, and then sent the following statement (followed by a statement by the NRDC):

My talk was inaccurately reported as I never said Mark was funded by Exxon. I am also happy to tell you about the history of Mark’s interaction with me.

I am careful to say “I don’t know what Mark’s intent is but there are good people with good data, good people with inaccurate data, and bad people with bad intent who selectively use data. Many such efforts are funded by the oil industry (I seldom define any one company, especially if I don’t know for sure, fear of being personally sued. I have a lot to lose).

As to Mark Jacobson I have not read his paper but I did read the New Scientist description. “we would have 185 fewer deaths from a current total of 10,” “mostly in smoggy Los Angeles”. Which model is accurate enough to predict deaths at better than 2%? Also his data on smog does not match actual data of smog days in places ethanol is used. How accurate is this model? The NRDC specifically sent out a “debunking Mark Jacobson” memo. Why would an environmental organization disagree with him? He has heckled me at my speeches for a while and when somebody asked him why he told them that he was upset that biofuels were taking away funding from wind research. I cannot verify this statement but that is what I was told. I will suggest that my skepticism is justified especially since I am presuming (but don’t know for sure) that he started heckling me before he started working on this latest model. I see this kind of thing all the time with people from various research institutions, much like tobacco funding was directed at “pro-tobacco research results” for decades.

Vinod Khosla
Khosla Ventures
650/376-8500

He also included a response by Roland Hwang of the NRDC:

NRDC Statement on New Study of Ethanol (E85) Impact on Air Quality

April 26, 2007

NRDC believes there should be no rush to judgment on the impacts of ethanol used as high blends (E85, 85% ethanol, and 15% gasoline) on air quality based on a new study by Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University.

We urge Dr. Jacobson to join with NRDC, air pollution regulators, and scientists to clear the air regarding his statement that concludes that E85, “a high blend of ethanol poses an equal or greater risk to public health than gasoline.” This conclusion is at odds with previous studies and emission data from modern vehicles running on E85, and even appears to be at odds with the conclusion from his own study.

NRDC recommends the following to clarify the results of this paper and the air quality impacts of ethanol used as high blends:

First, NRDC recommends that a team of leading vehicle emission experts review the existing data on emissions from E85. Based on this review, if the panel believes the emission scenarios in Dr. Jacobson’s study are incorrect and/or additional sensitivity runs are necessary, air pollution regulators should re-run the air pollution model to develop a broader scientific consensus of the impacts on air quality.

Second, based on the results from the above work, we urge the CARB, US EPA, automakers and the ethanol industry to commit to additional testing of E85 vehicles if warranted. If such testing results indicate a need, we call upon CARB and US EPA to immediately set tighter emission standards on E85 vehicles to protect public health.

We look forward to working with Dr. Jacobson and vehicle emission experts to clarify and improve the quality of information being provided to policymakers and the public on this important issue of the pollution impacts of E85.
____________________________________
Roland Hwang, Vehicles Policy Director
NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, http://www.nrdc.org/
111 Sutter Street, 20th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
tel: 415-875-6100
fax: 415-875-6161

I have no comments on this. I just wanted to give him the chance to tell his side of the story. As I have said, my issue was not with the study itself. I don’t know if it is accurate or not. I do know that in the original press releases that Roland Hwang did acknowledge that Mark Jacobson is one of the best atmospheric chemists in the country. But my issue was that I felt Mr. Khosla was once again being loose with the facts, and we discussed this in some detail in our e-mail exchanges.

May 21, 2007 Posted by | air pollution, ethanol, Mark Jacobson, reader submission, Vinod Khosla | 3 Comments

Vinod Khosla and The Truth

One thing I noted during my previous debunking of Vinod Khosla’s claims was that he was very careless with information he presented as fact. I have seen numerous incorrect or grossly exaggerated claims in his presentations. Why should I care? As I have stated before, he is free to invest his money into whatever scheme he desires. That’s no skin off my nose. But he has aggressively lobbied the government to fund and support his schemes. And since I believe energy policy is too important to be influenced by false claims, I take exception.

Yesterday in my inbox I was presented with another example of Khosla making reckless claims. I have mentioned it in passing, but last week a study was released by Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford in which he concluded that the environmental advantages of ethanol have been exaggerated:

Jacobson found that an E85 vehicle reduces atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increases two others: formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

As a result, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be similar to those for gasoline – or worse. Jacobson’s study, based on an intricate model, found that in certain parts of the country, E85 significantly increased ozone, the main ingredient of smog.

He maintains that mortality rates could rise 4 percent in the United States by 2020 if we make the switch to E85.

Mr. Khosla was recently asked about this. And he quickly threw out the sort of claim that I became all too familiar with during his promotion of California’s Proposition 87:

When Vinod Khosla – co-founder of Sun Microsystems, noted venture capitalist and ethanol champion – was giving a pep talk on ethanol, a student (one who, apparently, has yet to be pounded into intellectual submission) asked him if he had heard of Jacobson’s study.

Of course Khosla had heard of it! The study was funded by Exxon.

That is shameful. For the record, here was Jacobson’s reply when asked if Exxon had funded his research:

“Absolutely not,” he laughs. “I’ve taken no money from energy companies. My study was funded by NASA. For 18 years I’ve been studying pollutants in the air to understand the atmosphere better and try to find solutions to problems.”

Mr. Khosla can retract that statement, and he can apologize. And he should. But the damage is done. “Jacobson? Oh yeah, you mean that guy funded by Exxon.”As I saw during his Prop 87 campaigning, smearing opponents was an acceptable way of achieving his objectives.

Professor Jacobson also made a statement that sums up why I have so vigorously challenged Khosla on these issues:

“I’m interested in climate change and air pollution, and corn ethanol doesn’t help us with those problems,” he tells me. “We have some serious problems. If we start believing that we’re solving problems and we’re not, that’s a dangerous road to be on. In 15 years we’ll be sitting here looking back and wondering why we locked into ethanol when there are far better roads.”

Sadly, people will continue to accept Vinod Khosla’s ethanol claims. After all expertise in one field automatically implies expertise in other fields. Right?

April 25, 2007 Posted by | air pollution, ethanol, ExxonMobil, Mark Jacobson, Vinod Khosla | 64 Comments

Vinod Khosla and The Truth

One thing I noted during my previous debunking of Vinod Khosla’s claims was that he was very careless with information he presented as fact. I have seen numerous incorrect or grossly exaggerated claims in his presentations. Why should I care? As I have stated before, he is free to invest his money into whatever scheme he desires. That’s no skin off my nose. But he has aggressively lobbied the government to fund and support his schemes. And since I believe energy policy is too important to be influenced by false claims, I take exception.

Yesterday in my inbox I was presented with another example of Khosla making reckless claims. I have mentioned it in passing, but last week a study was released by Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford in which he concluded that the environmental advantages of ethanol have been exaggerated:

Jacobson found that an E85 vehicle reduces atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increases two others: formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

As a result, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be similar to those for gasoline – or worse. Jacobson’s study, based on an intricate model, found that in certain parts of the country, E85 significantly increased ozone, the main ingredient of smog.

He maintains that mortality rates could rise 4 percent in the United States by 2020 if we make the switch to E85.

Mr. Khosla was recently asked about this. And he quickly threw out the sort of claim that I became all too familiar with during his promotion of California’s Proposition 87:

When Vinod Khosla – co-founder of Sun Microsystems, noted venture capitalist and ethanol champion – was giving a pep talk on ethanol, a student (one who, apparently, has yet to be pounded into intellectual submission) asked him if he had heard of Jacobson’s study.

Of course Khosla had heard of it! The study was funded by Exxon.

That is shameful. For the record, here was Jacobson’s reply when asked if Exxon had funded his research:

“Absolutely not,” he laughs. “I’ve taken no money from energy companies. My study was funded by NASA. For 18 years I’ve been studying pollutants in the air to understand the atmosphere better and try to find solutions to problems.”

Mr. Khosla can retract that statement, and he can apologize. And he should. But the damage is done. “Jacobson? Oh yeah, you mean that guy funded by Exxon.”As I saw during his Prop 87 campaigning, smearing opponents was an acceptable way of achieving his objectives.

Professor Jacobson also made a statement that sums up why I have so vigorously challenged Khosla on these issues:

“I’m interested in climate change and air pollution, and corn ethanol doesn’t help us with those problems,” he tells me. “We have some serious problems. If we start believing that we’re solving problems and we’re not, that’s a dangerous road to be on. In 15 years we’ll be sitting here looking back and wondering why we locked into ethanol when there are far better roads.”

Sadly, people will continue to accept Vinod Khosla’s ethanol claims. After all expertise in one field automatically implies expertise in other fields. Right?

April 25, 2007 Posted by | air pollution, ethanol, ExxonMobil, Mark Jacobson, Vinod Khosla | 32 Comments