Colin SproulThe Infomorning crew at CBC invited Colin Sproul to spout about instream turbines and larval lobster. Sproul is a hired gun who speaks on behalf of the local lobster fishermen. So let's take a close look at what Sproul had to say:
Look, you just can't believe anything that this guy says.
- Sproul: "The key concern in the commercial sector is the lack of science on the turbines effects on larvae and eggs"
Sense: Well, how about these scientific measurements which show that tidal turbine operation did not cause significant mortality
- Sproul: "There's a large pressure drop within the turbine. As something transits the turbine, like larvae or an egg, it goes from the crushing pressure of the ocean to the lower pressure inside the turbine caused by cavitations and back again to the crushing pressure of the sea and that's been proven through independent international research to destroy those larvae and eggs."
- Let's start with the fact that it only took three sentences for Sproul to totally contradict himself. With regard to "turbine effects on larvae", Sproul at first says there's a "lack of science" and then makes reference to "independent international research" that proves that turbines destroy larvae and eggs. You can't have it both ways Mr Sproul.
- Mr Sproul achieved the remarkable feat of making two contradictory statements which are both false. There is research. The research shows no significant mortality.
- Now we can get to the very odd notion of "inside the turbine". I suspect that Mr Sproul has become confused and is really talking about the fact the a reaction turbine is inside a chamber that contains the flow. Reaction turbines are used for low-head dams. Reaction turbines are nothing like the instream turbines that will be tested in Minas Passage.
- As for the pressure changes caused by the 2 mega-Watt, 16 metre diameter OpenHydro turbine... those pressure changes are a mere 3% of the ambient pressure. There is no cavitation. The good thing about a big turbine is that you only need small pressure differences to generate a lot of power.
- The propeller of a lobster boat is relatively small and is driven by a powerful motor. That propeller might damage lobster larvae and eggs. (Anyone game for a moratorium of lobster fishing?)
- Sproul: "So when those lobsters and other species spawn in the Minas Basin those eggs and larvae rise in the water column and that incredible biological soup exits the Minas Passage and populates the entire Gulf of Maine with its riches."
Sense: Wow, who would have thought that all those other egg-carrying lobsters along the coast of North America didn't have any viable offspring? Really Mr Sproul, you have elevated Nova Scotia boosterism to infinity and beyond! Science fiction is fine and dandy for promoting tourism but the ecological implications of your proposition are even less believable than the Loch Ness monster.
- Sproul: "An underwater mountain range forces it [water carrying marine life] into a tiny passage on the northern side and that's precisely where Cape Sharp Tidal plans to install these turbines".
Sense: Nope. The real reason has to do with centripetal accelerations as the flood tide flows around the bend going from Minas Channel to Minas Passage and field accelertions which advect that modified current field into the northern side of Minas Passage. It's all rather technical. Suffice to say that everything that Colin Sproul says about currents and "the incredible biological soup" is either wrong or misleading.
- Sproul: "There's been a lot of research put into it but none of it has been independent research. It's all been research funded by industry.."
Sense: Nope, most of the funding has come from OERA. OERA is independent and not for profit --- which is a damn sight more than can be said of Mr Sproul.
- Sproul: "... a study on the effects on zooplankton and larvae and his funding was denied by FORCE.
Sense: FORCE had no say in whether or not that proposal was funded. The proposal was submitted to OERA. OERA has proposals peer reviewed and proposals are also assessed depending upon what matters are prioritized as being most urgent or necessary. I also had a proposal rejected --- so I did a cut-down version of the work and published it anyway.
- Sproul: "You can't underestimate the importance of Minas Passage as a breeding ground.
Sense: I suspect that Sproul ment to say "overestimate". But I wouldn't argue with "underestimate". Few species spawn in Minas Passage (not eel, not salmon, not herring, not gaspereau, not striped bass...).
- Sproul: "It's [Minas Passage] 6 degrees warmer than any other water body north of the Chesapeake Bay."
Sense: Water temperatures in Minas Passage range from below 0 Celcius in winter to about 16 Celcius in August. If Mr Sproul was correct then the water temperature would never get above 10 Celcius in New York. I guess that's why all those millions of New Yorkers flock to bath, in the Bay of Fundy! Nonsense, Mr Sproul.
- Sproul: "... they sighted 42 whales within a 200 m radius of that site in one single tidal cycle and that represents the highest concentration of whales ever observed in Canadian waters."
Sense: Nope. The only cetaceans sighted were harbour porpoises. After a visual survey it was estimated that the total population was about 40 porpoises for all of Minas Passage, Minas Basin and Minas Channel. That is actually a very low concentration of harbour porpoises compared to most other places. As for other whales, like humpbacks, there is a good reason that whale whatchers don't waste their time at Minas Passage --- there is nothing to see.
- After that Sproul gets really, really silly about the nonexistent whales committing mass suicide on turbine blades.
There is nothing to be learned about tidal power from Colin Sproul. But we can learn a few things by examining Colin Sproul:
We should also learn a few things by examining the CBC:
- This smooth-talking fraudster throws out false statements like a machine gun --- far faster than knowledgable people can correct them.
- Sproul exploits the fact that a glib statement takes a moment to make and that it will be welcomed by an audience that is trained to be entertained. He cynically calculates that few CBC listeners will make the intellectual effort required to untangle the falsehoods behind his sound bytes.
- He knows that the CBC is more interested in a sensational beat-up than knowing a stodgy fact. It shows in the interview. I don't think I've ever listened to anything more blatantly scripted.
- CBC is only interested in story telling. A good story will be embraced regardless of it's accuracy.
- Sproul said things that any halfway intelligent interviewer should have expected to be false. And yet CBC never once challenged Sproul on any of his statements. Except for girlish giggling about "capital F FORCE as opposed to lower f force". Obviously, a nicely scripted diversion to engage and entertain their gullible audience. Like the professional cynics that they are, "your CBC" knows that a good media beat-up doesn't include a proper examination of facts that might nip a dumb-arse story in the bud.
- The second part of the CBC game is to get the government to say something. They know, of course, that government ministers always know nothing about anything (it's called plausible deniablity) and so that will open the door to "further studies" to examine goings on. More grist for the CBC to grind.
- The third part of the CBC game is to get the experts to talk. CBC gives the experts the same amount of time (or less), knowing full well that a proper examination of the facts will take far longer than the commission of the crime.
- Proper explanations are often difficult to follow but there is always the chance that the audience will see sense. So the CBC will be quick to step in and muddy the waters by redirecting the discussion whenever it verges on intelligent commentary. Gotta keep story alive.
- CBC bias has become very obvious. If what you have to say is in accord with the CBC agenda then the interviewer will be ever so accommodating. Otherwise, not.