By on April 5, 2016

Beware of ambiguous language used to confuse the masses.   

160406RedneckJACKSON HOLE, WY – Last week’s Jackson Hole News and Guide carried an advertisement by the Wyoming Wildlife Alliance. The ad quoted a report by a federal bear expert predicting a $10 million annual loss to the area’s economy if roadside bears become less visible.

This seemed an interesting claim. First of all, what exactly is a federal bear expert? Is a federal bear expert any more expert than a non-federal bear expert? How exactly does a roadside bear become less visible unless it leaves the roadside, in which case it is no longer a roadside bear? What does “become less visible” mean anyway—a 60 percent chance of seeing a bear instead of a 70 percent chance?

And most important of all, are federal bear experts knowable about the branch of macroeconomic theory relating to roadside bear visibility? (The economic effect of roadside bear visibility was examined by John Maynard Keynes who, in a 1935 paper, stated aggregate bear visibility determined the overall level of economic activity, and that inadequate aggregate bear visibility could lead to prolonged periods of high unemployment.)

I was curious about the methodology used to arrive at the $10 million figure, so per my request, the Wyoming Wildlife Alliance kindly sent me a copy of the report. Wow! Doctorate level calculations based on estimates, subjective guesses and theoretical surmise intermixed with prose so dry it makes the Sahara seem like a swamp. Economists would love it! The study stated the $10 million tourism loss would be “without the potential” of seeing roadside bears. “Without the potential” is in no way the same as “become less visible.”

Plainly, liberal- and conservative-based political organizations love to twist facts.

The outcry on Obama’s war on coal led by Leland Christensen and Liz Cheney, among others, provides a similar example. Is there a war on coal? Perhaps. Chesapeake Energy, one of the biggest natural gas drilling companies in the U.S., financed the American Clean Skies Foundation and donated millions to the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Unfortunately for Wyoming coal, new drilling techniques have made natural gas plentiful. It is cheaper and cleaner than coal. It is easily transported. Gas power plants turn off and on quicker than coal-fired ones, making them more compatible with the hit-and-miss power generated by renewables like solar and wind. The boom in natural gas production is the real culprit behind the war on coal. Christensen and Cheney know that but raging against the liberal in the White House has a better polling effect than blaming the economic advantages of natural gas, or focusing on new options for Wyoming’s economic growth. Our state may get left behind like a whalebone corset in the casual, active wear Patagonia section of Skinny Skis; but at least our politicians can point fingers and blame!

As a columnist, I am expected to be creative with the truth and not allow outdated Victorian values about integrity interfere with a good story. Maybe I should enter the liberal nonprofit world or run in the GOP primary. PJH

About Clyde Thornhill

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