Improve Patent Policy – Promote Energy Innovation

America will continue to depend upon innovation in the energy sector. With prices of oil and gas driven down by new technology, increased supply and availability of renewables, the public’s attention to our energy supply has diminished. But America will continue to depend for its security and prosperity on widely available energy, energy innovation, and the products that come from traditional sources of fuel. That is why changes to patent policy matter for America’s future.

Previously, Penley on Education and Energy has focused on the critical role of advances in energy research (See, e.g., Energy Storage Advances in Research). Now renewed attention should be given to potential patent policy changes that may support those advances. On February 15 2015 Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) reintroduced the Innovation Act in the House Judiciary Committee. Today, a follow-up hearing will be held on this important patent legislation. While the primary focus of the legislation continues to be on patent trial proceedings, this is an opportunity to make other important changes to American patent law and the patent process.

Among needed changes are means to increase the speed by which patents are processed and approved. Slowness in patent approval processes inhibits advances in the application of research, discourages innovation and limits American competitiveness. Providing additional revenue to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is one means to increase the number of patent examiners and encourage the development of needed technology.

Absent increased funding, which would address the problem, there are other potential changes in policy that can be adopted says the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in a late 2014 report, Federal Policies and Innovation. They include giving the USPTO more flexibility in setting its fees. Fees are considered discretionary spending and are therefore subject to the 2011 spending caps. Congressional action could provide flexibility to the USPTO for setting fees and a Congressional appropriation could permit the USPTO to use the revenue it collects from fees for improving and speeding the patent approval process.

Why are changes necessary?

The answer is simple – to improve the application of innovative research. One example comes from research related to energy storage, important for increased use of energy generated by the sun and wind. Among the research in this area is the work of US scientists and engineers on lithium ion batteries. For example, West Virginia University Professors Hui Zhang, Xingbo Liu and their colleagues published research in 2013 on a means for increasing conductivity and decreasing the energy required for a chemical reaction in lithium ion batteries. A related patent is now before the USPTO where patents often languish due to inadequate resources of the USPTO.

But innovation in battery storage and renewables is not the only source of difficulty for American innovation. Recent patent applications include innovations in drilling, analyzing topographical data, separating chemical components of hydrocarbons, etc. These and related innovations affect availability and uses of traditional fossil fuels.

The Innovation Act is worthy of the public’s attention, and today’s hearing is just one step. Introducing needed changes to the USPTO’s patent processing will improve access to America’s innovation.   The Innovation Act before the House Judiciary Committee offers the opportunity. America will continue to depend for its security and prosperity on energy innovation. That is one very important reason for improving our patent policy.


The Consumer and US Higher Education

Demonstrating that US Higher Education provides real benefits to society is essential. Society’s considerable support of higher education in federal and state funding merits it. Consumers – parents and students – deserve it in order to make wise choices among colleges and universities. America deserves it for its global competitiveness.

Two reports in the last month provide relevant criticism and direction. The first is from The Economist and the second comes from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. The Economist’s criticism readily acknowledges that the results of a college education are clear.  Those with more education, especially a college degree, receive higher incomes. This relationship of income to college degree does not, however, prove that higher education is responsible. For those of us with long-term experience in higher education, we know the truth. Excellent learning opportunities abound in our best schools. Good advising helps to lead to career-enlarging choices by students. But despite best efforts, a student can coast by with reasonable intelligence and choices of less demanding majors and easier classes. Too many do.

Society is the loser.   When students graduate with little improvement in their knowledge and skills, US capacity to innovate and become more productive is harmed. We hear repeatedly from recruiters that graduates are too often ill-prepared. Re-training by the hiring business is a major, unnecessary expense; it should not be the norm.

While The Economist’s article, Excellence versus Equity, challenges the notion that US higher education is responsible for post-graduation income improvement, the recent work of the Senate Committee on Education offers potential direction. It points to the opportunity to alter the data provided from schools and it points to the need to alter how those data are used as information for parents and prospective students. It does so in its report, Federal Postsecondary Data Transparency and Consumer Information Concepts and Proposals.

Having had ultimate reporting responsibility at two higher educational institutions as president, I was consistently frustrated by the level of institutional resources devoted to federal reporting and discouraged by the inadequacy of the resulting consumer data. That is why as President of Colorado State University (CSU), I instituted the College Portrait to provide consumers with more information about CSU’s outcomes. It was why I sponsored a trial at CSU of the Collegiate Learning Assessment as a potential means to measure the value added for undergraduates by their education. It was also why I sponsored considerable improvements to the student career services as President of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and why I serve on the Advisory Board of AfterCollege, a career path service for college students.

Just graduating is not enough. It is not enough to warrant the investment and expense of college degrees. It is not enough to satisfy students and parents. It is not enough to meet the needs of society, and it is not enough to retain America’s global competitiveness. Change is essential, and that means collecting the right data in order to provide usable information to consumers. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is a potentially positive step.

Avoid Sweet Briar for Your College

The news of Sweet Briar’s closing saddens many, including those of us who grew up in the South. This is a region of many historic, liberal arts schools. But sadness does not avoid another Sweet Briar. It does not address the threats that face many schools. There are actions – tough actions – that can be taken to address the threats and avoid becoming the next Sweet Briar or worse.

My recent experience has introduced me to those actions that avoid becoming Sweet Briar – and closing. My Board and I just completed the merger into Arizona State University of the Thunderbird School of Global Management. I was its President. Like Sweet Briar, Thunderbird was a relatively small, private college – but one dedicated to global management education. We are lucky to still have Thunderbird – as a part of ASU. Its students can complete their degrees. New students can enroll in the Thunderbird’s great education, and executives can receive the School’s global management training.

The outcome for Thunderbird was a very good one.  It could have been much worse. Like Sweet Briar, Thunderbird faced increased competition for qualified applicants, changes in what students wanted and employers needed. Like many schools in its situation, Thunderbird was in a vulnerable state. It needed stability, renewal and working capital for its aspirations. Like many schools, its size, traditions and structure limited options.  Luckily its board and I saw a future for the school through partnerships and other alternatives.

There are lessons that can be learned and actions that can be taken:

  1. Be pragmatic about the financial conditions of your college or university. Look at changes over time to your balance sheet and income statement.
  2. If it’s not too late already, begin the “process” of redefining the brand and modifying operations consistent with brand in order to position the school more competitively.
  3. Whether it’s too late or not, implement a communication plan that provides a rationale for the change – in brand or in the search for alternatives.
  4. If it is too late, realistically look for alternatives: joint ventures, mergers, and closure.
  5. Work closely with accreditors to help them understand the school’s situation. Actively solicit their advice and support for alternatives that will be acceptable under regional and specialized accreditation.
  6. Consider consultants like Penley Consulting – and Implement your plan.

The media have made clear that Sweet Briar and Thunderbird are not alone. Both schools took affirmative steps – but with different outcomes. Leadership from presidents and boards will determine what kind of outcome another, similarly vulnerable school receives.

Dear President Obama: End the Ban!

Larry Summers, leader of President Obama’s National Economic Council from 2009 to 2010 and former Harvard University President, made a forceful case last week at the Brookings Institution to end the 39-year-old crude oil exports ban.  The ban, which was put in place in 1975 in response to the Arab oil embargo, reflects policy stuck in the 1970s. We have an opportunity to promote U.S. economic development through a booming energy renaissance that demands a very different policy some 40 years later.  Permitting U.S. oil exports will lower gasoline prices at the pump, provide Americans with new jobs, lower unemployment, and strengthen the nation’s flexibility in international policy.  Mr. Summers believes President Obama should act now.  His case is straightforward: “We should not have prohibitions without a reason.  We need all the economic benefits we can get.”

Mr. Summers spoke at the release of a new report by the Energy Security Initiative (ESI) at Brookings, entitled “Changing Markets: Economic Opportunities from Lifting the U.S. Ban on Crude Oil Exports.”  The study supports his argument for exports.  U.S. refineries cannot handle the dramatic increase in domestic crude oil production that has resulted from the domestic shale boom.  Mr. Summers also makes clear that his support for ending the export ban is not an argument against climate change or the need to address it.  The US is already making surprising progress in limiting carbon, he observes.  Retaining a ban on exports is not the solution to additional changes that may be considered in well construction and wastewater disposal, associated with hydraulic fracturing.  Ending the ban on oil exports will drive economic growth with new jobs and increased disposable personal income that comes from savings at the pump.  Improved efficiencies in the refining process are also likely.

According to the macroeconomic study conducted by the ESI and the National Economic Research Associates (NERA), eliminating a ban on crude oil exports could inject between $600 billion and $1.8 trillion into the domestic economy and reduce gasoline prices by 9 cents per gallon by 2015.  The study coincides with a study by IHS released earlier this year that also forecasts lower gasoline prices and increased employment and economic revenue.  Because oil production is now at its highest point since 1987 as a result of the steep rise in domestic horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, suppliers are looking for ways to bring their product to market.

Without increased market access via international exports, the study warns that U.S. production will decline. Crude stockpiles climbed to a record high on the U.S. Gulf Coast earlier this year, a trend that will continue so long as the industry believes that the export ban might be lifted.  With broader market access, however, oil production in the Gulf Coast alone could increase by over 1.5 million barrels per day.  Brookings gets it right: “We think the key lesson of our economic history in the energy space is that the U.S. economy works better by embracing market forces than trying to resist them.”

Mr. Summers’ succinct comments are the latest example in a growing trend of influential American leaders who wish to revisit the ban.  Obama Administration officials—including Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz—have asked to reexamine the ban’s utility.  Several high-profile lawmakers, for example Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), have followed suit.  According to an Associated Press poll conducted this year, ninety percent of economists surveyed believed allowing crude oil exports would improve the economy.

Additionally, the comments by Summers and the release of the Brooking’s report come on the heels of the Commerce Department’s decision earlier this summer to allow the export of lightly processed condensate, a first step that further bolsters Summers’s argument. Brookings believes President Obama has the authority to remove the ban without consulting Congress, meaning he could capitalize on the increasing momentum without getting weighed down in a political battle in Congress.

The President has the clear authority to act. The American people stand to gain substantially from ending the ban. The U. S. stands to gain additional international foreign policy leverage in a world where oil and natural gas exports provide power to some and constrain others in the continued European and Russian dance over the Ukraine.  Lawmakers and policy wonks are loudly supporting a rational crude oil export policy.  It is now time for President Obama to capitalize on this momentum and end the ban on crude oil exports. 



Technology, The Economy and The Education We Need

That technology is once again altering the economy and world of work is evident. The Economist has written a timely, relevant analysis in its article, “The Onrushing Wave” that further examines this intersection.   The technological transformation has implications for education – in what individuals can do to prosper and what kind of education society needs.  Technology-generated changes to the economy are already capturing the public’s attention, and the primary expression of this attention is concern with growing income equality and lower-than-desired mobility.  Right now discussion appears to make the primary remedies seem political.

Responses to the technological change must be more precisely directed if we are to address the impact of the change.  It is education that will make the difference in which individuals prosper in the transformation.  How educational systems and institutions respond to the transformation will determine whether society’s needs are met.

Once again we face an apparent repetition of the economic disruption that came in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Disruption led to the disappearance of some jobs and the creation of others.  But consumers benefitted substantially.  The Economist concluded,

Everyone should be able to benefit from productivity gains—in that, Keynes was united with his successors. His worry about technological unemployment was mainly a worry about a “temporary phase of maladjustment” as society and the economy adjusted to ever greater levels of productivity. So it could well prove. However, society may find itself sorely tested if, as seems possible, growth and innovation deliver handsome gains to the skilled, while the rest cling to dwindling employment opportunities at stagnant wages.

Which skills will matter and what kind of education is needed?  The economic challenges that come from the on-going disruption point to the value of education – but not to any traditional skills. Rather than traditional skills, the disruption points to the need for adaptability.  What will matter for individuals are the analytical skills associated with dealing with complexity and developing adaptive responses. Education will serve society’s needs if it is focused on the creation of a learning environment that develops critical thinking and entrepreneurial adaptability.

At the K-12 level, this is why implementation of the new common core in the U.S. is so serious.  Critical thinking skills are at the heart of the common core; see the work of Achieve in this area.  At higher education levels, alterations in pedagogy are essential as well.  Digital technology provides for, after capital costs, a cost-effective substitute for lectures.  Coupled with more intensive use of application-driven learning – via digital and in-person media – higher education can support similar needed skill development.  While we will not escape the transformation described in the analysis by The Economist, we can educate to that transformation rather than attempt to forestall it or politically manipulate its impact.

The Challenge of Energy in 2014

The abundant availability of energy in 2014 is encouraging – in very many ways.  New technology associated with accessing and extracting natural gas and oil has created an energy boom along with new jobs.  The Economist likened the boom in energy to the California gold rush.  But this boom is very different in its technology and the very particular political challenges it faces – for both traditional fossil fuels and renewable energy.

Beyond creating new jobs and new sources of energy, the “boom” has leveled prices of natural gas and oil.  It has also moved the United States closer to what multiple presidents have called for in historic, campaign political statements – energy independence and energy self-sufficiency for America.  For consumers, access to widespread, available oil and natural gas means price stability, including months of decline during 2013 in the price of gasoline at American gas stations.

Of course, there is no guarantee that international issues will not alter current supplies and threaten recent price stability.  Both supplies and price are particularly vulnerable to the continued instability in the Middle East and the uncertainty over persistent, volatile political issues on the Korean peninsula and old territorial disputes between China and Japan.  Historic trends in prices have frequently been disrupted by political volatility.

Despite the very good news for consumers and the U.S., reactions to the boom in energy availability have not been uniformly positive.  Concern over the environment and the desire to avoid “energy production in my backyard” have led to voter restrictions on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – the extraction of natural gas from shale beds using the injection of water and chemicals.  The public’s negative reaction is not restricted to gas wells; indeed, consumers have also reacted unenthusiastically to the presence of windmills that produce renewable energy and sometimes kill errant fowl.  That same environmental concern has led to pressure on government to control energy production with new rules.  Misplaced beliefs about the ability to restrict global markets has also led to pressure on the federal government to limit exports as well via licenses for ports associated with liquid natural gas.

In so many ways, the public has benefitted from the ingenuity that has come from the marketplace.  That benefit has come in the form of stability in energy prices, new jobs in the fossil and renewable sectors of the industry, and increased availability of energy, globally and at home.  The last decade has not only seen a boom in the oil industry with newly identified sources of oil and natural gas, but it has seen improved technology in the renewable energy sector as well.  In addition to improvements in the technology associated with the generation of electricity via wind, progress has continued with greater efficiency of solar cells too.

Yet, the challenge to energy availability in 2014 is likely to continue.  For those who support renewable energy and for those involved in traditional fossil fuels, there is a common interest.  It is in limiting government restrictions on energy production and supporting R&D.

The Challenge for Education in 2014

It was in late 2013 that the world received the most recent international comparisons in educational performance in math, reading and science.  Results came from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  The results were discouraging for both students and educators in North America, and particularly so for those in the United States and Mexico.  Despite the discouraging PISA results, there is significant pressure to stop or slow the implementation of the common core standards in the U.S.

Here are the poor results on the U.S. PISA scores:

  • Fully more than a quarter of U. S. students were below minimal proficiency in math.
  • Almost a fifth of U. S. students scored below minimal proficiency in science, and 17% were below minimal proficiency in reading.
  • The proportion of U.S. students who scored well was also discouraging; only 9% of 15 year olds scored at a level 5 in math proficiency; even fewer were at this level of proficiency in science (7%), and 8% were at this level in reading.

Mexico also saw poor performance results withmore than half of its 15 year olds scoring below minimal proficiency in math. Forty-seven percent were similarly below minimal proficiency in science, but Mexican students scored slightly better than their U.S. neighbors in reading with 86% of 15 year olds scoring above minimal proficiency and 16% below.  Rounding out North America was Canada where students performed somewhat better.  Eighty-six percent of Canadian 15 year olds scored above minimal math proficiency; almost 90% were above minimal proficiency in science, and 97% were above minimal proficiency in reading.

Results in the U.S. and Mexico come along with continued opposition to reform in education.  In Mexico it has come from teachers’ unions with a streak of protectionism for members.  In the U.S. it has come from a variety of sources, but most recently, it has come from two directions.  From the political right, opposition to common core standards has come in terms of fear of loss of district or state’s rights to set education standards – even though current standards fail to prepare educated citizens who are prepared for work or higher education.  Opposition to reform is also coming from the left where there is criticism around  too speedy implementation and criticism of the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and schools.

Both the right and the left are misguided when it comes to education reform needs.  Implementation of the common core standards does not remove local control over how teachers teach.  Moreover, implementation of common core is useless without measurement of outcomes.  Higher standards of U.S. education are in our interest as a country – just as they are in the interest of Mexico or Canada.  As a long-time educator, I have observed poorly prepared college freshmen for decades who struggle to meet the minimum requirements.  Like all U.S. citizens, I deal with service employees who cannot give change nor complete basic alphabetization of products such as DVDs.

The greatest challenge in 2014 for education will be rooted in political opposition to reform. Education reform must work to avoid pressure from both the right and the left. Both sides are working to sidetrack us from educational reform by masking fear of the federal government in the guise of seemingly legitimate concerns about local control or by masking protectionism of teachers’ unions with seemingly legitimate concerns about standardized testing or the speed of implementation of reform.

Gainful Employment and Community Colleges

A little more than two years ago, I speculated about the potential for Gainful Employment rulemaking to be applied to traditional colleges.  The Department of Education (DoE) took a step closer to making my speculation a reality with its scheduling of the second session of negotiated rulemaking for the week of November 18.

The DoE’s revised draft of the Gainful Employment rule has the potential to affect community colleges rather significantly.  The revised draft includes two new metrics that were not included in its August 2013 draft.  The first measures the cohort default rate of former students in a specific program – those who completed and those who did not.  The second is a measure of the repayment rate of the loan portfolio of a program cohort, and the principal must decrease by a minimum of $1 during a given year.

Traditional, nonprofit community colleges offer a variety of occupational programs in areas such as nursing, metalworking, fire fighting, etc.  Community college programs have traditionally had relatively low completion rates.  A report in my local Arizona Republic stated that six-year completion rates of the Maricopa Community College District had risen over a decade to 28%.  The rate includes both students who obtained associate degrees with the intent of going onto a 4-year university and those who completed certificates and degrees closely associated with immediate, gainful employment.

Community colleges are intentionally designed to allow local students easy access to a program and the flexibility to complete courses toward certification at their own pace.  Community colleges also are designed to be responsive to a broad range of working adults, including many who are from the American working class; their incomes are generally stretched to cover a wide range of family living expenses, including repayment of loans.

This round of negotiated rulemaking has the potential to result in changes at community colleges.  Some of those may be positive as community colleges address the need to assure that students complete programs and find gainful employment.  However, there may be negative outcomes for community colleges as well – from the implementation of restrictions on admission, less flexibility in program completion, etc.  These negative outcomes could affect enrollment at community colleges.  Whether the positive outcomes will outweigh the negative ones is not clear. And harm to community college enrollment has the potential to impact local economies with fewer employees with skills desired by employers.  This may well be a time to analyze impacts more carefully before the planned announcement of the rule.

Education Reform – Mexico

This past week, I experienced the enthusiasm that many Mexicans have for reform in education when I spoke at the U.S. Mexico Bar Association Annual Meeting and Conference.  Reform is, of course, a subject of interest in Mexico in the area of energy as well but we have seen that education reform is much further along. Like the U.S., educational reform is essential for Mexico’s global competitiveness.

Both countries – the United States and Mexico – are challenged to compete globally and raise prosperity by the performance of their students when compared with other countries.  The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will report new PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores on December 3.  The previous report placed both countries well below desirable levels. Mexico ranked 48th among the countries tested in reading; the U. S. ranked 17th.  In math, Mexico ranked 50th, and the U.S. was little better at 31st.

These low ranks for both countries represent a strong indication of the need for more educational reform.  For many of us, educational reform has been part of our lives for decades but we still struggle to get reform right. Reform is essential if good teachers are to have the opportunity to do what good teachers can do – change students, indeed transform students.  We can only hope that the new PISA scores will show some improvement for both countries.

Right now, neither Mexico nor the U.S. is globally competitive when it comes to how our students perform in reading, math and science.  Primary and secondary education in the U.S. and Mexico still looks very familiar after decades of attempts to reform it.  Teachers’ unions are still strong; especially in Mexico and it has been the struggle with teachers’ unions that has caught the most attention of many people who have watched the recent education reforms take place in Mexico.

Many teachers have feared competition, and the Mexican teachers’ union has fought reform.  Competition, of course, is becoming more widely available to U.S. students via online schools, home schools, and charter schools.  It is still rare in Mexico, but competition is more typical of many other countries.  In the Netherlands, three-quarters of Dutch students study in private schools.  Japan and Korea have an even larger proportion of their students in privately managed schools.

The good news in Mexico is that reform is underway.  New standardized tests will become available for selecting teachers and for evaluating their performance.  A new, national reporting system has increased transparency; the information system is called ENLACE (La Evaluacion Nacional de Logro Academico en Centros Escolares).  In June, the Mexican government reported that ENLACE data covered 95% of students and 90% of Mexican schools.  Scores on national tests are essential for making reforms work, and scores have to be based on a national average and be used to determine if a student is doing poorly as an anomaly in a class or school – or if the entire class or school is doing poorly relative to national averages.  Mexico can now do this.

It was very positive to witness the enthusiasm for education reform this past week.  That enthusiasm seemed to be driven by an understanding that reforms have to enable teachers to be more effective.  Despite the reported reaction by teachers’ unions to educational reform in Mexico, it is teachers who will make educational reform lead to improved student performance.

Why Science Matters, Part I: Methane Emissions Research

In this – or any other age – where argumentation is often based on belief systems, science presents an alternative. Science is a systematic way of pursuing knowledge via the scientific method.  It employs observation, prediction, and measurement, and it contrasts with belief systems.  The purpose of today’s blog is to examine how recently published science contributes to our knowledge of energy and climate change.  Science offers a foundation for improvement in business efficiency, profitability and the establishment of sound government policy.

In examining why science matters, we start with an examination of the recent scientific research associated with methane emissions from natural gas wells.  The research comes from the published work of David T. Allen et al. in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and it has already received attention in some media because of its findings and their inconsistency with some people’s beliefs and earlier research.  The findings include lower than expected overall release of methane from newly drilled wells, many of which are associated with hydraulic fracturing.  Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, refers to the process of injecting water and chemicals into subterranean shale in order to release the natural gas stored within the pores of the shale.  Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and it is a potent greenhouse gas that is scientifically associated with climate change.

The study by Mr. Allen and his colleagues used measurements of emissions monitoring equipment during the completion process of wells during a seven month period that included the summer, fall, and parts of the winter and spring seasons of 2012 and 2013.  The method was direct measurement of methane emissions, an important contributor to the credibility of this research.  The results were almost 97% less than a 2011 estimate by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study also examined 150 existing production sites and 489 wells with samples taken from them.  These wells use pneumatic controllers, which are designed to use air pressure created by the well to drive related equipment.  These devices can release methane as a part of their routine operation from equipment leaks that were detected using infrared cameras.  Mr. Allen’s and his colleagues’ observations were that methane release from pneumatic controllers was 57-67% higher than earlier EPA estimates.

While this scientific paper did not address business practices or policy, there is an opportunity to look to changes in practice that could further reduce methane release.  Pneumatic controllers were the primary source of methane release in this research and there are various actions that can be taken by natural gas companies, even without changes to policy that can help reduce the amount of methane release.  If companies were to install low-bleed devices in pneumatic controllers, retrofit machines with low-bleed devices, and improve maintenance associated with gaskets, tube fittings and seals we could see a significant reduction in the amount of methane being released by the pneumatic controllers.  Reducing the unintended loss of natural gas via pneumatic controllers has financial advantages for both the owner of the well and the environment. Owners of the wells can make more natural gas available for sale and the reduction of methane release in the environment can help mitigate any climate implications.

When taken together, methane emissions from new well installations and pneumatic controllers were 10% lower than earlier EPA estimates.  These findings are a valuable addition to our knowledge base.  Nine natural gas producers supported the research, and some media have indicted the credibility of the research because of the source of funding.  Since most scientific research is supported by one source or another, the particular source, per se, is less important than the soundness of the method used and the design of the hypotheses.  In both cases, Mr. Allen and his colleagues followed expected scientific practice that lends considerable credibility to the new information about lower than expected emissions of methane from natural gas extraction. This is the value of science.