Letter to the editor:
Recent expert scrutiny and commentary on TTU research carried out under the sponsorship of Fitzgerald Glider Kits confirm early suspicions regarding possible conflicts of interest and incompetent research. The TTU research had concluded that rebuilt truck engines polluted no more and perhaps less that new truck engines; thereby offering evidence to override tighter EPA emission standards being considered for the glider kit industry.
But according to experts at the International Council on Clean Transportation [ICCT], the TTU study is “rife with unexplained claims and contradictory statements.” [The ICCT analysis of the TTU research can be found at: http://www.theicct.org/blog/staff/glider-industry-petition-support-glider-trucks-debunks-itself]
From the ICCT report: “[T]he first problem is what the [TTU] summary doesn’t contain, which is anything at all about the test methodology. There are two pieces of information that are always supplied when research laboratories describe a vehicle or engine emissions test, even in summary form: information on the test equipment and information on the test cycle. The Tennessee Tech summary includes neither.” A subsequent teleconference meeting between EPA and TTU–described in the ‘docket’ hyperlink in the above ICCT document–did reveal some of the methodology pursued but this only deepened one’s understanding of the insufficiency of the research. Notes from this meeting confirmed the test lab “was unable to measure particulate emissions from diesel engines” and thus was not ”anywhere close to being equipped to follow certified emissions testing protocols that have been in place for decades.” This meant “that the ‘study’ doesn’t… empirically assess one of the two main harms from the explosion of glider sales that EPA intended to address—particulate matter emissions.” Moreover, the TTU summary report [hyperlinked in the above ICCT link] failed to “ report NOx emissions measurements…except to note that they ranged from 0.44 to 6.45 grams per horsepower-hour… — that is, between 2 times and 32 times the NOx limit for post-2010 engines! Not only does that not call into question EPA’s Phase 2 assumptions; it confirms them.” The Phase 2 rules led to limitations on glider truck sales due to these emissions.
The shoddy TTU research and early secrecy surrounding the methodology, along with the potential conflicts of interests between TTU and Fitzgerald, has caught the attention of the national press and in an unfavorable light. See: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/science/ct-epa-scientists-20171110-story.html. The desire of TTU administrators to link the university with business interests has seriously jeopardized not only TTU’s reputation but possibly the nation’s public health.
Jon Jonakin, TTU Emeritus Professor of Economics
1345 Inglewood Drive, Cookeville