Monday, June 16, 2008

Freeman Op-Ed Raises Credibility Question

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, plagiarize is defined as follows:

pla·gia·rize: transitive verb : to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source; intransitive verb : to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

Rep. Allen Freeman has a letter to the editor in the Telegraph today. He addressed the issue of biofuels. I have no particular issue with biofuels, but it appears that Rep. Freeman took substantial portions of his letter verbatim from industry-based publications without citing the sources or acknowledging that the words are not his own. Even if he used it with the permission of these industry-based publications, he still should've acknowledged the source because he presents the words as if they are his own. That's a credibility issue.

Last year Freeman sponsored a piece of legislation to create a study committee on biofuels. On 12/5/2007, Freeman received a $1,000 contribution from Alterra Bioenergy, a Macon-based company that manufactures and distributes biofuels.

Let me be clear. My issue here is not with biofuels-it's with Rep. Freeman's use of the words of others without attribution.

You can read a entire copy of his letter here. Below, I have pulled out the sentences that contain large portions from at least two other publications and have color coded the phrases and posted the source quotes below. So far, these are the phrases that I have found that appear in other publications (that he did not author):

1. With legislative concerns about America's energy future and food resources, some leaders in Washington are rethinking America's commitment to alternative fuels.

2. Biofuels have become a convenient scapegoat in the media, but fortunately not all biofuels are the same and it is possible for our country to have food and fuel and meet objectives to mitigate global warming.

3. Georgia can provide viable feedstocks and the one biofuel that shows exceeding promise for long-term sustainability is biodiesel.

4. The 500 million gallons of biodiesel produced in the U.S. in 2007 displaced 20 million barrels of petroleum and reduced greenhouse gas emissions at an equivalent of removing 700,000 passenger vehicles from America's roadways.


1. Not All Biofuels are the Same, May 29, 2008 - by Jeffrey Trucksess, Executive Vice President for Government and Regulatory Affairs for Green Earth Fuels, a Houston, Texas-based biodiesel company.

Here is a link to the full article. These are the portions that appear, unattributed, in Rep. Freeman's letter to the editor:

· Due to a confluence of legislative concerns about America’s energy future and an international food shortage, some leaders in Washington are rethinking America’s commitment to alternative fuels, especially biofuels.

· biodiesel’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions equaled the removal of 700,000 passenger vehicles from America’s roadways.

· It is time for all to take note: not all biofuels are the same and we can have food and fuel at the same time.

· the one biofuel that shows exceeding promise for long-term sustainability is biodiesel

Also, many of these same words and phrases appear in Trucksess' testimony before the a U.S. House committee last week.

2. And, a portion of Freeman's letter appears in this article from

President Bush Calls for Farmers to Keep Growing Energy
Weather and energy costs play greatest role in higher food prices
National Biodiesel Board

...Meanwhile, the U. S. biodiesel industry is helping increase the nation's refining capacity by building plants that produce an American-made, cleaner burning fuel. The 500 million gallons of biodiesel produced in the U.S. in 2007 displaced 20 million barrels of petroleum. Biodiesel is an extremely efficient fuel that creates 3.5 units of energy for every unit of fuel that is required to produce the fuel.


Tina said...

Looks like we are living in an age of cut & paste composition. The recent report released by the Goveror's mental health commission contained verbatim material from a report prepared in Michigan as well as other sources. Seems like everyone would know these days that "the internet tells all." You can plug a few sentences into Google and it will regurgitate sources in seconds.

Amy Morton said...

Indeed. What do we have now? A "Culture of Copycats"?

Tina said...

One of the benefits of proper attribution (besides academic honesty) is that a few foot notes, or interior notes, show that you have done some research. When sources are cited then others who are interested can seek out and read those sources.

Fall Line Dem said...

When Lance Randall was in a similar situation, the Macon Telegraph made a front page story out of it. I wonder what they will do with Mr. Freeman?