Herald sucked in by bogus fuel technology?

By Peter Griffin 22/04/2010

Aardvark’s Bruce Simpson and tech reporter Juha Saarinen have this morning raised some pretty valid concerns about a story the New Zealand Herald is carrying about a New Zealand-made fuel combustion technology known as “Fuel Star”.

The story, which has no byline and comes with a “supplied” photo, begins with the optimistic intro:

Fuelstar Fuel Combustion Technology of Auckland is set to become a multimillion-dollar exporter. The company, which has been battling sceptics for years, has recently made a major breakthrough with its fuel combustion catalyst that will reap huge rewards for the operators of high-use diesel engines.

That’s a pretty big claim given that Fuelstar’s catalyst, which Fuelstar boss Ian Cornelius says offers “reductions in fuel consumption by 15 per cent and more” has been hammered by Australian regulatory authorities as recently as February for failing to live up to the promise. This from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Independent testing of a New Zealand device touted as fuel saving, has found it is useless, Western Australia’s Department of Consumer Protection says.

Consumer Protection said the Fuelstar Combustion Catalyst failed to deliver petrol savings and emissions reductions promised by promoters of the product.

The Department of Consumer Protection has passed its findings onto the New Zealand Commerce Commission. So why is none of this mentioned in the Fuelstar story in the Herald, a story that has no input from independent experts and quotes just Cornelius and Ford Mondeo owner Terry Brown?

Aardvark has more background on the backstory to Fuelstar. But he ends up focusing more on the Herald’s coverage, asking:

Do they not have a single journalist who could spend a few minutes on Google to try and find *any* truly independent, peer-reviewed scientific evidence to back up FuelStar’s claims?

Clearly not — or they’d have discovered that there is no such thing.

I suspect that the very few journalists still employed over at the NZ Herald are busy re-typing press releases and adding their byline, leaving them no time to actually engage in proper journalism and investigative reporting.

Yes, I can hear a few good journalists cursing at me under their breath right now. “How dare he say that?” they’ll be saying. “The arrogant bastard”.

Well to those journalists I say “get off your fat bums and do some real journalism rather than retype press releases for a change”.

Challenge FuelStar’s claims. Submit the product for proper scientific testing (which I might add has already been done and the product failed miserably) and report on those results.

Amazingly, the Herald undermines its own intro further down in the story when it states:

The company is in discussion with its financial backers to raise enough capital to complete comprehensive third party verification testing.

So Fuelstar is set to become a “multimillion dollar exporter” but hasn’t even completed third party verification of its technology.

Sorry, EPIC FAIL for the Herald. If you want to know what the expert consensus is on Fuelstar, you won’t read about it in the Herald. This site, the reliability of which I can’t vouch for, claims to have rounded up comments from scientists on Fuelstar.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what the Commerce Commission has to say about Fuelstar based on the findings of the Australian watchdog. Interestingly I note on the Fuelstar website that the company is closing down its division for cars and motorbikes:

Our main focus moving forward will be with trucks, locomotives, power generation plant, boats and ships. Our small unit division (motorcycles and cars) is closing down….all stock must go

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