Occam’s Razor

Occam’s razor (also written as Ockham’s razor and in Latin lex parsimoniae, which means ‘law of parsimony’) is a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. (from wiki).

Long story short, the principle argues that the simplest explanation is usually the better one.

In a FERC filing, the Mason Pipeline Committee cites statistics that seem to indicate newer pipelines are failing at a greater rate than older ones (6.1 annual gas incidents per 10,000 miles in the 1940′s vs 6.6 after 2010).

In a classic case of FUD the committee submission asks:

What’s going wrong? Why are new pipelines failing more often than older ones?

Could it be poorly manufactured pipes? Can it be careless workmanship? Insufficient inspections? Relatively untested materials or methods? Dangerous siting of pipelines, burying them close to power lines where the electric field accelerates pipeline corrosion? Or the tremendous rush to install new pipelines, to market the glut of fracked gas and oil? Or ALL these causes?

Ok, its an interesting statistic, so we backtracked to the original source of the material at PHMA.DOT.GOV. The first thing that caught our eye:

ALL-REPORTED INCIDENT 20 YEAR TREND –
Includes all reports submitted to PHMSA. Changes to PHMSA reporting regulations have caused large shifts in the trend line.

Mason probably has a few statisticians that could objectively sift through the data. However, given the relative low number of fatalities from pipelines vs automobile or gun incidents, that analysis wasn’t at the top of our list.

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