You Don’t Always Have to Take the Bait, Either

Regarding yesterday’s post, a friend suggested another tactic to short circuit House Republicans’ crusade against better lightbulbs: Skip the details altogether and simply attack the whole thing as petty politicking in the face of a looming budget standoff that threatens to wreak global economic mayhem.

Besides having the virtue of being true, this approach appeals to higher principle while also avoiding the kind of substantive back-and-forth that offers little protection against a populist media squall. It led last night’s Daily Show to great effect (above). Continue reading

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Lights Out: Zealots Lose Vote but Win the PR Battle

Before & After (courtesy of NRDC)

By a margin of 233-193, the House of Representatives voted this evening to repeal standards passed by Congress in 2007 and signed by President Bush requiring lighting manufacturers to make their bulbs 30 percent more energy efficient, starting in 2012.

The repeal failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed under the rules by which Republicans brought it to the floor (and it would never have passed the Senate, much less crossed the president’s desk). But it was a political field day for conservatives crying freedom against a Democratic nanny state.

And yet again, it has revealed strategic weakness on the part of many environmental and energy efficiency advocates who believed that rational airing of the facts was a viable defense against a visceral, values-based argument. Continue reading

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New David Koch Building Gets Energy Upgrade — Courtesy of the Climate Program He Loves to Hate

Billionaire conservative financier David Koch doesn’t know it, but the cutting-edge energy-saving technologies included in a brand new $211 million research lab that bears his name were partly funded through a government program to reduce global warming pollution. It happens to be the very same program under a blistering attack by one of Koch’s biggest political beneficiaries, the group Americans for Prosperity.

Here’s the story, which is cross posted at Climate Progress, but has not otherwise been publicly reported: Continue reading

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Some PR Advice for the US Nuclear Industry

I'm MeltingAlec Baldwin gave PR advice to Charlie Sheen. I’m going to give some to the United States nuclear power industry.

It’s not a position one way or the other on nuclear technology, simply as commentary on one of the epic energy messaging challenges of all time.

And since the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the US account for about a fifth of our electric power (much more, depending on where you live), we’re going to have to get comfortable with their existence for some time to come, whether we like it or not.

(I’ll be addressing my environmental friends in a separate post.)

Dear Nuclear Industry:

It’s time to put down that Kool Aid, sober up, and get your head straight. You’ve been huffing your own fumes, and it shows. Rule #1 of political PR is, never base your communications strategy on what your friends think of you. Continue reading

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Del Monte Slips on a Banana Peel

This week’s Perfectly Predicable Problem: Del Monte Foods and their individually wrapped bananas.

The story has been making the rounds since it hit London’s Daily Mail a few days ago. Last night, it was the lead item on the Daily Show, in a segment called “Pantry of Shame.”

The question of why we need to add plastic to a food that already comes in its own biodegradable wrapper is an obvious one. That’s precisely why the story went viral, and also why it’s amazing that Del Monte didn’t see it coming. Continue reading

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Message: It’s The Taxes, Stupid

Well, somebody is reading the playbook. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong team.

Back in November, we talked about poor messaging by many renewable energy advocates around key tax issues during the lame duck session of Congress. Almost across the board, they talked about extending their special breaks, rather than telling lawmakers not to raise taxes on their companies.

Forces of reason prevailed in the end, but the bullet came awfully close. Continue reading

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A Breakthrough Tomorrow vs. Market Power Today

Back in 2005, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation set out to change the way big changes happen, betting big on famously ambitious attempts to solve massive global health problems like AIDS and malaria by leaps and bounds rather than incremental steps.

This swing-for-the-fences strategy has so far produced a few base hits, many strikes and no home runs, according to the foundation’s own intensive review. “We were naïve when we began,” Bill Gates told the New York Times. “I thought some would be saving lives by now, and it’ll be more like in 10 years from now.”

By no means does this constitute failure (far from it). But it offers a crucially important lesson for the world of clean energy and climate strategy. Continue reading

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This Post is Not About Gay Rights

Pixar’s new contribution to the It Gets Better Project highlights important evolutionary change happening at the intersection of private enterprise and public dialogue, and the communications issues that go along with it.

It’s relevant to this blog because any company dealing with social issues – whether it’s gun control or the environment – faces their own version of these questions, as does any advocacy group engaging with the corporate world to move their agenda forward. Continue reading

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Clean Tech’s China Trouble

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Wall Street Journal about the simmering but as-yet unfocused backpressure on China’s growing embrace of ‘state capitalism’ – an issue all too familiar in the clean technologies sector.

It is not a simple problem to discuss in public, and nobody in the industry yet seems to have an answer for how to talk about it. Complications get worse when you’re trying to sell into the Chinese market, or are sourcing (or tempted to source) there. Continue reading

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Climate Message for a Republican Congress

Meg Bostrom is one of the most insightful messaging mavens I know. Her op/ed in yesterday’s Washington Post offers thoughts on how to discuss global warming solutions with people who don’t – or can’t – believe in global warming.

She’s got it mostly right, with a couple of important caveats.

The scientific “debate” over climate change has always been a messaging quagmire. The mere impression of two sides constitutes a win for those who would use perceived uncertainty as a political excuse for policy inaction. That’s more true today than ever. Continue reading

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