I love renewable energy and I love the New Yorker. So I really love that the last two May New Yorker covers have had renewable energy/climate-related themes.
The May 10 cover features a whimsical scene by Bob Staake, called “Tilt”: a rotund little person dressed in Pilgrim garb wielding a lance sits atop a frowning whale while charging a wind turbine—a brilliantly updated version of Quixote’s tilting at windmills tailored to the NIMBY Nantucketers protesting the Cape Wind project.
The May 17 cover, titled “A Novel Approach,” by Joost Swarte, and released in perfect concert with the de-clawed American Power Act, shows a series of vignettes. A bald Tintin-ish man in glasses reads a newspaper and smokes a pipe. His face—featuring a perpetually creased forehead—remains buried in his newspaper for most of the series. In the next frame, the man has put out his noxious pipe, but stands in front of a car trailing more pollutants than his pipe produced. A frame later, mouth agape in alarm at something he’s read, he stands in front of a semi truck spewing diesel fumes. Next, he gazes in concern at some smokestacks belching smoke, followed by a frame in which he smells the methane being released by gaseous bovines. Then, face buried again in the paper, he walks beneath a ferociously frowning sun. In the seventh frame, he looks up from his paper to see a family of forlorn penguins carrying suitcases. In the eighth frame, the man, apparently unaware of the danger, is about to be inundated by a giant wave, and in the ninth, he’s waist-deep in water and being doused by rain. Next, he’s floating in some sort of trash-infested seascape, but in this frame, he has an idea (cue lightbulb): in the penultimate frame, we see his idea brought to fruition as he dons a propeller-topped beanie, and in the final frame, he sits happily atop a cloud, still engrossed in his paper.
While the May 10 cover is satirical and hilarious, the May 17 cover conveys to me a sense of pathos as well as humor, perhaps because I can relate to the pathetic cartoon man. I often feel as though my head is buried in newspapers filled with dire warnings and gloomy prognoses, and that when I look up from the news, I find some other previously unconsidered climate threat staring me in the face. Swarte's cover mocks not only our misdirected attention, climate concerns and inertia, but also the fact that a propellor-powered beanie seems as good an idea as any we have, at the moment.
Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that climate issues have become so topical that two consecutive New Yorker covers have featured cartoons addressing the topic. And I love that I get to work for cleantech companies trying to figure out how to address the issues, despite the fact that sometimes, I'd like a beanie with a propellor, too.
, Climate bill
, climate change
Posted by Alison Mickey on May 17, 2010 at 7:43 PM
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The full, 821-page Climate Bill, aka the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, is available here.
Kerry's synopsis, focusing on green collar jobs, national security and the broader economy is here.
We'll have some thoughts on the bill as a whole, including the public relations, public affairs and funding implications for Cleantech Companies soon.
My apologies to the Senior Senator from Massachusetts as the title and focus are better than I expected in terms of targeting economic and national security audiences. That said, I think that legislative communications teams could do a better job of branding bills in advance of their release with more context for the media.
Posted by Jason Morris on May 12, 2010 at 1:51 PM
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The Hill has a Climate Bill summary document this morning that was circulated among staffers which gives a bit more detail on exact provisions in the final bill. While it is light on details and specifics, it does outline some key initiatives that will no doubt have the Cleantech media, public relations and public affairs waorlds buzzing all day.
-The legislation will establish a clean technology R&D fund. At a time when appropriations-based funding is becoming tougher for projects, this could provide a new cleantech funding avenue for emerging growth companies and their venture capital backers.
-Sets GHG reduction goals: The goals are not as aggressive as California or Europe, but would still represent the first federal line in the sand. Here are the targets:
- 95.25% of 2005 emission levels by 2013
- 83% by 2020
- 58% by 2030
- 17% by 2050
-Regulates the emissions of not only Carbon Dioxide, but Methane, Sulfur Hexafluoride, Nitrous Oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons and Nitrogen Trifluoride. Carbon Dioxide may get the headlines but there are other worse emissions (on an impact basis, maybe not volume).
-The bill does not set a carbon tax, but directs EPA to set emission limits for certain activities. Allows for emission offsets, including things like renewable energy credits, offset projects (the most common of which is plant a tree), etc. My guess would be that penalties would ensue for companies who can't satisfy the equation of "emissions - offsets < limit set by EPA," but the panalties are not spelled out in the summary document. In any event offset providers, like EcoSecurities, may stand to benefit from this legislation.
Posted by Jason Morris on at 12:42 PM
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With the highly anticipated Senate Climate Bill due to be released tomorrow, it makes me wonder about the impact of "Bill Branding" on how it will be received by the media, predisposed bill opposition and the voting public. My problem is with the word "Climate" which I think will turn off those inclined to oppose any climate legislation and those for whom climate change and the environment are not passionate issues.
I strongly support meaningful climate legislation and think it is critical on a number of fronts (environmental, economic, geopolitical, national security), but the majority of Americans may not consider it a high priority and others are staunch opponents of anything that could be construed as energy regulation or renewable energy subsidies. And make no mistake, these two audiences are critical. The key to impactful climate legislation is coalition building and---in order to get atypical supporters on board---you need to message to them correctly.
What might have worked better? There are two good alternatives I can think of without much thought at all:
-The Domestic Energy & Green Jobs Bill -- the economy and unemployment are still top of mind with most Americans and frankly, it is very easy for everyday citizens and Climate Bill opponents to ask, "Why isn't the economy the top focus?" when you mention Climate Legislation. Schwartz clients are living proof that policy support for the emerging and burgeoning Cleantech Sector leads to job growth. Heck, Schwartz is living proof of it given our Cleantech PR & Government Relations Practice grew dramtically during the "Great Recession."
-The National Energy Security Bill -- this label would directly target conservative audiences who tend to favor any and all national security measures, while opposing anything that may curb energy exploration and/or expand energy regulation. By equating climate change and non-domestic energy resources with national security threats and clearly articulating how it impacts our ability to keep our citizens safe, you can begin to recruit people to the climate cause with a different motivation.
I am not suggesting that a new name alone would have new supporters lining up behind the climate bill, but in an age of short attention spans driven by media sound bites and 140-character Tweets, there is a lot to be gained from more thoughtful name selection. So while the clock ticks down to the unveiling (reportedly 1:30 EDT tomorrow) the National Energy Security & Green Jobs Bill, we no doubt will see a lot of depositioning of climate legislation as a "nice to have" by some and energy regulation by others.
Don't be fooled. Anything supporting domestic, renewable sources of energy and encouraging resource efficiency has major economic, geopolitical and national security implications. Now if only it said that in the name of the bill.
Posted by Jason Morris on May 11, 2010 at 2:05 PM
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The largest news in April for clean energy could have been Solyndra’s debt woes, a PR debacle that could prevent its IPO, result in millions of dollars of squandered federal funding and provide a massive PR salvo for opponents of government investment in cleantech movement.
Thankfully, concentrating photovoltaics manufacturer Amonix raised $129 million in private funding, the DOE distributed $106 million in stimulus funds to 37 clean energy projects, and, most importantly, the federal government approved the long-debated Cape Wind project. April quickly became a positive and historic month for the clean energy industry. Let’s quickly breakdown the PR and GR impact of each announcement:
Cape Wind - This announcements is important in scope and, perhaps more importantly, precedent. Despite 9 years of protests from a wide-range of opponents, the federal government has acknowledged that our nation’s energy needs are more important than ideological or NIMBY opposition, no matter how heavy-handed. This is an important case for the PR and GR efforts for the entire clean energy industry. Hopefully this is the first of a number DOI-supported wind farms off the Atlantic Coast and in the Great Lakes.
DOE funding – This funding was for research focusing on electrofuels, batteries and carbon capture. From a PR point of view, this is a much-deserved acknowledgment of the importance and potential of these technologies, which often play second-fiddle to solar, wind and smart grid technology. And though the second fiddle status makes sense from a market maturity standpoint, these technologies still address important problems that require solving.
Amonix – Like most clean energy PR, “scalable” and “cost-reduction” are more important phrases these days than “break-through” or “cutting-edge”. Amonix, which emphasizes “scale” and “low energy production costs”, is an example in the shift in how companies position and market their clean energy technologies. Clean energy financing will likely continue this trend, as VCs demand quicker payback and more manageable reliable products. Schwartz is fortunate to work with several interesting companies in solar that are solving the scale and cost issues around traditional solar technologies.
What does this all mean? In a month where a cleantech bellwether fell on hard times, we saw a number of good developments that are fueling cleantech adoption and acceptance. This good PR for cleantech concerns across the board is more than welcome. Let’s hope it continues and reduces the squabbling over the long-awaited climate bill.
Posted by Dan O'Mahony on May 3, 2010 at 3:33 PM
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