We Must Not Lose the Propaganda War

In a speech before the convention of the veterans of foreign wars in new york, Nixon also said opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single Weapon working against the u.s.

Propaganda lies in an ethically grey area. It can be used to justify both noble and ignoble causes. We are engaged in an environmental propaganda war which has persisted since the 1960s. This war pits wealthy, powerful, job providing, and ultimately destructive corporations against the poorly organized and underfunded environmental grassroots organizations.

This afternoon I witnessed some truly strange anti-green propaganda as I drove from New York to Pittsburgh. I am certain that this propaganda was paid for by powers representing the interests of the Pennsylvania coal mining industry, and not the interest of Pennsylvanians themselves.

The first item of interest is a billboard advocating clean coal, depicting a green incandescent lightbulb on a black background. They could have at least used a compact fluorescent bulb to pretend to mask their hypocrisy, but I doubt the citizens of buttfuck Pennsylvania will notice. There is no such thing as clean coal, and all information associated with "clean coal" is an effort by existing coal mining corporations to persist in their inefficient and destructive enterprise.

Having lost the moral high ground by attacking the citizens of central PA, I proceed to the next billboard of interest, which reads ( near as I can remember )

"Obama's clean energy plan is a war on the poor"

The billboard cites a projected $5 per gallon for gasoline as evidence of this war, and urges citizens to call their senators. This billboard must have been paid for by either the coal companies, the oil companies, or both. This one is complicated. Assume for a moment that Obama's policies will lead to $5/gallon gasoline, and ignore the fact that the oil market has more control over the price of gasoline than any government. If Detroit were to double its gas milage on all vehicles, this increased cost would be nullified, and we would all be breathing a little bit easier. I can only assume that the inertia with respect to fuel efficiency is due to intellectual laziness or intellectual insufficiency in America's engineers and auto company CEOs. Complaints about the jobs lost as the coal and oil companies collapse miss the point that our current coal, oil, and gas enterprises are destructive and lazy solutions to our energy needs. If properly executed, the green energy economy can replace the role of fossil fuel corporations in the American job market.

Many of you may be familiar with fast breeder nuclear reactors. These reactors can meet our energy needs with existing nuclear fuel, and should give us more than enough carbon-free years to transition to purely sustainable energy source. After some discussion with other authors of this blog, we suspect that fast breeder reactors can be done properly and need not pose a national security risk. There is widespread concern that the plutonium produced by fast breeder reactors may find its way into the hands of a rouge state or terrorist group. This would require cooperation between some part of a major nuclear power and a dangerous terrorist group. Now, this is not to say that this is unlikely or that this hasn't happened before, but wouldn't we expect existing sources of plutonium/uranium to pose a similar risk ? If the plutonium fuel produced is stored on site, and we limit the number of stations to a few tens or a couple hundred, we should be able to keep the fuel secure. Additionally, it is possible that the small risk of a rouge state acquiring the plutonium fuel is much less than the risk of widespread political instability caused by global climate change. I hope that somewhere, some think tank is analyzing these risks right now, and has found a way to overcome the security concerns surrounding fast breeder reactors.

As for the propaganda war, the best I can think of at the moment is to hold an internet photoshop contest for pro-green propaganda, and display the best on billboards in prominent locations, and in online advertisements. The only idea so far : playboy model next to a nuclear stack, captions "one of these curves can save the world" ... or something like that. Getting churches in this country on the bandwagon may do some good, but that is a hard beast to control.


  1. Anonymous30.5.09

    You are right, there is no such thing as "clean coal"... just a handy and harmless-sounding term invented by those who need easy answers and won't bite the bullet. Fossil fuels as a whole are not the answer... the world will have run out of accessible fossil fuels within 200 years anyway. It is absolutely vital that renewables are developed as much as they possibly can be and soon, but the mathematics sadly shows that renewables won't be enough, and there's no chance of weaning mankind off its ravenous appetite for energy. If we don't want the lights top start going out (and everything else to stop too) there needs to be more. Another (much better built and safer managed) generation of fission reactors is essential, but we must be responsible and pragmatic about the resulting nuclear waste, and the fission fuel is running out too (not many people talk about that, but nit's true). We need another way, and scientists around the world are working on that. Fusion is nature's way of manifesting energy on the large scale... it drives all stars. In USA the National Ignition Facility is now working on first proof opf principle for laser fusion, usding huge lasers to unlock the energy stored in atoms since the Big Bang which made them. Its likely this will have been achieved within two years. Then there are a number of approaches, and we need them all. It's already too late (and makes no sense) to back just one horse in this race. All viable techniques are required and there is security in diversity of approach. Electro-magnetic confinement fusion is advancing, albeit with huge technical problems. Laser fusion then has two possibilities... IN Europe there is the international HiPER Project, which is now in the planning stage, to carry forward the NIF achievement into a pure fusion reactor. Finally there is the next step from NIF, a project called LIFE, which seeks to use a laser-driven fusion process to drive a reactor which, in turn, will "burn" so-called "spent" fission reactor fuel, extracting vastly more energy from it in the process and reducing it to a very small volume. This hybrid fusion/fission system is challenging and still required storage for small amounts of high level long-lived nuclear waste, but it's certainly worth developing. ... and lastly there's pure fusion and the HiPEDR Project, using fuel derived from sea water and making only energy, helium (a harmless and extremely plentiful element on earth) plus a lot of energy and a tiny amount of very low-level and short-lived radioactivity. This is the real answer... but it won't be easy or cheap. Fusion work must proceed NOW ! Google NIF and then HiPER. Both have good movies to explain the detail. Don't for one moment think that renewables will be enough on their own. They simply won't and by the time the proponents of pure renewable energy as a sole route have realised their error, mankind's greed and stupidity will have completed the process of wrecking this precious planet of ours. James Makepeace

  2. Very interesting, thank you.

    I suspect, but do not know, that purely renewable energy can be enough, but radical changes to society are required to make this feasible. We will have to re-engineer our entire culture to reduce energy consumption. It seems like we ought to be able to reduce our per-capita energy expenditure by 100 or 1000 fold simply be reducing personal energy consumption, and optimizing our economy to minimize the energy cost of production of goods. However, it seems clear that the usual motivator of the American economy : Greed, is insufficient to bring about these changes.

    I think we should be pouring everything we have into fusion research, but we need to temporarily set up some other nuclear power stations to avert a climate change disaster.

    As long as all of us are content to spend our leisure time staring at cathode ray tubes and driving fossil fuel powered vehicles, we can expect little change. Sadly, most of the infrastructure in the United States is poorly suited to a sustainable lifestyle. Progressive movements are further hindered by braindead heads of state who would mock and block simple community improvements such as bike lanes, in the name of avoiding the dreaded socialism.