The Friends of the Earth (FOE) has developed a 30 second television advertisement that uses Fukushima as a hypnotic code word to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about new nuclear power plants. It has purchased time slots in all of the major media markets in Iowa, where legislation is being considered to give the Public Utility Commission the authority to allow MidAmerican Energy to add a charge to electricity bills to pay for financing costs associated with developing and building a new nuclear power plant.
According to an Associated Press article that I first found on CanadianBusiness.com with the following headline, TV ad campaign opposes new nuclear plant, MidAmerican has responded to the attack ads by producing a 3.5 minute YouTube video.
The environmental group, based in Washington, D.C., spent about $8,400 on the 30-second commercial that is running in the Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City markets.
The ad starts out with an explosion and dramatic background music. A narrator starts in: “One year ago Japan was rocked by nuclear disaster proving that nuclear energy is dangerous and costly …” referring to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, where a tsunami knocked out power to the plant. The ad also expresses concerns about plans to increase consumer utility rates to pay for construction, saying customers shouldn’t have to pay up front before a power plant is even built.
MidAmerican Energy countered the television ad campaign with its own video that features CEO Bill Fehrman. It runs more than 3.5 minutes on YouTube and refutes some of the criticism of the proposed legislation.
Is it any wonder that the commercial media feels free to attack nuclear energy? When a prosperous, monopoly electric utility company owned by one of the world’s richest men responds to a focused attack using a free media service that does not provide a dime of revenue to ad-supported media corporations, why wouldn’t the talking heads employed by those corporations think it is okay to run stories that paint nuclear energy as evil? Do you think they will ever get a nudge from management to back down or tone down their attacks?
Aside: a Warren Buffett owned utility company does not even have the normal utility company excuse of being ignorant of the value of advertising. How many times have YOU seen the Geico Gecko in the past week? Here is one more photo to add to the total exposure count of what has to be one of the most frequently seen animated spokes-critters on the planet. End Aside.
Omaha.com picked up the same AP piece that I found on CanadianBusiness.com, but used a slightly different headline: Anti-nuke group’s ad counters bill. However, the people posting that version of the AP written article took the time to include embedded video clips of both the FOE ad and the MidAmerican Energy response.
Since I operate Atomic Insights as a free service whose mission is to spread the truth – which means mostly positive information, quite frankly – about nuclear energy, I have decided to make a small donation to MidAmerican’s feeble efforts to explain its lukewarm effort to consider the possibility of building a new nuclear plant sometime in the future. It looks like they could use the assistance; even after the mention and embed on Omaha.com the video has been viewed less than 200 times.
In the interest of fairness and balance, here is the Friends of the Earth ad, which chalks up one more use of the same grainy clip of one of the three brief hydrogen explosions that have been seen by tens of millions of people in the past year.
I wonder how many people in Iowa who have no strong preconceptions about nuclear one way or the other have seen the FOE commercial? Which one of the above videos do you think will do more to influence voters and ratepayers?
Do you think they will be prompted to supportive action by the 3.5 minutes worth of rational arguments offered by the well groomed, grey haired man in the starched shirt reading from the teleprompter?
Or do you think they will be motivated to take negative action by the 30 second spot that packs in a clip of an explosion, a photo of an ominous looking, backlighted plant belching stuff from cooling towers, photos of old and young couples who are obviously struggling to pay their bills, and a patriotic photo of the state capitol building with prominent contact information displayed?
Bottom line: Nuclear energy needs more media savvy communicators and fewer engineers, lawyers and accountants!