Every once in a while I come across articles that directly support the notion that much of the energy source debate is really a marketing battle, though the stated topic might be “energy security”, “environmental concerns”, or “global warming”.
To their great credit, most engineers and scientists that I know are very straightforward people; they do not “get” my message that the real power behind the effort to slow the development of nuclear power has been the established energy industry. These fact minded people just do not understand the business world where competition exists, and where the fight is often sneaky and sometimes dirty.
On October 23, 2007, the Lawrence Journal World and News (LJWorld.com) published a fascinating article titled An advertising power play: Natural gas company behind anti-coal media blitz that describes how Chesapeake Energy has been running advertisements and paying for targeted polls that emphasize the environmental damage caused by burning coal. There is a section in the article that really begs some serious questioning:
Bob Eye, an attorney representing the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said the ads were “understandable although unfortunate.” Coal interests and natural gas interests are in a “zero-sum” battle, he said.
Days before the Sebelius administration issued its ruling on the Sunflower project, the Sierra Club commissioned full-page ads that touted the benefits of wind and natural gas.
Eye said the campaigns of both the environmentalists and Chesapeake helped each other but were not coordinated.
Chesapeake also paid for a statewide poll in which it said most Kansans preferred energy produced by a combination of wind and natural gas as opposed to coal.
Some people – believe it or not – have the inherent ability to look others in the eye and say things that they know are simply not true. My experience has been that many public relations types fit that mold.
Disclosure: I have owned stock in Chesapeake Energy for a number of years. I actually kind of like their anti-coal message and believe that the company is doing the right thing for its stockholders by working hard to increase their market share. On the other hand, I am not a member of the Sierra Club and I am not certain why they believe it is in the interests of their donors to promote the burning of natural gas. Anyone have a good list of major contributors to the Sierra Club handy?
PS – I almost forgot to explain why this story qualifies as a “smoking gun”. Normally, I use that key word when I find articles that directly support the notion that the fossil fuel industry is supporting efforts to hamper the development of atomic energy. I expect that most of you can understand that the battle in Kansas is not about clean air; if a nuclear plant was the proposal instead of a coal plant there would be similar attempts to use public opinion influencing in order to protect or gain market share for natural gas.