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Discussion > A question of PR

Do you remember passing comments about my family members?

Apr 11, 2013 at 7:04 PM | Registered Commentershub

I'm not into PR. To me, the logic of getting off fossil fuels is so strong that it would be desirable even if CO₂ reduction were not a goal. There is no sense in Europe spending €500bn annually on oil imports and probably much the same for gas and filling our towns and cities with noxious pollution into the bargain. I can't see why anyone but oil companies would want to oppose quitting fossils as an ideal. The only questions to me is the technology used and speed with which we do it, not the objective. I don't believe for a second that following such a path will damage our economies and put us back into the stone age. Quite the reverse; I think developing the necessary technologies will be hugely beneficial in the long run and that such technologies represent the best chance of providing electricity to the very poor (who stand no chance of a grid connection). I'm no great fan of wind, but equally I have no irrational hatred of it, unlike so many here. It is one of a number of sources of energy. Are there challenges to its use? Sure, but that is what real engineers are good for.

Apr 11, 2013 at 7:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

But there are no present technologies to replace fossil fuels other than nuclear. People who think wind is the answer are at best premature and at worst deluded. Electric cars have problems that have not been solved in over a hundred years of looking. I've yet to meet a sceptic who cares where we get our energy from or what type of motor gets us from A to B but the alternatives have to be effective. We are seeing a return to pollution due to people burning wood and rubbish. The higher efficiency of diesal cars has seen a surge in their numbers and resultant pollution but even then the streets are less polluted than they've been for centuries.

So the only reason to give up what we have now is price and CO2. At the moment fossil fuels win on the first case and the second case is unconvincing. So what's the convincing case for getting off fossil fuels?

Apr 11, 2013 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

You are forgetting the externalities caused by fossil fuels. There are significant health costs caused by traffic fumes. Children growing up in polluted areas have permanently smaller lungs and more lung health problems. Pollution causes many thousands of premature deaths annually, many millions worldwide. That is not factored into your costs of fossil fuels. And of course wind is not "the answer", it is only a part of the answer.

Battery cars are derided by petrol-heads, mainly because of range. But since the average car journey is about 5 miles, electric cars would be entirely suitable for large parts of the public. Even if gas were used to generate the electricity for the electric cars, there is still a saving, as a CCGT is about 60% efficient compared to 20% for a car.

Apr 11, 2013 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

(who stand no chance of a grid connection)

As long as there are people like you around, the poor definitely stand no chance of a grid connection.

All a 'grid connection' involves is dragging a length of wire from a source of power to your home. Even that is a problem for hypocrites like you who sit in the comfort of their homes and bullshit about what's 'possible' all the while working to make the very thing impossible. Everyone is free to be a troll, but at least try to be a decent human being.

Apr 12, 2013 at 4:29 AM | Registered Commentershub

BB "real engineers"? What as opposed to chocolate ones?

Electric cars are derided because they are solving a problem that has already been solved. Simply, efficiently, cheaply and reliably. Nothing to do with addiction to petrol.

You talk about solving engineering problems without seeming to know what engineering is really about.

A windmill will not get any more efficient. Neither a power station. Nor an electric car.

There are no miraculous advancements possible with these technologies. They are at their "limits".

You here it so many times from Greenies, "just give it time, it will become more efficient".

Only new directions are possible for energy production or energy storage.

The best way to achieve this, is to let society get on with it.

The Trabant was not the way it was because of engineers' wishes. The design team kept coming up with improvements. The East German State said otherwise.

Engineers need to left to solve real challenges, not ones dreamt up by politicians and their green lobbyist friends.

Apr 12, 2013 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Right now there is an energy Einstein sitting in a village somewhere in the word (Africa, India, China.) Some shit hole of a place in the "back of beyond". Feeding at the breast of his mother.

A total genius. Someone given the right path in life with come up with a world changing energy technology.

How do I know? Well these geniuses have always been born. They are born all the time. Throughout history. But what they missed was opportunity. Most probably died before the age of 5. Others never had an education. Some never travelled beyond the village. Many died in wars. Any that did get an education were probably limited to a religious driven one. Lucky to even read and write.

There were so many obstacles to them even getting to a place where they could make a difference.

You look at the world now. The ability of travel. The access to information. The breaking down of tribal society such that knowledge and ability is leveraged across the whole globe.

A genius born now, not only has a chance at survival but a chance to make a difference.

That has all come about because of advancement of society driven by technology driven by engineering, driven by a desire to increase the positive fruits of society. Driven by fossil fuels.

The Greens want to restrict that genius's chance of survival, restrict the ability to come into contact with the people who can feed that intellect.

A Greenie will sermonise from his iPad without any understanding how the iPad got there.

Greenies want to stop the world. In fact they want to turn it backwards.

You could cover the whole of the UK with windmills to little effect on CO2, yet that genius is likely to make them futile within a few generations. Why bother? Seriously? A crap technology that despoils the land? A Greenie invocation of the gods of change.

I find it so strange that modern Greenie Environmentalism is a child of the internet, yet seems to think that this moment in time is the culmination of communication, information sharing, when in fact it is only the start.

Fossil fuels give Greenies the weapons of destruction. And given the power they want to wield them.

Greenies are simply parasites, though a true parasite will let the lending organism live, knowing its death means its own. It has far more sense than a Greenie.

Said as an engineer.

Apr 12, 2013 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Well named as the voice of conscience Jiminy Cricket. Great post.

Apr 12, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

BB, there’s no point throwing up arguments like health because people already reject that tack. Pollution is the cost people are prepared to pay to avoid public transport, walking and being cold. It’s not the most important issue when choosing a home so I don’t see them considering it an important factor when choosing a new car. Sure, a government could force them to buy electric but then it wouldn’t be in government very long.

And almost everyone must be a petrol head because very few people want an electric car. It’s not only about cost, it’s about flexibility and reliability. For a start, an electric car is no good for a single car household (at least a third of Brits live alone and about half of all households only have one car). In a two car household it would only be useful as the second car.

Why is an electric car no good? It might be great for those 5 mile journeys but useless for loads of other times when you need to be able to drive more than 100 miles without an overnight stay. Which means you have to pay for an alternative and put up with the inconvenience when you do those trips. Also, not every 100+ mile day of driving is pre planned. Imagine a crisis at the end of a normal day’s driving. What about getting lost or if there’s a road diversion? Imagine the worst, you run out of power. It’s not like you can have a spare can or fill one up at the nearest station. An easy mistake to make would be a costly problem to fix.

People who use their car infrequently will not benefit from an electric car because while a petrol car uses almost no energy sitting on the drive, an electric car is continuously losing charge, especially in the cold. Low mileage users are especially disadvantaged by an electric car because they will never recoup the extra cost of the car from fuel savings. Also, a low mileage petrol car keeps more of its value, but the same will not apply to an electric one. A well looked after car can be almost as good as the day it left the production line but an electric car dates whether you want them to or not. At thirteen years old, my car would be a write off if it was electric but instead it continues to surprise MOT engineers at what good nick it’s in.

Surely you’ve thought of these issue BB? There are more.

Apr 12, 2013 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

An additional bit of info – the UK's AA was called out to about 23000 cars that had run out of petrol in 2011. There are two more main roadside assistance companies and still more people would call a garage or a friend or hitch a lift. Think how quick those calls were solved. Now imagine them involving a tow truck and a trip to a charging point for a few hours.

Apr 12, 2013 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


Grid engineers have been warning for years that the current energy policy is going to lead to rolling blackouts as reliable, despatchable power generation is replaced with unpredicatable renewables. This is not scaremongering, it's pointing out a strong likelihood and is inforned by their professional knowledge and experience.

The targets to decarbonise the economy are quite unrealistic. They are expensive and ineffective. Most of the rest of the world is taking no notice anyway. They are not leading us to a green world beyond fossil fuels, they are simply useless and ruinous.

Considering the dependence we have on affordable, reliable mains electricity, the consequences of disrupting it would be huge, as would the consequences of restricting it. This is also true for mass transport. Chaos and something no one bargained for or wants would be my guess as to the results.

There's no point handwaving about 'storage', we don't have the geopgraphy for pumped storage on the scale required. The scheme to use battery powered cars (of which we have approximately none) to back up the grid is plain silly. Consider charger losses, energy loss in the batteries and inverter losses, for a start.

Electric cars don't sell, despite subsidies, because no one wants them for good reasons. Were they practical, people would want them. Work has continued on electric cars for over a hundred years and the problems are pretty much the same.

Generally, there's no point basing policy on technologies that we don't have or are impractical - too expensive, don't work well enough or cause more problems.

Apr 12, 2013 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Good morning Jiminy, I wouldn't waste my energy with BB. You are knocking on a locked door, and guess what? There's nothing inside. It is good that people come on here and challenge our ideas, but if they have no scientific, engineering of social knowledge they don't make a useful contribution. So let it be with BB.

Apr 12, 2013 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


It's not challenging ideas that's the problem. BB always manages to derail the thread.

Generally, I think you are right.

Apr 12, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Thanks TinyCO2.

Unapologetically I appreciate BB, for my own "selfish" motives. He does get me thinking for things outside of BH.

I agree he picks arguments first and frames opinions as the flow unfolds. And he has derailed this thread. Which can be annoying, but for me he has created more positive than negative. I understand with others it maybe different.

Not a defence or an attack just my perspective.

Apr 12, 2013 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

BB is a serial thread derailer but to move him on it helps to ask tough questions. Since E17 hasn’t been back to the thread it’s not essential to stick to the essence of the topic. I’ve always wondered what makes people like BB troll a site like this. I’m not sure it has anything to do with AGW, since invariably what he ends up arguing about has nothing to do with it.

What is it about AGW science, impacts and solutions that makes certain people so adamant when they have thought so little about the issues? When are supposedly grown up and intelligent people going to see that they’re getting nowhere and if they really care they need to do something about it? Now the same could be said for sceptics but we have the excuse that this isn’t the end of the World. What’s BB’s excuse?

E17 wonders if scepticism can be boosted by good PR and who hasn’t? But how do you promote precaution of the Precautionary Principle? For me I don’t want CAGW to just go away because it dissolves into apathy, I want it to go away because it proves to be wrong. If it isn’t wrong then I want people to be honest with themselves about what can and must be done. Being ignorant of the flaws in electric cars might seem trivial but it’s part of a conspiracy (yes I used that word Lew) within the warmist side to never look at the details and never he honest with themselves about the yawning chasm between them and their goal.

Apr 12, 2013 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

hello all, sorry for the absence, the real world catching up with me.

Hilary, I'm sorry my posting protocol isn't up to scratch. And I accept your points about my position. I am new not only to the blogosphere but also to the world of the skeptics. Until recently I accepted the warmists' line and even wrote about it in print – in my ignorance, perhaps. So apologies, too, if I appear somewhat green. I'm not going to pretend otherwise.

However, I don't think it alters the point I'm trying to make, which is essentially about how to get the kind of very sensible, rational points of view made by many on BH and elsewhere across into the mainstream media and thereby to the general public.

Maybe "PR" is the wrong term to use. But I still believe that getting across requires a degree of co-ordination in a variety of areas: content, tone, position, etc etc.

I think the line taken by some about not believing in PR is a bit naïve. Like it or not, we live in an age where everything is promoted in one way or the other via PR or marketing. And refusing to engage is not going to help anyone, because noone will know about you or oyour cause.

My points about Lindzen and the GWPF were not related to my opinion of the validity of their work. Personally, I think they are doing great work. But I'm not the one who needs to be convinced. I was trying to make the point that among those who do need to be convinced, many of those who have been fighting the skeptics' corner for a long time now don't have the best reputation. They have been out-manouevred by the warmists' far superior PR machine.

Apr 12, 2013 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterE17

In my defence, I have been keeping an eye on the thread since I first posted, and tried to post a first reply which I then lost but then got a bit bored of the BB conversation. Not interested in having an argument.

But I'm also not convinced that replies to the effect of "PR isn't going to work" is much of a conversation, anyway – so, yes, I lost interest. I was hoping for a more nuanced discussion – about how to get the message across, how the warmists have been so successful, why the skeptics have had so much trouble in the past, why their reputation is so bad, why there isn't even a clear skeptics line... This last point was made by my publisher and is an important one.

Apr 12, 2013 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterE17

Our suspicion isn’t personal, it comes from being burnt before.

The PR aversion comes from the warmist side’s new theory that the reason the public are cooling on AGW is because the sceptics have had a few PR coups. They’re wrong. The warmist side is losing ground because they never really held it in the first place. They can’t give their message any more spin or they’ll catch fire. They’ve got movies, documentaries, web sites both private and public, charities, celebs, politicians, news outlets, the BBC, school brainwashing, museums, etc, etc. They don’t need more PR.

We’ve got a some web sites and a many excellent commenters. Like a very small gem, polishing it might make it vanish altogether ;-) We’ve discussed organising before and since we can’t see how we’d make a difference it fizzles out each time.

Apr 12, 2013 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


All a 'grid connection' involves is dragging a length of wire from a source of power to your home. ... hypocrites like you ... try to be a decent human being.
Is that right? So electricity has been around for over a century and there are still millions in the 3rd world without it. And yet all they had to do was get a little wire and drag it from a "source of power". How stupid of them! It beggars belief that anyone could be stupid enough to keep burning wood or dung when all they needed was a little piece of wire. Idiot!

Jiminy Cricket, I usually appreciate what you post, but your little rant above about greens is disappointing. Nobody denies that fossil fuels have improved living standards. And the environmental movement's agenda is not to keep the poor poor. You can do better than that.


Pollution is the cost people are prepared to pay to avoid public transport, walking and being cold. It’s not the most important issue when choosing a home so I don’t see them considering it an important factor when choosing a new car.
Said by someone who has enough money to afford a house that is not on a roundabout in a cr*p part of London and has no conception that other people might not be so lucky. Pollution is a cost that people are prepared for other people to pay. The rest of your post is just oil industry propaganda.

Cosmic, the thing is that the existing grid arrangements are going to be disrupted. In ten years time the majority of rooftops in the sunny (an even maybe cloudy) developed world are going to be covered with solar cells and the fossil generators' model will be broken. They'll be left providing power when the sun doesn't shine and the wind is still. That is just the way it is! Better to accept that and prepare for it than constantly to whinge from the sidelines.

Geronimo, how are you all getting on giving Foxgoose a hard time?

E17, sorry to bore you. The problem is not one of PR it is that the 'sceptic' position is incoherent. Adding PR is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Apr 12, 2013 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

BB, I think you have a point. I'm not sure there is a coherent skeptic point of view, just a collection of them. Hence, my belief that an effort to coordinate some of the very sensible and clearly articulated views expressed here and elsewhere into something more coherent.

Apr 12, 2013 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterE17


"We’ve discussed organising before and since we can’t see how we’d make a difference it fizzles out each time."

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "we can’t see how we’d make a difference"?

Apr 12, 2013 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterE17


"They'll be left providing power when the sun doesn't shine and the wind is still. That is just the way it is! Better to accept that and prepare for it than constantly to whinge from the sidelines."


Like much of the winter, and most of most days for solar. May as well build the backup plant and have it run efficiently and forget the solar PV and windmill crap, which is added expense and nuisance for no advantage.

You deal in pure fantasy. You really don't have much of a clue about any of this, but you have faith.

No, I don't accept nonsense as inevitable. Reality will impose itself, the government will be forced to change tack, there will be a clear out and a return to rationality.

Apr 12, 2013 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

BB "Said by someone who has enough money to afford a house that is not on a roundabout in a cr*p part of London and has no conception that other people might not be so lucky. Pollution is a cost that people are prepared for other people to pay. The rest of your post is just oil industry propaganda."

No, instead I lived next to the M6 in a house in a crap part of Coventry that wouldn't buy me a room in a house on a roundabout in London. I write from experience and reality, you write from fantasy and idealism. Why do people live in London? Cause that's where they hope to make enough money to move out to somewhere else where they can enjoy fresh air and their shiny new diesal 4x4. When it comes to electric cars people are voting with their money. It's a NO vote.

Apr 12, 2013 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

E17 I agree with you about sceptics not having a clear message and I’ve tried to extract the essence but each time I attempt it I stop because it’s huge and confusing. I doubt anyone on either side of the divide could tell you what the truth of AGW is. Only those who are being misleading are able to give a clear, short answer and sceptics mostly don’t want to do that. You know the sorts who do and they probably turn you off.

The CAGW machine is the spawn of thousands of institutions and millions of individuals, from some far northerner moaning about the permafrost melting under his recently centrally heated home to the proselytising, holier than thou, BBC. Paper after paper refers to climate change as a given and are counted as proof that CAGW is genuine. How could all those clever people be wrong?

And sceptics can’t honestly say that they are. There are certainly huge holes in the science and the whole thing is being conducted abysmally but without teams of counter scientists funded to work against consensus scientists the best we can hope for is that time will prove us right. For me the biggest, reddest flag is that none of the warmists seem to realise what they’re asking for when it comes to cutting CO2. The science may be complicated and uncertain but mankind’s need for energy is simple. It’s not rocket science to see that the current solutions are vanity systems and do no more than pretend to cut CO2. If all those clever people can’t or won’t admit how big the problem of cutting CO2 is, I don’t want to hear their opinion of the science.

Apr 12, 2013 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


I think there are a couple of issues that are worth exploring:

1 - PR and 'over-selling' the case is, for me, one of the biggest weaknesses in the 'tactics' of the warmists. Perhaps it's just me, but when someone is trying so hard to sell an associated storyline (for example the 'big oil funding' conspiracy) yet cannot present any credible data for it, I become less trusting of the fundamental work.

2 - The criticisms of Lindzen (and Spencer) and the GWPF on political grounds is a real case of playing the man and not the ball, but has been quite effective at marginalising credible dissenting voices. Some sceptics (in particular blog commentors at WUWT) play in to the hands of the alarmists in this regard by focussing on the big picture politics (at least as it plays out in the US), which makes it much easier to portray ALL disagreements as a 'left' v 'right' issue where it should be much more nuanced.

3 - Based on #2, credible mainstream criticism of AGW science will have to come from people with both reasonable scientific credentials and of a largely apolitical position. This is why having the likes of Prof Jones contributing here is so valuable - physics prof at Oxford makes his credentials rock solid, and I've never seen anything in his postings that suggests a strong political allegience.

4 - I think your interpretation of the 'success' of warmist PR is a bit flawed. Yes, there are a lot of media voices talking it up, and most of the more educated public pay lip service to the idea of potentially dangerous climate change, but look a little more deeply at any of the surveys that ask what the important questions for people are - environmental concerns and in particular global warming almost always come out at the bottom of such lists. Also, I suspect that the last few months weather will push it even lower in the priorities.

TinyCO2 does make the main conclusion though - who 'wins' the perceived battle between warmists and skeptics will not be decided by PR, communication strategies, model outputs or absurd social science papers, but by what actually happens in the world that we live in. At the moment, the sceptics are having a good few years, starting with Climategate lifting the lid on the 'behind the scenes' goings on in the warmists camp, and continuing with the stubborn refusal of global temperatures to rise as they were doing through the 90s. From a more local (UK) perspective, of course the absence of any decent summers and the return of colder winters in the last 3 or 4 years (at a time of economic recession / stagnation, so when spending on ineffective climate change mitigation should be coming under pressure) has started to focus some minds. The question is though what happens over the next 5 to 10 years - if temperatures continue to flatline or even start to fall, the sceptic / lukewarmer position will look increasingly strong, while if we see a return to the rapid warming of the 1976-1998 period most of us here will need to revise our opinions.

Apr 12, 2013 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan Blanchard