The growing number of people around the world who support the move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources have framed the conversation ineffectively in one pretty important market: America. While the clear and present danger of the changing climate is apparent to most of the world, the message faces challenges endemic to the specific culture and politics of the U.S.
Positing global warming as the primary reason for renewable energy adoption has effectively polarized the Republicans and Democrats and their respective constituents into two predictable and unmovable camps. In order to cross the aisle and get consensus, we need to shift the message over to national security.
Even politicians beholden to big oil companies don’t want to be perceived as supporting America’s enemies in these dangerous times. Both parties can agree that even more than the economy, national security is of paramount importance to America.
What has been made apparent, via leaked State Department cables distributed by Wikileaks, is that oil-rich countries in the Persian Gulf either directly or indirectly sponsor terrorism against the U.S., Israel and the West. In other words, when the U.S. buys oil from these countries, we are bankrolling the very same enemies we proclaim to be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more broadly, in the West’s collective battle against fundamentalist Islamic terror groups.
The leaked cables have shown how the governments of nearly every Arabian Peninsula state have done little to stop the tremendous amount of funding going to terrorist groups from their countries, mostly from private citizens. One cable originating from the Secretary of State and addressed to various Middle Eastern embassies expressed U.S. frustration over the Gulf states’ relative inaction regarding the funding of international terrorism. From another angle, other cables have shown that Iran, possessing the second-largest amount of oil reserves in the world, is viewed as a true nuclear threat, in addition to directly funding Hezbollah and other terrorist regimes.
But wait, there’s more: For anyone in the U.S. claiming that energy independence can occur through domestic and neighboring oil, Wikileaks seems to have an answer to that, too. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claims to have some damning reports against BP, the company responsible for the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil leak. Another leaked cable shows that both Canada and the U.S. are very aware of the highly destructive effects of Alberta’s tar sands oil, despite the governments’ public claims that the damage would be minor.
Two things: In light of these very real threats, a push for alternative energy is absolutely necessary, and this should be apparent to everyone now. But perhaps even more important is that Wikileaks has given all of us in the renewable energy and cleantech world ammunition with which to make the case that our industry deserves public support and assistance from governments around the world.
The right strategy for all of us is to focus on how the cleantech sector offers a solution to our extremely unstable world. Not because they make the world a cleaner place, or a cooler place, but because they make our world a safer place.
So let’s really try to know our audience and tailor our messages. While the climate change message might work in Brussels, London and Barcelona, as they say in the movie business, “…it’ll never fly in Peoria.” Wikileaks may have already revealed that there are much more “pressing” issues at hand than even climate change.
Shifting the message over to national security is the smartest way to win our ongoing war against terror groups and those who support it. This strategy attacks the source of the conflict before it has a chance to rise against us. Rocky Mountain Institute founder, Amory Lovins likes to say about the “negawatt”: “The cheapest watt is the one that’s never created.” In a similar vein, the safest wars are the ones you never have to fight.
David Andrew Goldman is director of global communications at Expansion Media, an integrated PR/SEO firm that focuses on clean technology clients including AeroFarms, Entech Solar, BioPetroClean, ThermoEnergy Water, Airdye Solutions, Advanced Telemetry, Variable Wind Solutions, GreenRay Inc, Silentium, Phoebus-Energy, Solergy, Inc, and Bandgap Engineering.
Image courtesy of Takver.
For more research, check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):