Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Careless Journalism Does Not Help

This fresh headline leaves one to believe that clean energy is unpopular: Consumer Support for Clean Energy Has Declined Significantly Since 2009, According to New Survey from Pike Research

It's troublesome because on further reading, that headline is very misleading. 

In Pike's so-called research, consumers were not asked about clean energy in general, they were asked about individual clean energy topics.  Some were very favorable, some not.  To average them and call that an overall opinion is confusing.  

Just becasue I don't like penne pasta does not mean I don't like pasta.  Certainly I really like linguini and the little bow tie things. 

So specifics do matter.  For example, Pike's so-called research showed that 77% of people asked had a favorable view of solar.  That's a header right there. 

Meanwhile, only 42% of people asked had a favorable view of "clean coal" (listing "clean coal" as a clean energy topic to begin with is suspect!).  Also, only 14% of people had a favorable view of cap and trade (probably because cap and trade is too hard to understand).

Semantics?  Obsessive?  Maybe.  But this kind of journalism breeds confusion and encourages uninformed decisions.

Here's a scenario:  Many people have time to read only headlines.  With this headline they've already got the impression that clean energy is less popular.  A casual reader based on this story might even conclude that the naysayers and opposition who like to say loudly that "clean energy is not going to work, that it is not viable" are on to something.

Media's responsibility for truth should not take a back seat to provocative prose.  What suffers is people's understanding and opinions.  It's not easy, but we have to be careful what we read.

One more point -- the so-called researchers at Pike lost more credibility when they categorized "clean coal" as a clean energy.  Most people do not know what "clean coal" is and there is not an obvious consensus.  That's because "clean coal" is a PR/marketing term created by the coal industry.  It is less dirty than regular coal but it is still dirty.

Wait a minute -- Pike Research is the common denominator.  Time to red flag all their so-called "research"!

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