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Sun, 2009-10-18 20:01Jim Hoggan
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Pity Rex Murphy. At this point, he has no place to go.

For years, Canada’s most famous climate denier —- a national broadcaster, columnist and author -— has  railed against science.

He’s positioned himself as a kind of noble dissident, one of but a few remaining voices of “reason” questioning the motives of the more than 450 lead-author scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Now he’s inched further out on his already cracking and splintering limb with a column that equates climate activists such as Al Gore with crazed zealots. The occasion is the release of Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s new green-economy platform, which the parliamentarian calls “the most significant investment in clean energy jobs this country has ever seen.”

To support his case that this sort of patently irresponsible talk could lead the nation into hemp-nutter land, Murphy turns to an error-riddled but widely-circulated October report written by Paul Hudson, a BBC weatherman with no scientific credentials or expertise.

Hudson’s report regurgitates the same old arguments that fossil-fuel-industry front groups have been feeding us for years in an effort to sustain the illusion that the jury is still out on global warming.

Clearly, Murphy is grasping at straws. “This is, or may be, the church of global warming’s Galileo moment - when observation of what is happening trumps the gloomy choir of consensus,” he writes.

I almost feel bad for the guy.

Here we have a man who has quite literally yammered himself into a corner. As the nation and the world finally begin to grapple with the reality of our situation and the hard work and new opportunities that lie ahead, Murphy has left himself no dignified exit strategy.

And so, like a cornered raccoon, he resorts to officious spitting and hissing about climate zealots, heresies, and piety.

Sun, 2009-09-20 09:27Jim Hoggan
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Edelman Oilsands Advice - Embarrassing and Wrong

It is often infuriating to see the advice that my PR colleagues are giving to compromised companies, but sometimes it’s just embarrassing.

Such was the case with the advice that Edelman Public Relations principal Richard Edelman was doling out to the tar sands industry this week. Edelman was quoted in the Vancouver Sun telling tar sands insiders at a conference in Alberta that they should start pushing their position on Facebook and Twitter.

“You have to go where the conversations are,” he said.

This is bad advice on so many counts.

Fri, 2009-09-04 11:26Jim Hoggan
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American Petroleum Institute Astroturf campaign: When Does "Spin" Become a Lie?

The New York Times added its voice today to those condemning the American Petroleum Institute’s Astroturf campaign to set up phony “citizen” protests that are actually populated by paid energy industry employees.

Beyond the fundamental duplicity of API’s actions, the NYT complains in its editorial that it finds some elements of the industry campaign “particularly annoying.” For example, API says the Waxman-Markey climate legislation will result in $4-a-gallon gasoline, while two very reputable analyses have said the bill will add, at most, 20 cents a gallon.

In a world polluted by some of the worst kind of public relations spin, people have grown too ready to accept this kind of dramatic overstatement as “part of the game.” Even the NYT finds this exaggeration merely “annoying,” even if particularly so.

We should be outraged. API is offering no rationale or justification for its overheated rhetoric. It has been challenged on this point and failed to come up with an explanation or analysis that support the $4 claim. And yet its campaigners keep saying that which is insupportable by evidence.

What do you call that - usually?

Thu, 2009-09-03 12:23Jim Hoggan
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Is ExxonMobil Really the "Green Company of the Year"?

We Really, Really Hope So

It was hard, at first, to know whether the Forbes headline was tongue-in-cheek: ExxonMobil: Green Company of the Year.

But the story seemed sincere. Exxon is finally beginning to invest in renewable alternatives, putting $600 million into algae farms that would turn sunlight into automotive fuel. And the company is putting more effort than ever into developing and distributing natural gas.

Gas (methane) is unquestionably “greener” than Exxon’s conventional oil products. As Forbes says:

“Per unit of energy delivered, methane releases 40% to 50% less carbon dioxide than coal and a quarter less than petroleum. Coal fuels half of U.S. power generation. Replacing all of it with methane would cut CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons a year.”

Of course, Exxon isn’t actually “replacing” anything. It’s adding significantly to the global capacity to generate more greenhouse gases, even if some of the increase will come at a slower marginal pace.

Thu, 2009-09-03 10:19Jim Hoggan
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Public Support for Energy Bill Shows the Deception in Bonner Astroturf Campaign

A recent poll sponsored by the Center for American Progress goes another step toward revealing the duplicity of Astroturf campaigns like the one that Bonner & Associates was running while representing the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

The CAP poll shows that, in swing states, 63 per cent of voters support the climate change legislation currently being considered in the Senate. And yet the Bonner crowd was fomenting a “grassroots” campaign specifically designed to make it look like the public was taking quite a different position.

Tue, 2009-09-01 11:21Jim Hoggan
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The Dose Makes the Poison - in Chemicals AND in Public Relations

Review: Slow Death by Rubber Duck

In the face of every toxic threat that humans have yet created, here is a realization that is equally optimistic and discouraging: humans needn’t fear science; but we should be terrified by the lies we tell ourselves about the good and bad things that human “mastery” of science can bring.

This point struck me as I was reading Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie’s excellent book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck. As the lighthearted title suggests, this is a jaunty walk through the horrors of chemical poisoning - a very personal voyage of discovery by the authors, who actually arranged for themselves typical exposures to the kinds of cancer-causing chemicals that all of us might run into on any particular day.

Their conclusion (minor): risks lurk around every corner. Their conclusion (major): Our failure to recognize and regulate those risks is not based on a lack of knowledge. It’s based on a high degree of societal recklessness that flows directly from leaving the chemical salespeople in charge of risk management. The chemical and pharmacological industries’ profit-driven public relations is trumping our efforts to make prudent judgments about our health and safety.

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