Monday, May 10, 2010

Creativity is the measure of invention but what’s the message?

I recently attended a thought-provoking forum at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Daniel Botkin of UC Santa Barbara gave a presentation — Powering the future: a scientist’s guide to energy independence — with participation from commentators/discussants Kenneth Green (AEI) and Mark Mills (Digital Power Capital).

After thoroughly examining the pros and cons of nuclear, solar, wind, coal, natural gas, etc. Botkin claimed the U.S. is losing out in the race to develop the best new technologies. America must be very active in research & development (R&D) of new technologies, he said.

Mills stressed the power of the markets, explaining how market-based solutions provide long-term sustainability. But marketplace drives interdependence not independence.

Ken Greene simply stated: “the goal to be energy independent by date x is wrong. America doesn’t want independence, we want affordability.”

So, what’s the message? What’s the goal? It’s become difficult to interpret the essential message in the furious energy debate. A rule of thumb in communications is to structure the message around the goal, but it’s hard to keep up with competing goals from across the political spectrum.

In a recent op-ed, Thomas Friedman wrote: “American industry is ready to act and is basically saying to Washington: Every major country in the world, starting with China, is putting in clear, long-term market rules to stimulate clean energy — except America. Just give us some clear rules, and we’ll do the rest.”

The right message and shared goal will bridge differences and connect common energy interests. We need to take care in saying great things in clear, simple terms. There is abounding optimism in new energy technologies and investing in a wide-array of energy systems. This sentiment is everywhere. But it takes the right message to seize opportunities and galvanize people toward real action on policy.

-Potomac Communications Group

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