September 26th, 2016 · No Comments
For nearly a decade, an effort has existed to try to drive attention to science issues in the Presidential Debates. Regretfully, Science Debate has not succeeded in getting prime time debates focused on “STEM” (or STEAM or…) nor even many serious questions asked of candidates in debates. However, the effort has succeeded in getting written responses from campaigns — including, in 2016, from all four ‘major’ campaigns to 20 serious questions ranging from scientific integrity to climate change to oceans to …
These responses make interesting — often rather stunning (if not jaw-dropping, head-against-wall) — reading. These are the sort of substantive discussions that, in the minds of many, should have a prominent role in our political discussions as opposed to discussing Gennifer Flowers’ seating charts or Donald Trump’s hand size.
Not surprising, Hillary Clinton’s responses to the Science Debate questions are substantive, providing much to think about, and much to support. To find Donald Trump’s responses inadequate and, well, simply outrageous seems to be something that any reasoned and reasonable person would conclude. And, both Johnson’s and Stein’s responses seem to fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
Having responses from Secretary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Dr. Stein provides the basis for evaluating them side-by-side. While we all, in theory, could do so, thankfully Scientific American has taken care of this for us with Grading the Presidential Candidates in Science. They have evaluated the answers to all 20 questions, providing a “grade” on 19 (immigration they decided wasn’t cleanly a science question and thus didn’t include it in the grade). Every ‘grade’ has a written justification.
Here, for example, is the discussion of climate change:
3. CLIMATE CHANGE
The Earth’s climate is changing and political discussion has become divided over both the science and the best response. What are your views on climate change, and how would your administration act on those views?
Clinton acknowledges that “climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.” She outlines a plan “to generate half of our electricity from clean sources,” to cut “energy waste” by a third and to “reduce American oil consumption by a third” over the next 10 years. To achieve these goals she plans to “implement and build on” current “pollution and efficiency standards and clean energy tax incentives.” Clinton loses a point for not saying where she will find the money to pay for such initiatives. Grade: 4/5
Trump refers to “climate change” in quotation marks, apparently to signal that he still believes—as he has asserted in the past—that human-caused global warming is a hoax. Then he suggests that “our limited financial resources” are best spent on things such as clean water and anti-malaria efforts, without acknowledging the argument that the success of such efforts could be largely influenced by how climate change is addressed. Grade: 0/5
Johnson accepts that “climate change is occurring, and that human activity is contributing to it, including through greenhouse gases.” But he plans to rely on the “marketplace” to “facilitate the free exchange of new, efficient, carbon-friendly processes and technologies.” However, as Naomi Oreskes wrote in Scientific American in 2015, the marketplace alone cannot solve the climate change problem because the marketplace will not put a tangible cost on carbon without government intervention.Grade: 2/5
Stein hopes to “create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030” through her “Green New Deal.” The plan includes providing incomes to transitioning workers “displaced by the shift away from fossil fuels,” “redirecting research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation” and phasing out “all fossil fuel power plants” and nuclear power plants. Realistically speaking, however, nuclear power will remain for some time the most common carbon-free energy source. Stein loses points for her inflexible anti-nuclear stance and for not detailing the cost of her proposals.Grade: 3/5
This pattern: Clinton in the A-/B+ range, Trump entrenched in failure, and Johnson/Stein somewhere in between pretty much maintains through the 19 graded questions. Now, to clarify, this is somewhat like Olympic gymnastic judging — Scientific American didn’t want to give ‘perfect’ scores. Out of 76 possible grades (each of four candidates 19 times), just two are 5/5 (Clinton on Energy, Johnson on Nuclear Power) — in other words, a perfect score was pretty much impossible. In theory, the candidates had the potential to get 95 but a more realistic viable ‘perfect score’ might be in the 75-85 range. With that in mind, how did Scientific American judge the candidates:
Anyone surprised that @RealDonaldTrump really falls flat with the science community?
Anyone surprised that Hillary Clinton is the only one to get a passing grade from these science experts?
NOTE: Highly recommended, War On Science, by Shawn Lawrence Otto, a (if not the) key player in Science Debates.
Tags: 2016 Presidential Election · science
September 25th, 2016 · No Comments
In my twitter feed:
Wow, now this got me to click over to look at this Environmental Leader article discussing JetBlue’s ‘renewable fuel project’.
Perhaps in an effort to emphasize Jet Blue as an “Environmental Leader” (or, well, perhaps due to inability to move beyond a press release?), the article only provides a partial context. We learn that this will be “largest” …
one of the largest renewable jet fuel purchase agreements in aviation history, and the largest, long-term commitment by any airline globally for HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) based renewable jet fuel.
So ‘largest’ is part of the context.
There is an explanation, as well, that the “renewable fuel’ is 70% fossil-fuel based and 30% derived from renewable sources.
Looking at that article, however, there was a knawing question: how much fuel does JetBlue burn through per year? E.g., how much does this purchase represent in the entire airline’s fuel use pattern?
Not hard to find out. From here we learn that JetBlue burned through 639M gallons in 2014 and estimated a burn rate of 690M gallons for 2015.
For the decade to come, JetBlue aircraft might be expected to burn through 7 billion gallons of aviation fuel. This 330M gallons, therefore, will represent roughly five percent of the airline’s total fuel requirement. When we account for the 70 percent fossil fuel and 30 percent renewable, the actual ‘renewable’ displacement from this contract will be in the range of 1 percent.
I don’t know about you but “JetBlue to Buy 330 million gallons of renewable fuel” sounds far more impressive and news worthy than “JetBlue to displace 1 percent of fossil fuel use with renewable fuel”.
Now, important to give credit … first steps are that, first steps. It is important that we are moving from small, research-program sized ‘renewable fuel’ purchases to mainstreaming renewable fuel in the aviation industry. We should not, however, take these small steps forward as indicating problem solved …
September 20th, 2016 · No Comments
Once in awhile the world reminds us that the person next to us is, simply, far more amazing than what we realized or understood.
Over the past decade or so, I had the opportunity to occasionally (probably not close to even once a year) chat with a man (semi-)prominent in the clean-energy organizational space. Chairman of this and board member of that and founding member of many organizations, I respected him and valued the few chances I had to have a conversation longer than a quick shake of the hand as he was calmly thoughtful and insightful.
Those conversations will not continue as the front page of the Metro section tag line of an obituary of a ‘dedicated Marine who became a renewable energy advocate‘ caught my eye.
Bill Holmberg joined the Marines, at age 15, during World War II and made it through basic training before they realized he was still a kid. Kicked out, he ended up making his way to the Naval Academy and
The next year, he was leading a rifle platoon during the Korean War when he embarked on a mission deep in enemy-held territory for which he was awarded a Navy Cross…
Col. Holmberg, then a second lieutenant, engaged “in a fierce hand-to-hand battle while under an intense concentration of hostile mortar, machine-gun and small-arms fire,” the citation accompanying the medal read. “Although severely wounded during the engagement, he refused to be evacuated and, while receiving first aid, continued to issue orders and to direct the offensive operations of his unit.”
Bill served a full career and retired … and then dedicated himself to serving the nation in another way: working to advance understanding and otherwise promote renewable energy.
After his military retirement in 1970, Col. Holmberg joined the Environmental Protection Agency. He had grown up in Washington state amid vegetable fields and fruit orchards and felt a renewed sensitivity to protect the planet after seeing the waste and devastation of war
Tom Daschle praised him as not just “a war hero but an indefatigable champion of the environment.”
In the past decade (and in recent) years, we have had much discussion of training soldiers leaving military service to be solar installers and of groups of veterans working to enhance understanding of the need for better energy policies and practices to secure America’s future. Bill Holmberg is (was) a stellar example that this generation of soldiers is not the first who have taken off the uniform to continue the fight to protect their nation through the promote of more rational energy policies.
Dan Reicher summed it up well
We will miss [Bill’s] quiet wisdom, great resolve – and the twinkle in his eye
My that ‘quiet wisdom and great resolve’ stand as a strong example to the legions of Marines (and airman, sailors and soldiers) who are following in his footsteps in the fight to create a prosperous, climate-friendly future for the United States of America.
September 19th, 2016 · 1 Comment
The Washington Post devoted a full page of the Sunday Outlook section to Pulitzer
Michael Mann & Tom Toles, The Madhouse Effect
winner Tom Toles’ and Nobel Prize (sharer) Dr. Michael Mann’s Deniers club: Meet the people clouding the climate change debate which provides nine clarion examples of people who have “stalled action with a campaign of deliberate misinformation”.
One of those nine, ‘The Smiling Dane‘, Bjorn Lomborg who is, as they describe,
A self-styled “skeptical environmentalist” who brandishes a Greenpeace T-shirt as evidence of his unassailable environmental bona fides, Lomborg represents an insidious form of climate change denial. He doesn’t dismiss the scientific evidence outright; he denies the seriousness of the threat and the monumental nature of the effort required to avert it. His arguments often have a veneer of credibility, but he lowballs climate projections and underestimates the potential damage and cost. In one op-ed, he stated that “a 20-foot rise in sea levels .?.?. would inundate about 16,000 square miles of coastline, where more than 400 million people live. That’s a lot of people, to be sure, but hardly all of mankind.” What’s 400 million people among friends?
Lomborg has made a career of wrapping himself in seemingly reasonable analyses that inevitably skews toward supporting continued (if not expanded) deployment of fossil-fuel infrastructure and investing in research and development for magical solutions that will always, it seems, be out there on the future horizon for never-to-be deployment.
The day after prominently laying out Lomborg as someone who is “clouding the climate-change debate”, the Washington Post again gave a soap box to him. Today’s Lomborg false priorities discussion is classic Bjorn. Laying out “analysis” — analysis that does not stand up to scrutiny — to support assertions that, well, we should simply put off action to mitigate climate change until some form of energy miracle (some form of fairy dust) magically emerges for instant world-wide deployment. What are some examples of misleading elements (truth, of course, first) in today’s Lomborg:
- Solar and wind are beating out fossil fuel prices in electricity markets around the world.
- Lomborg writes “Many policies focus on solving global warming by investing in solar and wind, but … they are not competitive now …” Again, FALSE. As a small example, in Chile, recently, new solar pv bid into the market at 2.9 cents per kilowatt hour or roughly half the price from existing coal power plants.
- Efficiency factors are interesting and eye-catching but often an aside. The real issues are, over lifetime, cost per energy unit, reliability, safety, etc … When it comes to solar, there is a simple reality: the sun doesn’t shine 24/7/365 so there will be a gap between ‘peak’ performance and the 24/7/365 average. Again, this is interesting but often simply beside the point. If a 60% “efficient” system that pollutes costs 10 cents per kilowatt hour and a 20% “efficient” system that has no pollution (once installed) costs 3 cents per kilowatt hour, please explain why you would want that “efficiency”?
- Lomborg writes that “solar and wind … will be mostly inefficient for at least 25 years.” Hmm, have to wonder where that “25 years” comes from (will the sun magically start shining 24/7/365) and, again, this is a seemingly sensible argument that is utterly misleading.
- The world is complex. We — as humanity — need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time (e.g., deal with multiple issues). There are serious immediate national security threats (cyber, Russia, China) and long-term existential threats (like climate change) — we cannot, safely, ignore one or the other but have to have a suite of policies that help address all of these. And, in the context of development, we need to deal with malaria and birth
- Lomborg, in essence rejects that complexity, and places various development policies in competition with each other, asserting that dealing with climate change will mean not dealing with malaria. Besides asserting, in essence, that we can’t (shouldn’t) walk and chew gum at the same time, this has multiple other misleading elements. This glosses over (ignores) that climate change worsens problems like malaria (by increasing mosquito ranges, for example) and that it is quite possible to have combined benefits (for example, reducing emissions by replacing kerosene lighting with solar-powered LEDs reduces indoor pollution (and health impacts), improves educational achievement (by enabling more studying), increases economic output (allowing work to be done at night), fosters more gender equality (girls being able to study longer), and leads to reduced population growth (with more educated and more economically empowered women getting married and having children later).
- And …
Sadly, like essentially every Lomborg piece — whether an article or a book — an entire monograph could be written dissecting the dissembling. After all, there is a reason why Bjorn Lomborg holds the distinction of having a Yale University Press book devoted solely to demonstrating how he deceives in footnotes.
And, that brings us back to The Washington Post. Reading that book, which documented (as one example) how Lomborg misrepresented Washington Post reporting even as the Post published deceptive Lomborg OPEDs, my review was entitled: The Lomborg Deception … leads to a question: “Does the Washington Post have any honor left?”
Seeing Lomborg published (the day) after a Washington Post pulitzer prize winner’s article laying him out as engaged in a “campaign of deliberate misinformation” leads to another question:
Does The Washington Post editorial page staff have any idea what they are doing?
Earlier today, the Post’s Tom Toles published a cartoon and commentary entitled: There are two sides to the climate argument, Facts and Falsehoods. By publishing (yet again) Bjorn Lomborg, the Post gave voice to falsehoods.
Tags: bjorn lomborg · Washington Post
September 19th, 2016 · No Comments
This week has an overlap of two tremendous — yet quite different — environments for getting to ‘touch and feel’ items at the leading edge of sustainable energy and water systems.
Tuesday through Thursday (20-22 Sept), National Defense University’s STAR-TIDES program holds it annual technology demonstration (register here). Now a decade in (see discussion of 2013 event during government shutdown), this combination (mini-)conference and trade/demonstration show focuses on leveraging technology to aid in disaster assistance and post-conflict environment. From portable renewable energy (read, mainly, solar) systems, to water purification, to low-cost sanitation solutions for developing world sewage, to portable / quick construction housing, to communications systems, this outdoors ‘tech show’ of about roughly 70 firms and organizations provides a chance to talk with people on the leading edge of solving real-world problems for some of the toughest environments any of us will encounter. If in the DC area and open for a few hours outdoors, an event well worth your time.
Wednesday through Friday (21-23 Sept), the World Energy Engineering Congress (WEEC) is at the DC Convention Center. While WEEC has a rich and robust conference schedule (see here), WEEC’s real draw for me is the trade-show floor which typically takes up the Convention Center’s entire basement. The exhibitors are literally an A-to-Z list of firms with products and/or working in the energy space. While impossible to determine beforehand, I know that a day spent in the trade-show — discussing issues with various firms — will prove valuable with new insights on problems, solutions, and opportunities along with new firms/technologies to learn more about and track. If you can carve out four hours and have any desire for making Energy COOL discoveries, also very much worth the time.
Tags: energy cool
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) just released a China version of Reinventing Fire. This study and planning outline lays out how the PRC can foster a prosperous, climate-friendly society — reliant solely on already existing, cost-effective technologies and options. (E.g., the economic equation should only get better, over time, with innovation (whether technological, fiscal, policy, social, or otherwise …)
China can reduce its carbon emissions by 42 percent below 2010 levels by 2050 and grow its economy 600 percent while saving a net $3.1 trillion over the investments required
There is much there to consider and absorb … and, hopefully, that the Chinese will implement (as, well, the US could do far worse than following Reinventing Fire‘s prescriptions).
Notable — and worth mentioning — even before future diving into the substance is the ‘positive’ framing. This, simply, is about “China can …” Here is the study summarized in five points;
- China can peak its carbon dioxide emissions by 2025
- China can decouple its economic growth from intense energy use
- China can significantly increase use of non-fossil energy
- China can dramatically reduce its coal consumption
- China’s can transition to low-carbon development with significant economic benefits.+
When it comes to moving to #ActOnClimate while improving its economy, the simple truth is “Yes, China Can …”
[Read more →]
The Democratic Platform has significant discussions and objectives about understanding and acting to deal with climate change. Within it, however, the wordsmiths inappropriately conflated belief structures and science — writing “Democrats believe” when a more appropriate verb might have been “understand” or “conclude” or … Using “believe” implies an article of faith when science and religion are too different domains.
Precise language is difficult to achieve in all venues. Everyone of us mashes together, in some form or another, multiple ‘languages’ (or methods of written/oral communication) from traditional languages (English, French, Russian, you get the drift), to institutional jargon (abbreviations, phrases, etc), to informal/fleeting cultural references (“Where’s Jules?” has a special meaning within part of my social circle and, well, this film describes the Barry in all our lives) to … One element is the confusion that occurs as words shift between domains without clarity as to the implications of the shift, of different contextual implications of using a word or phrase.
This often occurs moving between science and colloquial communication. Perhaps the strongest example is ‘theory/Theory’. In everyday communication, theory is often used as per ‘educated guess or supposition’ that is yet unproven. (What’s your theory about why the team loses so much?) The scientific term for that, of course, is hypothesis. When scientists say “Theory” many non-scientists hear theory … The list, of course, goes on (and on …) but the point is: precision matters.
As so often, XKCD provides path to understanding truth …
And, for political discuss, the mindset (the framing) created
by specific word choice often matters … For example, crossing the other way, people often use wording and phrases that conflate science and religion. “Belief” provides a prime example as discussed by Dr. Vicky Pope:
When climate scientists like me explain to people what we do for a living we are increasingly asked whether we “believe in climate change”. Quite simply it is not a matter of belief. Our concerns about climate change arise from the scientific evidence that humanity’s activities are leading to changes in our climate. The scientific evidence is overwhelming.
Within the writing of the Democratic Party platform, climate change represented a serious arena of debate and disagreement. While the Democratic Platform — with significant and often strong discussion of climate change — stands in stark contrast to the Republican anti-science platform, it is hard to imagine anyone truly satisfied with the platform’s climate change provisions (and certainly no Climate Hawk believes it adequate). The policy provision strengths and weaknesses of the platform lie outside this discussion but instead it is framing.
The first discussion of climate change (a phrase that appears 22 times in 55 pages) occurs on the second page amid a series of fundamental statements about what “Democrats” know and believe:
Democrats believe that climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures, and that Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.
While a case might exist that this opening is about policy proscription and not science, this opening framing suggest this is about ‘beliefs’ rather than conclusions based on evidence and analyses. Framing with “believe” puts the discussion naturally into a ‘he/she says’ structure rather than Real-World Facts and Knowledge vs Anti-Science Delusional Fantasies. Perhaps an alternative might have been
Democrats know that human actions are driving climate change and, based on scientific conclusions, recognize that climate change poses …
Not perfect, by any means, but moves the discussion away from the inappropriate ‘belief system’ narrative.
While most discussion of ‘climate change’ is not ‘belief’, here is another example from later in the platform,
Democrats believe that climate change is too important to wait for climate deniers and defeatists in Congress to start listening to science, and support using every tool available to reduce emissions now …
Very simply, this is a situation where “know” would have been appropriate.
Again, there is much worthwhile material on climate change within the Democratic Party platform even as it leaves much to be desired. While there were significant and contentious fights over a series of climate change proposed amendments, calling for “belief” statements to be removed would likely have been met with general acceptance — and would have provided an educational moment both for the platform committee and others about how to speak to (climate) science.
Tags: 2016 Presidential Election · climate change
Joe Romm’s Renewables Are Leaving Natural Gas In The Dust This Year opens
In the first three months of 2016, the U.S. grid added 18 megawatts of new natural gas generating capacity. It added a whopping 1,291 megawatts (MW) of new renewables.
The original title: “U.S. Grid Added 70 TimesMore Renewables ThanNatural Gas In First Quarter“. That title — with a simple mathematical division of 1291 by 18 — led to some complaining and even implications that Romm was attempting to mislead due to capacity factors.
As a quick review, all generation sources have different use and production rates.
The net capacity factor of a power plant is the ratio of its actual output over a period of time, to its potential output if it were possible for it to operate at full nameplate capacity continuously over the same period of time.
Nuclear power plants, for example, in the developed world are about 90% capacity utilization/capacity factor (. Have a 1 gigawatt (1000 megawatt) reactor and, over time, one can expect the plant to average 900 megawatts of constant electricity delivery to the grid. Dependent on many issues, wind might be considered 25% (roughly world average) to 40%+ (new, reasonably well placed/designed installations). Solar perhaps in the 15-20% range. And … Thus, to achieve the same total electricity production of a 1GW capacity nuclear power plant, one might require 2.5-4GW of installed wind or 5-6GW of solar capacity.
The comments about capacity factors, attacking that original title, ranged from ‘reasonable’ sort of comments to absurdist whining as a means to attack renewables.
But, for fun, lets play a math game of notional values w/18MW of natural gas and 1291 of renewables.
Here are three assumption sets off the top of the head:
- NatGas at 50%, renewables well done with average of 33%
- This is likely that this is high end re the natural gas as the 12MW are likely peaker, not baseload(natural gas combined cycle plants, baseload generation often, averaged 56% in 2015), generation.
- This seems likely in shooting range of the actual renewables with the wind/solar mix (though my supposition is that the 33% is probably in range of 10-20% lower than actual production — this is very amenable to analysis but requires going through all the additional renewable sites w/the projected capacity figure for each of the sites.
- NatGas as peaker plus, 20% (rather than <5%); renewables at 25%
- This is perhaps in range of the NatGas (likely somewhat high though, see 2012 charting)
- Pretty pessimistic re the renewables, with weak wind production.
- NatGas is 100%; renewables are just 20%
- This is incredibly high (actually essentially impossible) re the NatGas as it assumes 24/7/365 operations with zero minutes of downtime for maintenance.
- The renewables is undoubtably low, with an assumption of systematically poor production from the installed wind farms. This likely is in the ballpark of just 60% of the likely renewables figure.
So, with those assumptions, what how do each of these scenarios play out in terms of electricity production on average.
Scenario 1 provides the equivalent of 9MW constant NatGas with renewables 430MW constant. Okay, renewables only 48X the natural gas …
For scenario 2, NatGas is 3.6MW constant and renewables at 318MW constant. Renewables at 88X the natural gas constant.
For scenario 3 (which is absurdly unrealistic), NatGas is 18MW constant and renewables are ‘just’ 258MW. In an absolutely unreasonable ‘worst case’ outlier scenario, the added renewable capacity will deliver >14X the electrons to the grid as the new natural.
Okay, moving away from added faceplate capacity to actual contributions to the electrical grid, the ‘reality’ is that the additional renewable electricity capacity will provide somewhere (reasonably) between 25X and >100X the electricity as the new natural gas systems.
Really want to whine that the title was 70X focused on faceplace capacity figure?
Tags: analysis · electricity
The South Continent is, again, going through a massive heat wave with devastatingly hot temperatures in Pakistan and India.
In 2015, the 1,300 killed in the heat wave overwhelmed capacity “and the fast-decaying corpses couldn’t be buried quickly enough.”
Here is a sad, yet tangible example of adaptation in the face of mounting climate-change impacts:
Thank God, we are better prepared this year. God forbid that it happens again but we have already dug graves to accommodate 300 bodies
As another example of adaptation in an effort to reduce the death tool, with “700 makeshift relief centres, dishing out drinking water and rehydration salts” in the Karachi area along with “nearly 200 first response centres across the city, offering basic heat-stroke treatment to swiftly stabilise patients.”
[Read more →]
Tags: climate change · climate disruption
UPFRONT: Hillary Clinton — unlike Donald Trump — has a serious and substantive plan to help American coal miners and mining communities flourish as the nation and global community move beyond coal. Because of reporting on Clinton’s (non)gaffe on coal and her (campaign’s) reaction to it, few Americans — and few in coal country — seem to realize the robustness, substance and even quality of her campaign’s Plan for Revitalizing Coal Communities (see opening paragraphs after the fold …).
In the ‘sound-bite-ation‘ of the American (and, sigh, increasingly global) political process, any phrase powerful in isolation and out of context can be leveraged out-of-context for creating a powerful meme. This abusive approach to political engagement is far from new but seems to be ever-more dangerous with skillful communicators leveraging ‘new’ media tools. Fighting such abuse is hard and reflective of an overlapping concept: “a lie can travel halfway around the world before truth gets out of bed.” The manipulative sound-biting can move quickly and powerfully — and can be hard to counter, especially if a ‘defense’ doesn’t even occur.
Such was (is) the case with Hillary Clinton’s “gaffe on coal”. Most politically-aware Americans — and certainly all in ‘coal country’ have heard:
we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business
Now, if I were a miner, a family member of a miner, in a business reliant on miners, etc …, that phrase would outrage.
As one who sees as rapid a possible reduction of burning of coal — as well as one who strongly supports treating miners and mining communities as ‘heroes’ who have long sacrificed to power the nation (the world) and who advocates for aggressive action to introduce clean energy economic streams (read jobs! jobs! jobs!) into ‘coal’ communities — this phrasing really rang false to me.
And, facing withering attacks, Hillary Clinton seemingly backtracked from this comment and, as widely reported by pundits and headlines,
Not surprisingly, in the shadow of Trump media challenges (read the entire twitter feed), the media has run long and hard with Clinton’s “gaffe” and apology of it.
Few journalists or media outlets have, however, taken the few seconds required to place this truly in context and thus actually inform the readers. And, even the ones that have, often have the substance buried within a larger piece headlined about “apology”. And, since the vast majority of people read only that headline, the general populace remains misinformed.
What was the context of that sentence? That phrase, that soundbite that has become gospel for those attacking Hillary in ‘coal country’ had a context, a rich context that makes clear that the totality of substance is far different than what she is tarred with. Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, had a thoughtful article (Make America Empathetic Again) on how Hillary is pilloried for what can be misconstrued out of context while Donald is given a free ride for fundamental ignorance and”‘making a promise he can’t keep”. From that,
Politically, it was not, to be charitable, a wise thing to say. But consider the context of that line, at a March CNN town hall:
“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim? And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.”
The media often don’t put comments of this sort in context because, as you can see above, it takes a big fat, space-consuming paragraph to make it clear that she was speaking with empathy for coal miners, not consigning them to the economy’s dustbin.
Within context, there is not a ‘gaffe’ here. Obviously, on reflection, what if Secretary Clinton had said something even slightly different, ‘that 21st century trends will put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business’? That would be truthful and align with the plan the Clinton campaign has issued. The soundbite, however, will remain that sentence out of a paragraph and remain without the paragraph’s and the coal revitalization’s context for the vast majority of Americans — in no small part because few journalists will follow Milbank’s lead and make an effort to provide context.
This post was, in part, sparked by a David Robert’s 23 tweet ‘look’ at the issue of how do reporters cover outrageous behavior, making an analogy between ‘outrage fatigue’ during the Bush Administration and during the Trump campaign. And, the double-standard where journalists attack reasonable politicians more fiercely, for relatively minor ‘gaffes’, while letting pass seriously (serial) outrageous statements and behavior by those who move from one untruthful to racist to demagogic item to the next.
7. It just seemed like the Bushies’ capacity for evil was greater than anyone’s capacity even to *track* it, much less to fight it.
8. But as a consequence, *dozens* of minor scandals went by with barely a ripple. There was just no institutional capacity to deal w/ it.
9. The same thing is (already) going on w/ Trump. A neo-Nazi delegate? Women are what? Trade war with who? Scrap EPA? Wait …
10. It’s so much that no one piece of it really sticks. Contrast this w/ coverage of Clinton’s campaign.
11. Clinton is more of a typical politician, w/ reasonably mainstream views & a high degree of message discipline. So when she slips up …
12. with a “gaffe” like the one on coal miners, there’s plenty of time for reporters to lovingly toy w/ it, really make it into a Thing.
Yup, “reporters lovingly” made the coal comment “a Thing” — a Thing with far too many legs and, for most Americans, a Thing without context.
The truth — whether perfect or not — Hillary Clinton has, unlike Donald Trump, proposed a serious plan to address the challenges that coal miners and coal communities face in the coming years, to provide them paths toward prosperity even ad the nation and the rest of humanity burn ever less coal. Sadly, few journalists seem interested in moving past a ‘gaffe’ to actually informing people about Clinton’s concepts.
[Read more →]
Tags: 2016 Presidential Election · coal · media