Friday, July 23, 2010

Netroots Nation 2010

I'm at the Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas, currently attending a panel on "Is the BP Oil Disaster the Breaking Point for Communicating About Clean Energy?"

This is my third consecutive NN convention. Las Vegas is a convenient spot for conventions, because they have a lot of facilities for them.

Here are some of the more interesting points to me coming up in the discussion are the following.

Amanda Terkel is one of the panelists, who I was curious to hear live because her blog posts are often very insightful. She emphasized that it was imperative for the Obama administration to show that government can work by responding well to the crisis and therefore offset the Republican/Tea Party anti-government message. She thinks the Joe Barton incident of apologizing to BP as a good example of a situation in which the anti-government message (gubment shouldn't be messin' with private bitnesses) was discredited. She hopes progressives will be able to use this to show the need for effective regulation.

One panelist observed that the netroots called attention early to BP's understatement of the volume of the oil flow. BP's liability is related to the amount of oil released, so this is a big deal.

Jason Miner observed that the BP disaster occurred in a complex messaging environment, in which climate change legislation and cap-and-trade were being discussed. On the other hand, skepticism of both corporations and big government. The fact that many of the people in the coastal areas most affected wanted to continue offshore oil drilling made it more difficult to get the personal stories that would back a clean-energy framing.

Phil Radford of Greenpeace cautioned about the "bad actor" narrative, that it could be a problem if the disaster is defined as BP's failure as a company and the larger problem of unacceptable risk with deepwater drilling.

Another panelist observed that industry lobbyists hate being exposed. There is a federal database available at the Office of the Clerk/Lobby Disclosure Database that is challenging to search but useful on lobbyists and their incomes and the sources of it. Greenpeace has recently done an expose on Koch Industries, a privately-held energy company whose owners, among other things, have been major supporters of the Libertarian Party as well as Republicans.

Steve Kretzmann emphasized the fact that the federal government is massively subsidizing oil companies while providing only a fraction of that support to clean energy.

Radford mentioned that in 2008, wind power was providing 10 times more power in the US than coal. This is a good point in the face of arguments that we're tied to oil and gas for the indefinite future.

2:28PM PST: Due to some annoying technical problems, I wasn't able to post this immediately after the session. The sessions will be available online relatively soon, I don't know precisely when.

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