How to Sell Conservatives on Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs

NBC on the marketing of energy-efficient light bulbs, The New York Times on burning garbage in Oslo, The Washington Post on Fisker Automotive, The American Prospect on Obama's green record, and National Geographic on solar nanotechnology.

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NBC on the marketing of energy-efficient light bulbs John Roach reports on a new study from a University Pennsylvania researcher on how political ideology bears on effective marketing of green energy products. "Widespread adoption of energy-efficient technologies such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and electric cars promises to curb the pace of global climate change. But if widespread adoption is the goal, don't mention the environmental benefits, a new paper suggests." While such messages "may be unnecessary to sell the energy-efficient technologies to liberals," it can turn away conservatives: "When energy efficient, but more costly, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) were sold with a sticker that read 'Protect the Environment,' conservatives shied away from them."

The New York Times on garbage in Oslo If you burn garbage to produce heat and energy, what happens when you run out of garbage? John Tagliabue writes from the capital city of Norway: "Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn." He continues: "The problem is not unique to Oslo, a city of 1.4 million people. Across Northern Europe, where the practice of burning garbage to generate heat and electricity has exploded in recent decades, demand for trash far outstrips supply."

The Washington Post on Fisker Automotive Charles Lane is the latest to consider the fate of Fisker Automotive, the recipient of numerous federal loans for green energy: "Government loans could not overcome Fisker's fundamental problem: no experience mass-producing automobiles, let alone the complex battery-powered luxury cars that it proposed to sell for more than $100,000. Today, the company is nearly bankrupt; taxpayers are on the hook for $171 million, and private investors are probably nearly wiped out. ... In other words, that’s more than a billion dollars in capital that can't create jobs elsewhere in the economy — but might have, if the government had not propped up and promoted Fisker."

The American Prospect on Obama's green record Despite the fate of Fisker Automotive, the Obama administration has helped along electric car technology, says Paul Waldman, who marshals numerous examples of green companies aided by government loans. He concludes: "We don't live in a Randian fantasy world where government can just abstain from any involvement in the market, and thank goodness for that. The question isn't whether government will have an impact on the private sector, it's whether the decisions it makes as it does so are as wise as possible. Even with the failure of Fisker, so far, its record on promoting electric cars doesn't look too bad."

National Geographic on solar nanotechnology "Nearly 60 years after researchers first demonstrated a way to convert sunlight into energy, science is still grappling with a critical limitation of the solar photovoltaic cell," says Patrick J. Kiger. "It just isn't that efficient at turning the tremendous power of the sun into electricity." Kiger investigates the promise of nanotechnology to make better cells: "Nanotechnology may provide an answer to the efficiency problem, by tinkering with solar power cells at a fundamental level to boost their ability to convert sunlight into power, and by freeing the industry to use less expensive materials."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.