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The Planet
From the Editor

Winning the Sound Bite War

By John Byrne Barry

It's easy to bemoan the sad truth that the snappy sound bite counts more than the rational, nuanced argument. But since that's all too often the case, we may as well get our licks in too.

The Sierra Club did just that when Bush released his energy plan in May. Below are some of the gems that appeared in newspapers or on radio and television in May and June.

Jeff Schmidt, Pennsylvania Chapter director in The Philadelphia Inquirer, on how Bush is selling his plan as green despite its heavy reliance on fossil fuels: "President Bush should know the old Texas saying, 'You can put your boots in the oven but that don't make them biscuits.' "

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope on NPR: "[Bush is] trying to pull a thin veil of energy efficiency over a cesspool of polluter giveaways."

Midwest field staffer Brett Hulsey on the CBS Evening News: "All he's doin' is talkin' the talk, and it's just lipstick on a pig."

Club Global Warming Director Dan Becker talking about nuclear power on CBS Evening News: "Switching from coal to nuclear power is like giving up smoking and taking up crack."

Becker again, on CNN arguing that Bush's call for more study on global warming is irresponsible: "When your house is on fire, you don't go to the library to take out a book on how hot fire gets - you put out the fire."

Other quotes were not as colorful, but were clear and straightforward about the Club's criticisms of Bush's plan, repeating our support for "a balanced approach that gives us quicker, cleaner, cheaper, safer solutions."

In fact, the Club's mantra was so pervasive that even our opponents were quoting it, almost verbatim.

Utah Rep. Jim Hansen (R), who chaired a hearing on the Bush energy plan, devoted a big chunk of his opening statement to attacking the Sierra Club's proposal: "There are no solutions offered by the critics of the president's energy policy. All we hear from the critics are vague promises of 'quicker, cleaner, cheaper, safer solutions like energy efficient technologies, renewable power like solar and wind.' Rarely is it mentioned that these technologies are years away from implementation.... rarely is it mentioned for example that it will take 15 to 20 years to turn over the existing fleet of gas guzzling SUVs to more energy-efficient vehicles."

We couldn't have put it better ourselves. Well, actually we did.


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