Chess match between renewable and fossil fuel industries is riveting

The Saint ReportCoal and Fossil Fuel, Energy, Planning and Zoning, saintblog, Wind PowerLeave a Comment

fuelsBy Jay Vincent,
Senior Vice President for Energy, The Saint Consulting Group

If you are a political professional, it’s high time to chart how various energy industries are utilizing the current environment to promote and prop up their business, or defend against their extinction.  I’ve become an avid onlooker of the chess match between renewable and fossil fuel industries and their political and public relations strategies for getting refineries expanded, biomass facilities permitted, coal-fired power plants fired up or wind farms approved.  Coupled with the current energy bill debate on the Hill, I could entertain myself all day.

If you’ve read any of my posts, you’ll know I’m a movie fan and like to quote from some of my favorites, so why break precedent.  “This s—s chess, it ain’t checkers!” Denzel Washington shouts to Ethan Hawke in another of my top tier of films, Training Day, as Washington attempts to bring the rookie investigator in line with the tactics he used to track and take down masters of the L.A. drug trade (OK, murdering them actually for his own purposes, but that’s besides the point). 

Years ago, a mentor of mine in the tobacco industry once described politics as three-dimensional chess, and in many respects he’s right.  And that’s how I tend to look at the political wars between candidates running for office or, closer to our world of land use politics, how industries and applicants plot to get what they need from government bodies to be successful.  No different with renewable wind energy and the fossil fuel-based oil and gas industries.

So, when I read this morning how the American Lung Association was advocating at the Maine Land Use Regulation its support for the Redington Wind Farm, I saw a strong move on the chess board by the wind industry, like it or not, orchestrated or not.  Given the increasing use by anti-wind NIMBYs of health and welfare claims about siting wind farms near residents, getting the ALA to testify at a public hearing in favor was a swift stroke.  Getting them and other “body parts” organizations (what we used to call them in the tobacco biz) to endorse wind farms based on global health benefits of clean energy would certainly balance out those claiming that living near wind farms has obstructive health impacts, i.e. wind turbine syndrome and the like.

It’s no small measure given the political experience, membership lists and advocacy potential organizations like ALA have.  I’ll be interested to see where they might show up next and whether this is a one-off in Maine or a national trend.  It’s certainly a strong media hit for wind in my view. 

How will the fossil fuel players respond?  What is their next move to promulgate the idea that our energy demands of the future will not be met without traditional energy production from oil and gas or coal, and that it can be a healthy part of the mix?

If you want to participate and identify who’s making all the right moves or just follow more of this chess match, I will be posting articles and commenting more about it on Saint Report.

Jay Vincent is senior vice president for energy, The Saint Consulting Group, email  phone 312.970.5770 Ext: 7502

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