prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Political PR and Symbolic Gestures

Posted by prof e on November 9, 2015

Last week you read a blog post about the public relations difficulties facing the nuclear power industry…an industry that could be an alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and oil. We also looked at the issue of climate change and the PR war that is being waged by big oil, the environmental movement, and those who stand to gain when alternatives such as solar and wind are put into service.

Last Thursday President Obama vetoed the Keystone pipeline, a project that has been in the works for seven years. The pipeline would transport tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the gulf coast of the US. The environmental opposition to the project is grounded in a belief that oil is bad, and that tar sands oil is one of the worst forms of oil when it comes to negative environmental impact. According to the New York Times, “The process of extracting that oil produces about 17 percent more planet-warming greenhouse gases than the process of extracting conventional oil.”

But the debate had come to be more symbolic than real. The oil will likely make it to market regardless of the fate of the Keystone pipeline and the pro-jobs and pro-economy arguments were largely overstated.

But the New York Times report suggests that Obama’s decision is mostly about cementing his legacy as a friend of environmentalists. It even makes the point that the decision is about sending a message to the international community.

But advocates of the agreement said that the Keystone decision, even though it is largely symbolic, could show other countries that Mr. Obama is willing to make tough choices about climate change.

Perhaps Obama’s decision is a chess move in a global PR strategy designed to affect the outcome of UN’s Conference on Climate Change when they meet in Paris later this month.

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