Words Do Matter

In a drawer of my closet is pretty pastel green T-shirt decorated with images of a wind turbine and a bicyclist and the words “alternative energy”.  I keep it because it was a gift from a family member who knew of my work in renewable energy.  I want to honor the loving thought.  I don’t wear it, because it conveys a message I don’t want to endorse.

Companies don’t market their products as the next best thing to someone else’s.  The association with the term “alternative lifestyles” was probably intended by whoever coined “alternative energy”. Alternative energy would be associated with the peculiar choices of a small, harmless minority.

The American public is generally unaware of the explosive growth of the global renewable energy industries over the past decade.  These industries invest in factories and jobs, and as we are quite well aware, factories, local businesses and jobs are not an alternative in the current economy.  Quite possibly the term continues to be used because it is how certain industries want us to think about energy sources that would reduce their market share.

I suggest that renewable energy advocates stop using the term alternative energy.  We should do so as a matter of reducing the impediments facing a whole spectrum of industries that needs to coalesce and stay on a fast growth curve, if they are to ultimately win the economic competition with politically powerful incumbents.  Those who prefer a more “in your face” approach could start using the term “non-destructive” as a more accurate substitute for “alternative energy”.

I’ve become more conscious of the negative images created by terms used by renewable energy opponents.  Each needs its own discussion.  Future blogs will take them on one by one.

– Gerry Braun

© 2012 The IRES Network