Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ethanol oil subisidies: How do we transform information into action?

Recently, I've noticed increased interest about the effect increased demand for biofuels is having on the global price of food. Since I read the December cover story of The Economist, The End of Cheap Food, I've felt passionate about eliminating corn ethanol subsidies. While I am glad to see the increased coverage, I wonder why it has taken the American media four months to catch on to this story?

I feel the reason is the complexity of the issue. It is difficult to explain to the average person how these subsidies are causing the price of food to rise. When I read The Economist story, one fact stood out: "fill up an SUV's fuel tank with ethanol and you have used enough maize to feed a person for a year."

This is an easy message to digest and understand. Breaking down a complex message into a simple example is a key tenet of public relations, and is a necessary skill. Public relations professionals must not only communicate clear and simple messages, they must also indicate why the issue is important.

Finally, we must compel people to action. This is where I struggle with the ethanol issue. Even if a large group of people actually become familiar with the issue of ethanol oil subsides what action should they take? How can we transform this information into action?


Matt said...

Hey, I totally agree, but what about alternative biofuels that aren't related to the food supply? Stuff like biodiesel or algae-based fuel?

Eva Sylwester said...

As for why the media hasn't caught on to the biofuel issue, I think it has a lot to do with the media being grossly ignorant of science. They don't know what questions to ask, so they probably believe whatever the biofuel lobby tells them.

The upside for PR in righting the misconceptions about biofuels is that the media exhibits a herd mentality; once you've converted a few key media outlets, the rest should follow smoothly.

Eva Sylwester said...

Hey, Discovery Channel caught the story from the Associated Press:

Eva Sylwester said...

AP Biofuels article

This link was supposed to be on my last comment.

Hannah said...

Excellent article Eva. I am glad to see the issue is finally being presented in such a straight-forward way.