With renewed pledges from both the US and China to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels, disputes between the Spanish and Argentine governments over biofuels and car manufacturers releasing a new generation of electric vehicles, sustainable fuel has been a prolific subject in the press during the last few months. Report International looked into media perceptions of the four major sustainable players – electric propulsion (including hybrids), biofuels, LPG and fuel cells – to try to shed some light on the reported viability of each fuel.
Unsurprisingly, this issue engaged media in a multitude of industry sectors, governmental and political blogs, and sites dedicated to activism, in addition to permeating the mainstream and general interest landscape. LPG and fuel cells, while not achieving large amounts of exposure, were generally favourably presented, but it was controversial topics such as Electric Vehicles (EVs) and biofuels that generated by far the most media attention. EVs emerged as the dominant media topic across the analysis period, boosted, predictably, by automotive industry events. Car makers presenting new models at international motor shows (see previous blogs on Geneva and Bangkok), declarations of putting millions of EVs on the road in the next 3 to 7 years by the Chinese and US governments, and environmental experts giving dire warnings of the consequences of not switching to electric, all served to boost the current high visibility of EVs.
Nevertheless, despite governments and major players like Nissan and GE coming out in support of EVs, influential journalists lambasted EVs on the grounds of economics, aesthetics and poor sales, disputing their commercial viability.
Biofuels present a more sustainable media landscape, which, although smaller in volume of activity than that of EVs, seems to be a lot less reliant on event-driven coverage. Arguments over which base material is best, and issues of international co-operation and hindrance will not cease in the short term. Examples of such ideological clashes during the analysis period included the Argentine government’s renationalisation of Spanish-owned energy company Repsol-YPF and Spain’s consequent banning of Argentine biofuel imports, President Obama’s support of algae-based biofuels vs Republican scorn, the disputed environmental credentials of palm oil as a fuel, and accusations of foreign ‘land-grabbing’ in poorer nations.
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