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Environmentalists hire Republican consultant to rebrand cap and trade

January 25, 2010

It’s the political equivalent of the Hail Mary pass.

The  man Republicans often look to for the messages to help sell their policies showed up last week at the National Press Club with the Environmental Defense Fund–of all groups–with new poll results designed to help climate change advocates breathe new life into the  stagnant issue.

Pollster and political communications expert Frank Luntz, who coined the phrase “death tax” in the battle to repeal the estate tax, has come up several phrases to help EDF and other climate change legislation supporters overcome a skeptical public and an even more skeptical U.S. Senate.   

A blog posting in the New Republic outlines Luntz’ recommendations.   As far as the public is concerned, Luntz says the least important component about climate change is the term “climate change.”

Luntz insists that Americans would support a cap on carbon emissions—80 percent of Dems, but also 43 percent of Republicans he surveyed are either definitely or pretty sure climate change is a problem that’s caused in part by humans. But he doesn’t believe cap-and-trade can pass as long as “it’s called ‘cap-and-trade,’ and all the messaging that’s been used against it. The title has become so demonized that they’ve got to come up with a new name.”

“Cleaner, safer, healthier” is more effective than ‘sustainability,” Luntz said.      

The opinion research was done in October and November — before Copenhagen (and probably before Climate Gate).

Luntz found that nuclear energy is increasingly popular with the electorate by a better than 3 to 1 ratio.  Only 19 percent are hostile to it and 64 percent of the public favors nuclear energy.    According to Luntz, people like nuclear because it’s:

  • American, which matters to them
  • It’s more efficient
  • No carbon emissions

In the news conference, Luntz said environmentalists are “horrible communicators because they so desperately want everyone to agree with them so they preach rather than educate.”

Illinois Farm Bureau strongly opposes cap and trade legislation.  Not only would it put America at a competitive disadvantage and do nothing to change the climate, it would shortchange the energy needs of our economy, increase the cost of energy for farmers and consumers, kill jobs, and create incentives for farmers to grow trees rather than food for a growing world population.

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