demetrious-energywarsglobal-2018.pdf (159.15 kB)
'Energy wars': global PR and public debate in the 21st century
journal contributionposted on 2019-01-01, 00:00 authored by Kristin DemetriousKristin Demetrious
‘Hashtags’, ‘trending topics’, ‘mentions’ ‘likes, ‘retweets’: the 21st century is distinctive for a range of new communication technologies, social practices and discourses that have framed public debate as “authentic”, “participatory”, “empowering” and “organic”. In this article, I explore a 21st century public relations (PR) campaign that is promoting neoliberal “solutions” to complex social and environmental problems, namely Burson-Marsteller’s 2014 campaign for coal industry client, Peabody Energy. The ‘Advanced Energy for Life’ (AEFL) ‘comprehensive global campaign’ to promote the idea of ‘clean coal’ in the alleviation of ‘energy poverty’ is but one in a succession of campaigns deployed by the coal industry since the 1980s. This article examines the reception of the AEFL campaign in Australia from January 2014 to March 2017. In doing so, it traces the movement of campaign tropes in the public sphere as well as prominent Twitter activity. It asks what purpose did the tropes serve and how they propelled debate. It also asks if resistance on Twitter can disrupt the ‘long period of suspended animation’ in public debate on energy policy. In tackling these questions with a critical lens, it aims to develop a greater understanding of the influence of global PR campaigns such as Peabody’s AEFL in public debate in contemporary settings.