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July 10, 2011
Brattle Principal Jürgen Weiss Quoted in New York Times Article on the Meaning Behind “Clean Energy”

Brattle principal Jürgen Weiss, an expert in climate change and renewable energy, was quoted in a July 10, 2011 green column article in the New York Times, which discussed President Obama’s usage of the term “clean energy” when speaking about U.S. energy policy.

The article, “Word Choice Matters for Energy Policy,” describes how the term “clean energy” is a nebulous phrase that can encompass a wide range of energy sources, such as natural gas and clean coal, which are not necessarily renewable sources. The article also refers to a recent town hall meeting as an example, where President Obama referred to “clean energy” five times, while other terms, like “renewable,” “sustainable,” and “green,” were not used.

The article also discusses how semantics play a large role in public perception and policy making. The same holds true in European countries, although differences in word choice between the U.S. and Europe can be telling. Dr. Weiss points out that “there is no strong industrial or political support base for fossil fuels, which removes the requirement to touch them with velvet gloves.” He also explains that most European countries do not rely heavily upon popular U.S. sources of energy, such as coal, natural gas, or oil, and Europeans focus more on climate change rather than clean energy.

To read the article in its entirety, please visit the New York Times website.