How to Promote Solar—and Help Repeal Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Parody

Everyone loves a good laugh, especially when it’s directed at PR spin-meisters like the fossil fuel industries, which continue to greenwash their way to getting $5.1 billion per year from tax payers to find new fossil fuel reserves.

They may tell us that they’re investing in alternative energies, but it’s a teeny slice of their budget. So, anything they tell you about seriously investing in solar or wind or non-carbon bio fuels is pretty much tossing the U.S. a sweet PR Twinkie and telling us to thank them for it. If they truly meant to change their dirty energy ways, they’d be lobbying Congress to quickly transition those subsidies into clean energy subsidies and competing on a level energy playing field. But that’s not going to happen, so it’s up to us…

But how do we let Congress know that the 92% of the U.S. who support solar will remember them at the polls in 2016 if they
don’t eliminate these never-ending all-you-can-eat buffet of fossil fuel subsidies?

I’d suggest that solar marketers and advocates use parody. Parody is a powerful communication tool for several reasons:

  • It takes something already familiar or famous. That means that viewers are starting with a reference point that they already relate to, so they can quickly grasp what’s going on and get into the ironic commentary.
  • It’s funny—or should be. According to a recent study, funny videos are shared more often, so parody videos are more likely to go viral.
  • It helps people rethink their positions. Parody helps people to see topics in a different light, exposing the shadows of a seemingly pristine PR picture.
  • It’s timely. You can take a current important topic or meme and bring in a completely unrelated topic that mixes the two into brilliant parody.

Greenpeace has been doing this for quite some time. For example, take their recent campaign to embarrass Lego into dropping Shell Oil as a sponsor:

 

 

Or take a look at this comedy troop’s low budget parody of BP’s handling of the 2010 oil spill:

 


Or how about how Funny or Die deconstructing Chevron’s greenwashing “We Agree” campaign with this video (warning, major profanity.)

So, how do we use parody to promote the extension of the 30% ITC and the elimination of oil and gas subsidies, or at least the elimination of 80 year old oil and gas subsidies? Let’s create simple media that compare solar and fossil fuels.

With that in mind, you could create your creative fun version of a video or graphic that:

  • Shows someone going to a 2016 voting booth and deciding whether to vote for more oil, coal, and gas subsidies versus more solar subsidies.
  • Shows a utility scale solar farm compared to a coal plant.
  • Shows photos of strip mining and fracking vs workers installing a pole- mounted system.
  • Creates an infographic that compares the historical price of solar going down vs the price of oil, gas, and coal going up.
  • Creates a parody video of a current greenwashing commercial and deconstructing it, exposing the misinformation and the info that it’s leaving out.
  • Compares an oil spill to a solar spill, a.k.a., a nice day (with a credit to Vote Solar.)

As Mark Twain once said, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand,” perhaps even 5.1 billion in fossil fuel subsidies…. UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is the founder and CMO of UnThink Solar, and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. For more solar marketing info, sign up for the UnThink Solar newsletter or follow @SolarFred on Twitter.

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