OK the pro-nuke pitch worked but actually, how in the world does nuclear
protect us or anyone from air pollution and inflation? The slogan was "you can be sure if it's Westinghouse" but instead of being sure, do we have room for doubt?
This sounds like what the nuclear industry did years ago to save the industry from government shutdown after demonstrators marched, yelled, chained themselves to things and actually cried in the streets while clutching their babies and begging for government protection.
A California initiative, Proposition 13, invited the voters to decide whether the state's nuclear plants, which even then cost over $1 billion each, should be shut down.
At first the pro-nuke effort was led by lawyers at a big California utility. The anti-nukes alleged that nuclear presented "an unacceptable level of peril" from explosion and radiation. The lawyers countered that it wasn't unacceptable and that some risk in life was unavoidable. Massive failure. Pollsters said in the media that Californians were 3 to 2 against nuclear--and the trend was more and more anti-nuke.
Then nuclear equipment maker Westinghouse funded a major information program to increase public awareness of three realities:
1. Nuclear protects the public from an unacceptable level of peril from air pollution that kills.
2. Nuclear protects the public from an unacceptable level of peril from inflation in fuel costs that could force drivers and homeowners to pay vastly more thousands per year, causing many older people to lose their homes or almost freeze.
3. Nuclear protects the public from an unacceptable level of peril to the public interest from millions more unemployed Americans if Middle East oil countries cut off our oil supply to punish us as had happened for a time causing long gas lines.
California media were inundated and presented both sides.
One issue had been which do you care about more: (a) the peril of possible explosion and radiation sometime in the future, or (b) the peril of death-causing air pollution now, inflation now and possible increase in unemployment by millions this year and next year.
There is a PR Magnitude of Peril Priciple: in a public policy fight, the side that presents the bigger perils and the more immediate perils tends to win.
Another successful weapon used by the pro-nuked was a take-off on the
once heavily advertised slogan: "You can be sure if it's Westinghouse." In the California contest, the public was repeatedly
asked which it believed more: (a) "You can be sure if it's Westinghouse" (which made California's nuclear plants); or (b) "You can be sure if it's Sheik Ahmed Zaki al Yamani" who was Iran's oil minister.
The voters voted 3 to 2 but in favor of letting the nuclear generating plants continue, and today nuclear energy--which could have been largely shut down by a loss in California--supplies an estimated 19% or 20% of all the electrical power Americans use.
Today it is common as in the excellent story above, to call industry's
public information program "a promotional pitch" (or worse). But you could make a case for saying that in a controversy like nuclear generating or oil sands, there are honest and intelligent people on both sides and what each side says may be not a "promotional pitch" but an honest and accurate program of information that increases pubic awareness of the truth.
Arguably the public is well served when in a major public policy disagreement, both sides have an opportunity to show the public:
"Here's what's in this for you."