Sunday, 15 March 2015

Two stories, two angles


Solar Impulse-2 is a solar-powered aircraft attempting to fly around the world using only its solar panels backed up by lithium-ion batteries for night flying. As it is what we might term an eco-story, it has been reported in the usual manner by the BBC.

A record-breaking attempt to fly around the world in a solar-powered plane has completed its first leg.

The aircraft - called Solar Impulse-2 - took off from Abu Dhabi, heading east to Muscat in Oman.

With businessman and pilot Andre Borschbeg at the controls, the aircraft touched down in Oman at 16:14 GMT after a 12-hour flight.

Over the next five months, it will skip from continent to continent, crossing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans...

The solar boom is a huge help in the battle against climate change, but scientists warn it's not nearly enough. And we must find ways of storing that mighty but capricious power, and making it work with the grid.

BBC iWonder: Is jet travel becoming the dirtiest way to cross the planet?

On the other hand, NoTricksZone reports on the tens of thousands of litres of aviation fuel required for the support crew.

According to an audio report by SRF Swiss Radio and Television the Solar Impulse 2 mission involves the substitute pilot, a technical ground crew “of dozens of people” and tonnes of equipment and logistical supplies that have to be flown behind using conventional charter flights. The “fossil fuel-free” Solar Impulse 2 journey is in fact being made possible only with the use of tens of thousands of litres of aviation fuel. This is a fact that is being almost entirely ignored by the media.

How times change. Not so long ago there would have been one story with one angle and BBC version would have been almost completely dominant. Today there are other, far more reliable sources. There are now two stories - PR and reality with two angles - eco-fantasy and eco-fact.

When it comes to eco-stories the dear old Beeb is as credible as a nine pound note.


Sam Vega said...

Is a middle way possible here? I wouldn't object to an article which praised the science and enterprise which might lead to world-changing technology, but which fully acknowledged that, as yet, such technology is merely a proposal and needs to be supported by more traditional forms of energy. I guess the components of Stephenson's Rocket had to be collected by wagon and pack-horse.

Woodsy42 said...

They don't mention the payload it can (or can not) carry either, which has a bearing on its usefulness.

A K Haart said...

Sam - there is a third way, but the issue is so saturated with hype and dishonesty that it isn't easy to strike a balance. With solar we know the limits in terms of watts per square metre.

Woodsy - one man seems to be the payload limit.