Cool Rationalities and Hot Air: A Rhetorical Approach to Understanding Debates on Renewable Energy.

John Barry, Geraint Ellis, Clive Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


A key obstacle to the wide-scale development of renewable energy is that public acceptability of wind energy cannot be taken for granted when wind energy moves from abstract support to local implementation. Drawing on a case study of opposition to the siting of a proposed off-shore wind farm in Northern Ireland, we offer a rhetorical analysis of a series of representative documents drawn from government, media, pro- and anti-wind energy sources, which identifies and interprets a number of discourses of objection and support. The analysis indicates that the key issue in terms of the transition to a renewable energy economy has little to do with the technology itself. Understanding the different nuances of pro- and anti-wind energy discourses highlights the importance of thinking about new ways of looking at these conflicts. These include adopting a “conflict resolution” approach and “upstreaming” public involvement in the decision-making process and also the counter-productive strategy of assuming that objection is based on ignorance (which can be solved by information) or NIMBY thinking (which can be solved by moral arguments about overcoming “free riders”).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-98
Number of pages32
JournalGlobal Environmental Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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