(1) Negotiation about the trivial.

(2) Noting the use of words which—while substantially true—mislead, evade or conceal the main issue.

Example headline in The Times: “The Thirsty £1½m Car That Needs Only Water”.Q1 In fact, the car needs hydrogen, which is produced from water by the application of large quantities of power, which has to be supplied by oil, gas, hydropower or some other energy source: hydrogen does not actually reduce the quantity of fuel needed to drive cars—in fact, it increases it.Q2

As the article eventually explains, the original energy source in this particular case is hydropower, so technically the headline is correct, but the super-confident hint—that, instead of filling up the cars of the future with petrol we will just add water (thanks to amazing new technologies)—is of course misleading. It reinforces the error that all we need in order to cope with the energy peak is a few clever technical fixes.

The quibble can build giant structures of falsehood, without ever requiring the architect to tell a lie.


Related entries:

Distraction, Special Pleading.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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