Kate Mackenzie David MacKay’s foot-in-mouth moment (or, why scientists and the media don’t mix)

Updated: Professor David MacKay was a respected academic figure well before he was appointed the UK’s chief scientist for energy and climate change. He attracted a great deal of mainstream attention with his excellent book ‘Sustainable Energy: Without Hot Air‘, which calmly and lucidly explores exactly how the UK might meet its energy needs while also lowering its greenhouse gas emissions.

But everyone makes mistakes, and scientists, we notice, are more prone to slips of the tongue than others.

The Telegraph reports that during a speech yesterday, Prof MacKay referred to energy security by asking who wanted to be held hostage to fossil fuel producers “with funny accents“?

A spokesperson from the Department of Energy and Climate Change writes:

This was an inappropriate choice of words and Professor MacKay regrets any offence that may have been caused. The important point he was intending to make was that much of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves lie in potentially unstable regions, this being one of the reasons for the shift to low carbon.

It’s an important point, but it’s also a very unfortunate choice of words.

Update: Some readers below have pointed out that the comment was ironic. Perhaps DECC could have just told us that?

(H/T to our reader and ardent commenter Gas Guru, who’s posted his response here).

Related links:
David Mackay: The first factual meme on renewable energy? (FT Energy Source, 14/04/09)