Clean coal, 2+2=5 and other delusions

The public relations salvo against global warming legislation is already underway, even before any concrete proposals were introduced in either the House or Senate. Washington Post notes that a group backed by the coal industry is spending $35M on a new ad campaign in primary and caucus states to spread the message that coal is a clean fuel. With the appropriately Orwellian name of Balanced Energy Choices (similar to how the campaigns against raising fuel economy standards used to be called  “Concerned/Anguished/Distraught Citizens for Vehicle Choice”) the TV spots use the catchy image of a power cable being plugged into a lump of coal. True enough considering that 50% of US power generation capacity comes from coal, and it is the one fuel that the world is not in any danger of running out anytime soon. The remainder is at best disingenuous: as the Post article points out, the definition of “clean” conveniently excludes carbon emissions.

Strangely the message has not made it very far online: Googling for clean coal will not return any top matches related to the slick campaign website and the commercial itself that praises the virtues of energy security. Not even a sponsored result. Instead the collective wisdom of the web responds with a balanced perspective on technologies such as IGCC that promise to extract comparable energy with a fraction of the emissions associated with directly burning the fuel. One of the hits points to an article from last year’s Sierra Club magazine and another one on the second page finds a blistering indictment of the concept from Washington Post op-ed side. That’s not exactly a success story, considering the commercial spots were produced by the same company responsible for the “what-happens-here-stays-here” themed advertising for Las Vegas.


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