Coal: $35 million in Astroturfing

According to Washington Post reporting, the coal industry is using an Astroturf organization, the Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, to wage a $35 million dollar effort to gain traction in the 2008 Presidential campaign for a more polluting future for America and the Globe.  (Note, this is not how the Post described it, but less face facts …)

So far, ABEC  

has spent $1.3 million on billboard, newspaper, television and radio ads in Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina.

Yes, coal is part of a bright energy future, technology over threats to the nation, see the opening with a stealth aircraft

One of its television ads shows a power cord being plugged into a lump of coal, which it calls “an American resource that will help us with vital energy security” and “the fuel that powers our way of life.” The ads note that half of U.S. electricity comes from coal-fired plants.

Yes, half of America’s electricity comes from coal.  So does almost all of its mercury pollution (worried about eating tuna) and over one-fourth of our carbon emissions contributing to Global Warming, and … 

ABEC is paying people to be at campaign events, in human billboards, and giving out leaflets at events. They have sponsored Presidential debates (here also).  They even had Santas giving out “Clean Coal” (reminder: that is ‘somewhat less dirty coal’) at the Metro stations by the US Congress.  (Yes, everyone wants coal in their stockings, at least according to ABEC.)

The group’s message — that coal-fired power plants can be clean, and that more of them are needed to meet the growing demand for electricity — comes when opposition to new coal plants is mounting because they generate greenhouse gases.

“The group’s message” … truthiness bordering, if not crossing the lie to, lies.

ABEC is not the only activity. The National Mining Industry has an increased budget of 20 percent.  ABECs budget is increased by four times over earlier years.  Read the list of backers for ABEC:

The roster of backers includes 28 companies and trade associations such as Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Duke Energy, Southern Co. and the National National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Note a couple things.  Duke Energy has made much noise about signing into the Climate Action Partnership which is seeking GHG emissions caps. Hmmm … Anything at odds with sponsoring both CAP and ABEC?  Any chance that CAP is Duke Greenwashing?  And, the heavily tax-payer subsidized Rural Electric Cooperatives working to damage our future, on our dime.

Now, the Democratic Presidential candidates, here are their coal comments at the Nevada Debate: 

Former senator John Edwards said, “I believe we need a moratorium on the building of any more coal-fired power plants unless and until we have the ability to capture and sequester the carbon in the ground.”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) said, “I have said we should not be siting any more coal-powered plants unless they can have the most modern, clean technology. And I want big demonstration projects to figure out how we would capture and sequester carbon.”

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) did not commit himself on coal plants but said Americans had to make their buildings, lighting and appliances “more efficient.”

The ABEC ads focus on the “clean coal”. Yes, cleaner because there are less pollutants than in the past, but still with zero real impact on lowering carbon emissions and coal’s impact on global warming.  Carbon Capture and Sequestration remains mainly fantasy slides and science experiments, with uncertainty as to whether this will ever be deployable on mass scale at affordable prices. 

The group’s newspaper ads avoid that distinction. They say that today’s carbon-fired plants are “70 percent cleaner based on regulated emissions per unit of energy produced.” That does not refer to carbon dioxide.

And the Post does talk to that uncertainty

New coal-plant technologies that might capture carbon dioxide and store, or sequester, it underground are expensive, experimental and not in commercial use.

What do environmental groups have to say (publically) about this: 

“We welcome a vigorous debate about our energy future and solving global warming. Unfortunately ABEC is spending millions of dollars on misinformation about our energy choices . . . instead of engaging in a real debate about the true costs of coal and clean energy alternatives,” said Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club’s national coal campaign.

And, yes, this is certianly true.

Environmentalists are also worried that the ads aired by ABEC so far are just the beginning of what could be a much bigger offensive once Congress gets down to work on a climate change bill sponsored by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.). An ad targeting that bill is currently being shown on video monitors at the baggage carousels at Dulles International Airport.

Let’s be honest, $35 million is serious money. Seriously focused money. Money being focused on a confusing issue that will seek to confuse, distort and mislead.

“Big coal may launch a ‘Harry and Louise’-style disinformation campaign to sink global warming solutions in Congress,” said Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress.

Now, we need to be very clear that this is the Lieberman-Warner Climate (in)Security Act, a CISA that will not solve our problems. It requires major strengthening or else shelving until 2009.  Yet, the ABEC efforts must be of concern. 

One of the coal industry group’s radio ads hints at those themes. A woman asks: “How can we become less dependent on foreign resources? What fuels will keep power bills reasonable and be environmentally responsible?” A man responds, “We have many questions for our candidates, and coal has to be part of the discussion.”

Time for some letter writing to newspapers and Congress. Yes, coal has to be part of the discussion … as in, how to end mountain top removal now and how to get off our polluting coal addiction ASAP. 

6 responses to “Coal: $35 million in Astroturfing

  1. Perhaps we need to focus on the mercury. It’s not just in tuna fish, it is also in measurable quantities in the hair of those of us living near coal fired power plants like the nicely concealed one in the city of Alexandria.

  2. Pingback: Dominion … the truthiness continues … forever? « Energy Smart

  3. Pingback: WE … WashPost Reporting Balanced vs Objective « Energy Smart

  4. Pingback: Obama Message Coopted by Pollution Front Group « Energy Smart

  5. trillion dollars from americian familiesfor carbon credits that stop nothing
    go ahead
    man made global warming is a lie
    the fool is who is who promotes a lie
    better check out the facts and the fact scientists are bailing out fast
    the world is going in to a cooling age that none i repeat none of those global warning models prodicted before or can not prodict for the next 10+years the true global climate
    stop trying to rob my family and steel my money

  6. Your ignorance shines through in your comment, misspelling and poor grammar surrounding an ignorance of facts and science.

    “Better check out the facts” and stop supporting poisoning of your and my family, along with far less efficient and costly paths for powering our lives.

    “Dr Collicott” … what a joke.

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