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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/10/09

Gag Me with Clean Coal

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Take a revitalizing breath of those clean coal emissions from the average coal plant, filled with carbon monoxide, mercury, arsenic and lead – all deadly toxic to humans in high amounts.  Breathe deeply the pestilence that is clean coal. 


If coal’s impact on climate change weren’t so serious, the public relations campaign that asks us to choke down “clean coal” would be farcical. “Clean coal” is a dirty joke that won’t wash. 


In his GQ article, entitled Black Tide, Sean Flynn says,  “The Term clean coal entered the lexicon in its current faux-eco-activist incarnation—with the implication that coal can be a source of nonpolluting fuel, that it can be scrubbed of its toxins and its carbon dioxide rendered harmless—with stunning speed, largely in the past two years through the expensive efforts of two groups:  the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a lobbying group for coal-burning industries, and the Hawthorn Group, a marketing firm hired by ACCCE.”


In an ad for ACCCE President Barack Obama is featured saying, “Clean coal technology is something that can make America energy independent…This is America.  We figured out how to put a man on the moon in 10 years.  You can’t tell me that we can’t figure out how to burn coal that we mine right here…and make it work,” just as the Hawthorn Group had planned.


Contemptible as it is, the Hawthorn Group was understandably proud that Barack Obama and other candidates for President adopted their very language saying, “Soon our message was repeated back to us from the podium by the candidates themselves.”  In their newsletter they bragged, that before they began their clean coal campaign for ACCCE, a slim majority of public opinion leaders surveyed, opposed burning coal to generate electricity.  But when their PR campaign was complete, they had 72% support. 


Hawthorn succeeded in practically turning 2008 Presidential candidate events into clean coal rallies and said in their newsletter, “Building on our existing 200,000-strong grassroots citizen army, we leveraged the presidential candidates' own supporters, finding advocates for clean coal among the crowd to carry our message…We did this by sending ‘clean coal’ branded teams to hundreds of presidential candidate events, carrying a positive message (we can be part of the solution to climate change) which was reinforced by giving away free t-shirts and hats emblazoned with our branding: Clean Coal. Attendees at the candidate events wore these items into the events.”  Hawthorn combined grassroots organizing and integrated online media to create more of a buzz.


Coal is clean -- in the same way that cigarettes are healthy.  Only with clean coal, cancer is the least of your worries.


Clean coal comes as highly recommended as an investment in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.  Only with clean coal, you’ll lose more than your shirt.  


Staking our energy future on clean coal is wise -- in the same way that basing the entire U.S. economy on sub-prime housing loans was.  Just stand back and watch it blow-up in your face like the exploding housing bubble did.  Only this time humanity itself is at stake.


Outside of the Madison Avenue-type, faux-reality created by the Hawthorn Group for ACCCE, coal is a dirty, polluting, non-renewable energy source, contributing up to 40% of all greenhouse gases endangering more than just polar bears. 


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Karyn Strickler is a political scientist, grassroots organizer and writer. She is founder and president of Vote Climate U.S. PAC, working to elect candidates to get off fossil fuels and put a price on carbon. Karyn is the former host and (more...)

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