Blowing Smoke: Joe Camel And King Coal

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You know how tobacco companies have fashioned their advertising pitches over the years to make smoking look cool and fun and like the popular thing to do -- even though it's a smelly, nasty habit that's likely to kill you? Who wouldn't like Joe Camel? Maybe smoking isn't so bad!

We got thinking about this and decided to launch a website called "Coal Is Not the Answer," where we've posted a video that counters the coal industry's happy claims. There are also foot-noted facts that shine a light on the industry's bogus information.

The coal industry's recent $40 million advertising campaign that touts coal as the next great thing to solve the energy crisis reminds me of Joe Camel and his ilk. King Coal is telling us that coal really is clean -- and abundant, and cheap, and the answer to the oil crisis. Well, it's also the source of 30% of our global warming pollution (and even our goofy cartoon character Stinky can see the downside of that). One method of mining coal rips the tops off mountains and dumps the dirt into rivers and valleys, leaving a moonscape where a spectacular ecosystem once thrived. And burning it produces mercury that is wreaking havoc on our waterways, fish populations, and our own bodies.But the stories are my favorite part. In various discussion threads, people are talking about their personal experiences with coal mining and coal-fired power plants. There's some debate there, too, about just how much we can rely on renewables like wind and solar, and a few pro-nuke folks have weighed in. But check this out, from Doug:

"My mother remembers the days when houses were heated with coal. The air was so dirty that when people were outside for any length of time the soot would get on their skin and clothing. When she washed here hands she could see the skin on her hands was lighter then the skin above her wrists. It was also hard to wash it off the clothing. Why do we need to go back to that?"

And then there's Buzz's point of view:

"I also grew in a coal fuel farmhouse. It was the warmest heat imaginable. We had a "bucket a day" stove also, that you put the coal in. When we would lose electric in bad winter storms, we...use this for cooking. My mom's stove also used coal. We still have it on the farm and use it in the winter. Don't knock it until you've tried it."

And as anti-coal as I am, I do appreciate this perspective from Linda:

"Being ever mindful of conservation doesn't preclude one from wondering, even though coal mining is dangerous for the men, bad for the land, are there programs in place to start training these breadwinners for replacement careers? To these men coal is needed. To support their lives and their loved ones. Disparaging what they do without giving them an option is like slapping them in the face and saying go back where you came from."

All of that said, I think L. Braverman hits the nail on the head with this comment:

"When you see an issue ad, notice who('s) behind the ad and ask yourselves if they could possibly have a financial interest in getting people to believe in what they're saying. Environmental groups don't get rich opposing coal and oil. Industry groups do."

Check out the website. Tell us what you think. And don't forget to check in with Stinky.

Deeper in the mine:
Pittsburgh Hosts International Coal Conference: As The Climate ...
Hawaii to Ban New Coal Plants, Expand Renewable Energy Usage to 70 ...
Get Rid of Coal and Use Trees Instead, Urges Hansen

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