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Romney and the History Of Coal PR


Twenty four hours before the first presidential debate, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a front group for the coal industry, has launched a new ad as part of a $35 million dollar PR campaign.

The new ad, now playing on television stations around the country, is typical of the coal industry propaganda prominent in this year’s presidential election. Candidate Mitt Romney has mirrored coal industry messaging, releasing political ads decrying President Obama’s”war on coal” and announcing that he “loves coal” during the first presidential debate.

A Greenpeace investigation that looked in to the history of coal funded advertising has revealed that the coal industry has been using the same scare tactics designed to limit regulation of the coal industry since the 1970’s, when the Clean Air Act and Acid Rain legislation forced the industry to invest in a modicum of environmental protection, like scrubbers for smokestacks.

In this new campaign, Big Coal’s PR flaks at ACCCE have recycled the same tactics of attacking the EPA, promoting the myth of clean coal, threatening economic catastrophe, and stoking nationalist fears that the industry has used for decades.

ACCCE’s newest ad, released October, 2:

With emotive piano riffs and sweeping shots of baseball diamonds for backdrop, the narrator in ACCCE’s latest creation praises the “proven clean coal technologies that have resulted from a can do attitude,” with all the sappy sincerity of a political ad. The ad continues with a stern warning that “heavy handed EPA regulation” and “fads” like renewable energy are “giving those countries who are wisely increasing their reliance on coal an economic advantage,” while pictures of the great Wall of China scroll over the screen.

ACCCE’s brand new $35 million dollar ad campaign relies on the myth of clean coal, attacks on EPA, and an appeal to xenophobia…sound familiar? It should.

Take this other recent ad by the coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) attacking the EPA:

In this 2012 ad a narrator warns that EPA regulations designed to reduce the amount of mercury released by coal fired power plants will “throw even more of us out of work.” The ad makes no mention of the dangers of mercury, a pervasive toxin that causes serious mental and physical issues, especially in children and pregnant women. However it does make one of the most common coal industry threats – that people must choose between the environment and a healthy economy.

Compare the bull riding bombast in the ad above to this 1974 ad, attacking the Clean Air Act:

The ad claims that the Clean Air Act, a seminal piece of legislation that has drastically reduced air pollution and saved countless lives, will cause “galloping unemployment.” Regulate coal – lose your job.

As you can see from these similar ads, using economic threats to scare people away from pollution regulation has been a tactic of the coal industry for a long, long time. (FYI – Gross Domestic Product has tripled since the Clean Air Act was passed.)

Are you scared yet?


Well how bout some good old fashioned xenophobia:

This 2007 ad reminds us that regulating coal makes dictators smile, because coal regulations force America to buy natural gas from unfriendly foreigners. Yep, having clean air and water plays right in to Hugo Chavez’s hand. Who knew?

But making autocrats grin seems trivial compared to the threats outlined in this 1974 ad:

According to American Electric Power, (which is now a major funder of ACCCE) legislation to stop acid rain will result in middle-eastern petro-princes buying all of America’s coal. The ad says “The middle east oil companies are fast capturing the world’s money. There isn’t much they’re incapable of buying. So it could happen.” Almost as chauvinist as it is logically incongruous, this ad underscores the coal industry’s reliance on completely baseless claims designed to scare legislators and the public into inaction.

Next they will be telling us that attempts to measure air pollution will make the lights go out and we won’t be able to watch TV!

Which they did in 1974:

This ad warns us that the EPA’s plan to measure pollution at the top of coal smoke stacks would shut down power generation, causing blackouts. Terrifying! Except the EPA went ahead and measured pollution from the top of the coal stacks, and there were no blackouts due to EPA regulation in 1975, or since.

So what does that tell us about claims by pro-coal politicians that EPA regulations will cause blackouts this year in 2012? Senate republicans claim that “EPA’s train wreck of new regulations on energy providers will destroy jobs, raise electricity prices, threaten the reliability of the electric grid, and increase the chance of blackouts.” Should we believe them? Or is this just one more lie from a fear mongering industry that has been making the same idle threats for almost four decades?

Jesse Coleman writes for PolluterWatch where this piece originally appeared.

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