Millions are being poured into polar opposite clean coal campaigns

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It seems that there continues to be much to say on the aggressive marketing campaigns on clean coal, both for and against.  I have previously posted about it here and of course, no one can forget the clean coal carolers (thought we might wish to).  This newest post on TribLIVE points out the strategies behind the "dueling marketing campaigns."

  • NGO campaign hopes to force coal industry to provide evidence or admit defeat on the reality of clean coal by pointing out that so far, the industry's marketing has only been misleading.
  • Coal industry spent between $35 and 48 million on marketing clean coal last year.
  • The $$ being spent to mount an opposition campaign has not been disclosed, though The Reality Coalition promises to spend whatever is necessary.

Posted Mar. 12, 2009

By Joe Napsha, TribLIVE Business

Can there ever be "clean coal," and can it be part of the nation's energy future?

Environmentalists and the coal industry have mounted dueling
marketing campaigns that promote and oppose coal as part of the
nation's energy mix. The campaigns are being waged to win the hearts
and minds of Americans and to change public policy affecting coal use.

"What we're hoping to do is to put the burden of proof on the coal
industry to live up to their promise of so-called clean coal. They're
running a misleading marketing campaign that clean coal exists and
somehow it can be part of a clean energy future," said Brian Hardwick,
a spokesman for Reality Coalition, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based coalition of environmental groups.

Although media campaigns focus on the phrase "clean coal," it is an
"unfortunate terminology" that confuses people because coal is a dirty
mineral when it is handled, said Brian Gleeson, director of the
University of Pittsburgh's Center for Energy, where clean-coal
technology research is conducted.

"Clean coal means something different to scientists than to the
general public. It means having a low impact on the environment,"
Gleeson said.

In the battle to keep coal in, or out, of the energy mix, the stakes are high for Pennsylvania.

The state ranks fourth among the nation's coal-producing states, and
coal mining creates about 29,200 jobs and another 6,800 jobs associated
with mining, according to the Pennsylvania Coal Association. In the
Pittsburgh region, there are 5,400 jobs in mining and logging, state
figures show.

The coal industry and environmental groups are spending millions to
spread their messages. The coal industry, with a media campaign run
through its American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, spent
between $35 million and $48 million last year, including $18 million in
television advertisements, said spokesman Joseph Lucas.

The coal industry is promoting a positive message that coal can meet
America's demand for reliable energy to drive down energy costs while
using advanced technology to capture and store carbon-dioxide emissions
from power plants, Lucas said.

The environmental alliance Reality Coalition has countered with
commercials produced by Academy Award winners Joel and Ethan Coen,
whose commercial takes a shot at clean coal. The coalition, which
includes the Sierra Club, will spend whatever is necessary to inform
the public through its media campaign, Hardwick said. He did not reveal
the campaign's cost.

Lucas said the environmental coalition spent $48 million last year
on its public relations campaign. He said the amount was based upon
information in public documents.

Regardless of whether environmental groups oppose electricity
generated by coal-fired plants, "coal is going to be part of our energy
production (at least) in the short term," Gleeson said. "It's fruitless
for them (opponents) to campaign against it so strongly."

"Clean coal technology is a reality. We (DOE) have seven regional
partnerships for carbon sequestration," said Thomas Sarkus, senior
management and technical analyst at the Department of Energy's National
Energy Technology Laboratory in South Park.

Government-funded research continues into technologies to capture 90
percent of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and to
store those in underground rock formations, without increasing
electricity costs more than 10 percent. The South Park laboratory has
been part of a $400 million effort since 1997 to reduce carbon
emissions from coal-fired plants, said Sarkus, whose office oversees
major demonstration projects.

Neither Sarkus nor Gleeson could predict when the research into
clean coal technology will be put into place in a commercial coal-fired
power plant.

The coal industry has failed to reveal how the cost of carbon
capture and sequestration would affect electricity costs, said the
Reality Coalition's Hardwick.

A carbon capture and sequestration system is part of a $1.8 billion
proposed FutureGen Industrial Alliance coal-fired plant in Mattoon,
Ill. — an industry-government project that aims to capture and store 90
percent of the plant's carbon emissions. The project was put on hold by
the Bush administration last year but is expected to get new life in
the Obama administration.

"We need to increase funding for technological advances to speed up
their development and deployment," said Lucas, adding that the American
Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is in "violent agreement" with
environmentalists on that account.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council has not taken a position on
clean coal technology but supports a "roadmap" for environmental action
in Pennsylvania, which includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25
percent by 2025, said John Walliser, the council's legal-policy vice
president in Pittsburgh.

The council has determined, through studies from Penn State
University and the government, that Pennsylvania is responsible for 1
percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, Walliser said.

As for the marketing campaigns both sides are running, Gleeson said:
"It's pretty hard to cut through what is real, and what is not real."

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