Wanted: Coal Industry Spin Doctor - Ethics Not Required

Looking for lucrative gig as a coal monger? The dirtiest industry in the world may have a job for you.

At top public relations firm working on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is looking for a “Vice President, Paid and Digital Media” to increase the public’s “appreciation for the use of coal”.

And do they have money to burn… Big Coal is blowing more than $20 million for a massive on-line propaganda effort to spread their message that coal is “clean”. More than $3 million is dedicated to “digital media programs” and another $17 million is being shoveled towards “media placement” in mainstream outlets.

That is just a small part of the media onslaught pushing the notion that its possible to apply an unproven and expensive technological band-aid to an industry that is pushing the world towards dangerous atmospheric tipping points.

This latest PR blitz is on top of the $45 million that Big Coal spent last year, including a whopping $10.5 million just to lobby Congress.

It is not often that public gets to gaze this far into the maw of the mighty media machine of the coal lobby. Our good friends at Think Progress broke the story when a senior staff member at Center for American Progress was bizarrely approached by head hunting firm for the position, and was sent this confidential job description. It’s not confidential anymore…

Big Coal is looking for someone who will:

Work with ACCCE’s senior staff to prepare recommended strategies and tactical plans for engagement in shaping public attitudes and in support of public policy advocacy goals.

They will judge their success on the “Effective expansion of the America’s Power campaign in digital media formats (including, but not limited to, on-line/display, social media, and other digital formats).

Next time you get invited to a pro-coal facebook group or twittered by a “clean coal” blogger, you’ll know who to thank.

It is not surprising that Big Coal is trying to improve on previous on-line efforts promoting their filthy product. Past campaigns ideas like the coal carolers and “blogger brigade” have been laughably bad.

Beyond the $20 million budget, their on-line spin doctor will also have access to:

  • One (or more) national public relations/digital media PR firms
  • One national traditional media placement PR firm
  • One national digital media placement PR firm

So if "clean coal" is such a great idea, why do they need such a massive PR effort to sell it?

Besides the obvious goal of trying to insulate the coal industry from meaningful climate change policy, governments are also shoveling money out the door like never before in history. The infrastructure that will be built with this unprecedented infusion of public cash may drive public policy for decades into the future.

In other words, if government and public can be made to buy (and build) the doubtful idea that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will eliminate the massive carbon footprint of coal, it could be business as usual for the next twenty years - whether it works or not.

Strangely there is another technology that involves drilling deep holes in the ground that, unlike CSS, has been commercially proven for more than 100 years: geothermal electricity.

Imagine if we invested all the money that may be wasted on a CSS pipe-dream and instead invested in infrastructure that would generate clean, domestically produced, renewable electricity powered by the ancient heat of the planet?

A panel of experts at MIT did just that only last year, concluding that emerging geothermal technologies could supply the United States with 2,000 times the current generating needs for centuries into the future.

There's something else the coal industry doesn't want you to know: Recent figures from Credit Suisse show that geothermal electricity is now cheaper than from coal fired plants - even before future carbon pricing mechanisms like cap and trade are factored in. What’s not to like?

It’s too bad that no one is spending $65 million to promote that…

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