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Letter to CNN: Don't Let Coal Dictate the Debate

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An open letter to CNN and debate moderator Wolf Blitzer:

Mr. Blitzer-
As one of the majority of Americans that feel that clean, renewable energy is a "good decision" for America, and as one that agrees with the IPCC and our nation's top scientists that global warming is one of fundamental and crucial issues of our time, I've been aghast and offended that in all three of your CNN presidential debates, there hasn't yet been ONE SINGLE QUESTION asked about global warming legislation.

While I'm reluctant (and dismayed) to even consider that the sponsorship of these debates by Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), an outspoken front group for the coal industry, would possibly effect your questioning of the candidates, I'm at a loss to figure what else could be the reason for your silence on this issue that over half of Americans agree is essential to our national well-being.

I implore you then to quell my nerves and silence the critics by asking real and challenging questions about the candidates' stances on global warming and clean energy policies. If this issue remains unmentioned in the debates tonight and tomorrow night, I will feel strongly--and will feel compelled to spread the word--that CNN's journalistic integrity has been compromised by this unprecedented sponsorship of a presidential debate by an industry lobby.

Sincerely,
Ben Jervey

A little background: Last Monday, the Democratic presidential candidates debated on CNN. And once again, there were exactly zero questions asked about global warming. The perplexing absence of discussion about an issue that countless scientists, economists, and politicians hold up as the fundamental challenge of our times is fast becoming familiar. (Earlier debates in Nevada and Florida similarly didn't touch the subject.) It seems a bit dubious, then, that all three of these CNN-hosted events have been sponsored by the coal industry lobby group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC).

Now the League of Conservation Voters has been calling attention to Big Media's blind eye towards global warming for awhile now through their "What Are They Waiting For?" campaign. And, indeed, on MSNBC last Thursday, Tim Russert finally brought clean energy and global warming into the primary conversation. Still, CNN hasn't touched the issue, and the exclusive sponsorship of the debates by the industry that stands to lose the most by strong global warming legislation is certainly raising eyebrows.

The placement of ABEC's "Clean Coal-America's Power" slogan across print and tv spots for the debates are revealing, but not isolated. The debate sponsorship is but a small part of a $35 million PR campaign (referred to by plenty as a "disinformation campaign") targeting early primary and caucus states, aimed at rallying public support for coal power and to halt the progress of global warming legislation now making its way through Congress. In Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina alone, ABEC has spent $1.3 Million on billboards, print ads, and tv and radio spots, and has even hired folks to pass leaflets and carry signs outside of debate sites. Head to the CNN Debates website and you can't miss the big flash ad for "Clean Coal."

Tonight and tomorrow, there are two more CNN debates, and again, both are being brought to you by ABEC. Considering his preference for asking the tough questions about UFOs and Halloween costumes, what are the chances Wolf Blitzer will call upon the candidates to discuss global warming and clean energy in these debates sponsored by coal? You can drop him a line here and let him know you're one of the 87% of Americans who want cleaner energy and that you'd love to hear how the next president would deliver it.