THE BLOG

Below the Belt - New Industry Ads Use Kids to Pimp Coal

05/05/2006 02:30 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

This is as low as it gets, lower than any industry has gone to promote their product since Big Tobacco paid doctors to recommended certain brands of cigarettes over others. The coal industry's new multi-million dollar ad campaign features a series of kids extolling the wonderful virtues of this dirtiest
of fuels.

These ads are running non-stop and are unfortunately impossible to ignore. Believe me, I've tried. How despicable is it to use kids to advertise a product that is literally going to destroy their future?

No matter how many cute kids ABEC hires to pimp coal as nifty and clean, coal-burning power plants still pump out 40 percent of America's global warming CO2 pollution, more than any other source.

Unfortunately, President Bush went back on his campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Well, some states are trying to make good on his failed promise by regulating CO2 themselves, and that's a big part of why the coal industry is pouring money into these lavish ad campaigns - to delay having to implement existing technologies that could clean up their act.

The ads urge you to visit a website, run by the coal industry, whose URL I just can't bring myself to link to. But just turn on your TV and you'll see it soon enough. Don't be fooled by the non-profity sounding ".org" tag, these ads and websites were paid for by a coal industry astro-turf group called Americans
for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), which is made up of King Coal constituents in the mining, hauling and burning industries. Primary funders include the world's largest coal producer Peabody Energy, railroad giant Burlington Northern/Santa Fe, and Southern Company, one of the largest
coal-burning electric utilities in the U.S.

The website features more kids creepily reading the crafty messaging of the coal industry's P.R. gurus, and uses schoolhouse references like "Today's Homework Assignment" to help you "learn more."

For a real laugh, click through to their page on "Responding to Climate Change" and read how the industry doesn't want to be burdened with actually having to apply modern technology to reduce its emissions. No no, they say. The "better way" to reduce carbon levels immediately would be to plant more trees and grasslands. Yeah, right. The fact is, the technology already exists to burn coal in a much cleaner manner, but it's been collecting dust in warehouse basements.

Meanwhile, the planet is warming, and this industry continues to burn dirty coal in antique power plants, some of which were built a half a century ago - before ATMs and the Internet, even before authentic Astroturf was invented.

Given our climate crisis, it's inexcusable for any industry not to be using available technologies to reduce their impact on the planet. Every penny they spend on advertising and lobbying to delay implementing near-term technological fixes is a penny not spent on real solutions.

So coal industry, how about it? Skip the astro-turf P.R. and stop prostituting children in the name of your short-term greed. Dust off those promising technologies and implement them now, not in 15 years or when the government finally gets around to forcing you to. Use your soaring profits to clean up your own act. That's the responsible thing to do -- even one of your coal ad kids could tell you that.