By Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club's "Move Beyond Coal" Campaign
Earlier today I took part in a press conference unveiling the latest ad from the Reality Campaign. The ad, entitled “Air Freshener,” was directed by the Coen Brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowksi).
We support the Reality Campaign because it gets the truth out about “clean coal”: The reality being that there is no such thing as “clean coal”. Not a single home is America is powered on coal that does not contribute to global warming. And instead of researching whether it is possible mine and burn coal more responsibly, the coal industry is spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and advertising to mislead decision makers and delay strong action on global warming.
The ad uses humor about a serious topic. The coal industry wants you to think they can clean it up – but they’d rather just keep things the way they are and hope we don’t notice enough to do something about their dirty habits. Coal is not clean, and a lot has happened since we launched the Reality Campaign.
Most notably on December 23rd when we saw the devastating coal ash flood in Tennessee. This one catastrophe buried not only homes in Tennessee, it also buried any argument that coal has cleaned up its act. But thankfully there is a new sheriff in town. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency's announced it was reconsidering the Bush’s decision to not limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal. This should make all coal burners sit up and take notice.
One already did – a utility in Oklahoma abandoned its coal plant plans less than four hour later (which I wrote about in my post earlier this week). With President Obama’s leadership we are entering a critical time when our country and our leaders are having a vigorous debate about how we repower our economy and protect our planet. That means less coal and more wind and solar.
The coal industry clearly knows this, and so is engaged in a major PR campaign to mislead policy makers into believing there we have discovered a new product known as “clean coal” that does not cause global warming. In short, their goal is to stall progress on real climate solutions.
They want us to believe that America can’t solve the climate crisis. Fear-mongering may have worked in the past, but the change we voted for is sweeping the country. Today’s new ad showcases why change includes leaving old dirty habits – like coal – behind.