The coal industry has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to convince people that it can create an environmentally friendly product. However, whether it be the technological and cost barriers associated with capturing and storing carbon dioxide or the devastating impact of mountaintop mining on groundwater, ecosystems and human health, the concept of “clean” coal is a proven myth.
The coal industry’s push to brand coal as “clean” seems like a new phenomenon. In fact, as a new database of coal advertisements shows, this messaging strategy has been used by the industry since at least the 1920’s.
The database was put together by Greenpeace’s Quit Coal campaign. It features ads questioning global warming, obscuring the impact of acid rain, and railing on Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Here’s an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal from 1979 in which American Electric Power touts clean coal as the solution to “help make the America we see ahead a better America.”
It’s not just modern environmental laws that have forced the coal industry to re-brand itself. Here’s an ad from the New York Times from 1921 touting the superiority of clean coal:
You might have seen the next one in the Washington Post from 2009 when national lawmakers started getting serious about putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions. It was around that time when the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity started spending tens of millions of dollars per year on such ads.