U.K. Ad Council Rules ‘Clean Coal’ Isn’t Clean, Bars Peabody Energy From ‘Misleading’ Public

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“Clean coal” is not clean. Even if the best coal plants had completely eliminated emissions of acid rain pollution and mercury — which they haven’t — you’d still have that pesky carbon pollution to destroy a livable climate and ruin the lives of billions of people.

So it should not be surprising that the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has barred Peabody Energy from using the term “clean coal” to imply coal is emission-free or “the solution for better, longer and healthier lives.”

The ruling stems from a case brought to the ASA by the World Wildlife Fund against the language in this ad by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company (click to see entire ad):


Heart-warming, isn’t it, that a company doing so much to destroy the climate, which in turn will have its most devastating consequences on the world’s poor, still cares enough to run a greenwashing ad about how much it cares about poor?

More coal use is decidedly bad for all people, especially the poor. One analysis found that half of the world could face a climate-driven food crisis by the end of the century. Not exactly a boon to the poor.

In any case, the ASA in its ruling noted that they understood the term “clean coal” was used in the “energy sector” for “a branch of research and innovation aimed at reducing the environmental impact of using coal, such as filtering out particulates and preventing or neutralising the emission of waste gases.” But while that’s how some people use the term, it’s still misleading to imply that clean coal is emissions free:

However, we also understood that this technology was not able to prevent CO2 from being emitted during the use of coal, relying instead on carbon capture and storage, and that although emissions such as sulphur dioxide were reduced, they were still produced. We also noted that the line immediately following this claim stated “We call it Advanced Energy for Life. Because clean, modern energy is the solution for better, longer and healthier lives” and considered that consumers were likely to assume that this referred to Peabody Energy’s “solution” of “clean coal”…. Notwithstanding the fact that “clean coal” had a meaning within the energy sector, we considered that without further information, and particularly when followed by another reference to “clean, modern energy”, consumers were likely to interpret the word “clean” as an absolute claim meaning that “clean coal” processes did not produce CO2 or other emissions. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.

The ASA’s bottom line is that “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Peabody Energy Inc. to ensure that future ads did not state or imply that their technologies were emission-free or similar unless they could demonstrate that this was the case.”

Peabody has responded by adding a footnote to the ad, which they assert makes it all okay:

The U.S. Congress itself defined the term clean coal, and Japan and China recently have affirmed the use of clean coal technologies as important to their energy strategies. Clean coal and clean coal technologies describe today’s high-efficiency supercritical technology as well as the collection of technologies that reduce key power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and mercury. These technologies are in broad use globally and are commercially available.

The ASA should junk that ad, too.