Friends of Coal (FOC) is a front group created by the West Virginia Coal Association. Its mission is to “inform and educate West Virginia citizens about the coal industry” and “provide a united voice” for the industry. To make dirty coal seem appealing, FOC has sponsored or initiated license plates, football games, basketball practices, plane jumps, fishing events, and scholarships.
FOC is now selling coal to children. ThinkProgress obtained the “Let’s Learn About Coal” coloring book, which asks children to unscramble statements about the “advantages” of coal, such as “Than coal other cheaper is fuels” (“Coal is cheaper than other fuels”). Kids also learn that coal is “important” and “provides jobs for lots of people!”:
The FOC Ladies Auxiliary has been handing the coloring book out to children around West Virginia as part of a “Coal in the Classroom” campaign. Coal officials go into schools and give presentations about the importance of coal. “We’d really like this to be statewide, that it be mandatory in the schools that they learn about coal,” said FOC ladies auxiliary president Regina Fairchild in January. The ladies auxiliary is also recruiting members for its “junior” FOC group, open to “girls and boys ages 8 to 16.”
Additionally, FOC ladies auxiliary members have visited children in West Virginia hospitals to give them a “special present”: Mr. Coal, “a small, black Labrador stuffed puppy meant to bring a smile to kids’ faces during hospital stays.” (Coal pollution kills 24,000 Americans each year.)
Last year, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), another industry front group, also tried to make coal seem warm and fuzzy by creating the “coal carolers” — illustrated lumps of coal singing Christmas carols whose altered lyrics praised coal power. After widespread scorn, ACCCE took down the carolers. Find out more on what coal is really doing to Appalachia at Appalachian Voices.