Bizarro Singing Coal

>> Saturday, December 13, 2008

I've become a Rachel Maddow fan in the past couple of weeks. I enjoy her much more than Keith Olbermann. Actually, I prefer to watch the Newshour on PBS rather than Keith Olbermann. Countdown is rarely in my tv watching priorities. I'd rather listen to what David Gergen has to say to the Silver Fox before having to listen to Keith's bombast for an hour.

It was with delight that I watched the singing lumps of coal segments on Rachel's show this week. Who are the marketing people who think these things up? Singing lumps of coal? Honestly, I don't know if many kids would know what a lump of coal looks like since we're so distanced from where our energy sources come from. I'm thinking that most kids would take a look at those black, singing things and think they were snowballs of heavily driven snow!

But Rachel was able to coherently talk about what "clean coal" is with a guest from The Reality Coalition.

RACHEL MADDOW: First things first. I've got to ask you, what is clean coal?

BRIAN HARDWICK, SPOKESMAN, THE REALITY COALITION: Clean coal is an oxymoron to start with. It reminds you when the tobacco companies used to say, healthy cigarettes. What you said - it's a marketing ploy by the coal industry to try to convince people that coal is somehow clean despite the fact that it is the dirtiest way that we produce electricity currently in the United States.

And the global warming pollution coal puts out is equal to what cars and trucks put out. So it is just that - it's a bad marketing ploy by the coal industry.

MADDOW: I am struck, though, by the PR strategy of - this is a Web campaign that we are highlighting here because it made coffee shoot out my nose when I saw it this morning when I logged online and heard about it.

HARDWICK: You and me both.

MADDOW: Yes. But what strikes me is that this is a PR technique that is aimed at the American consumer. This is broadly trying to make Americans like the idea of coal and feel cuddly about it. Is this part of a broader PR strategy by the coal industry?

HARDWICK: This one, I don't really understand. I mean, this one is truly bizarre. The part I love about this Web game is that you get to dress up the lump of coal, like with scarf or hat. But the problem is no matter how you dress it up, coal is not clean today in America.

The reality is that it is the dirtiest way we produce energy. And our campaign at "" is out saying, "Hey, look. Let's talk about reality, and reality is it doesn't exist today and we want to let the American people know that those are the facts."
Amazingly, the singing coal was taken off the air less than 48 hours after this spot aired. Can't help but wonder the "clean coal" proponents were embarrassed by having their little web thing ridiculed on national television. Yeah, they probably were.


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