Joe The Spinner And His Clean Coal Merry-Go-Round

Last night, I saw a great new television ad that told the truth about clean coal - that is, it emphasized that clean coal does not exist. The ad was launched by Al Gore's new "Reality Campaign", which is an effort by multiple environmental groups to expose the myth of clean coal.

The ACCCE rapidly went into pre-emptive damage control mode, with press releases and multiple blog posts by their spinmeister, Joe Lucas.

Joe The Spinner also hit the airwaves yesterday on National Public Radio (NPR). Gore was on as well.

Dave Roberts of Grist has a fabulous post about the show. Here is an excerpt:

This NPR story on clean coal is astounding. Pardon the long post, but I had to transcribe several parts of it so you wouldn't think I'm making it up.

The story begins with Al Gore making (and repeating several times) a single point: clean coal -- insofar as that means coal power generation that has sequestered 90+ percent of its greenhouse gas emissions -- doesn't exist. There isn't a power plant in the country that fits that definition. There aren't even any large-scale pilot projects.

Simple, right?

Then comes Joe Lucas, vice president of communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), who might as well be whistling and twirling his bowler hat. He's such an obvious huckster that at some points NPR's Robert Siegel can barely keep from laughing. It's old-fashioned street theater, showing you the con and charming you into nodding along anyway. You kind of have to give him style points.

Siegel's trying to get him to admit Gore's point: that clean coal -- coal that emits hardly any greenhouse gases -- doesn't exist. Turns out, it all depends on what the meaning of is clean is, says Lucas:

"Clean coal" is a term of art that's been around for over 30 years.

See? He shows you the con right up front. The "art" here, of course, is propaganda. He says flat out that clean coal is an "evolutionary term" -- it's just the name they give to whatever they've got going at the time. Coal has always been clean, because it has always been slightly cleaner than before. You are feeling sleepy ...

This is the bit that made me laugh out loud:

There is not that plant [i.e., a coal plant that sequesters its CO2 emissions]. That is not what clean coal is today. "Clean coal" is an evolutionary term, just like "medical technology." Thirty years ago when we didn't have MRI machines, we didn't say that we didn't have medical technology. But now we have medical technology that includes MRI machines. So our understanding of what is medical technology has evolved.

It just gets better and better. Please read the whole thing, and kudos to Dave for bringing it to our attention!

Joe Lucas of the ACCCE takes us for a ride on National Public Radio