The Dirty Truth About Coal

Kudos to the good folks at Climate Progress for giving me my chuckle of the day:  the Shell oil company is using this unintentionally ironic image to tout technology to capture and store carbon pollution from coal plants.

Here at NRDC our experts believe that coal will be providing a significant amount of our nation's energy for a good many more years.  Therefore, developing and deploying CCS technology is needed in place of existing coal-fired power plants -- and the continued health, environmental and global warming problems they cause.  But even with CCS, power generated by fossil fuels will never be as healthy or safe as renewable energy powered by the wind and sun and other clean, natural alternative sources.  And no matter the technological advances, coal will always be dirty.

Unfortunately, the oxymoronic term 'clean coal' is all the rage with industry execs (and especially their flacks) -- and clearly some politicians, members of the media and the public are being fooled.

Make no mistake:  There is no such thing as 'clean coal'; there is only 'dirty' coal.  And that's true no matter how it's mined, processed or burned.  In fact, environmental experts all agree that coal is the dirtiest fuel America uses to produce electricity.

But our message is hard to get heard while the coal industry spends obscene gobs of money to make its case with confusing or misleading advertising.  That's why NRDC is pleased to be partnering with Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection and other environmental organizations on a national grassroots advertising campaign of our own to counter the myth of 'clean' coal.

Our Reality Coalition-- launched today -- is challenging the coal industry to come clean in its own advertising and in its operations.  As NRDC's president Frances Beinecke said:  "Big coal is spending millions to make us think that coal use today is 'clean.'  But all their dirty money can't hide the truth -- coal as it's used today is the dirtiest climate-killing fuel on earth."

Beginning today, the Reality Coalition will launch a multi-million dollar ad campaign, running in print, on television and online-supported by the website:

You can watch the first TV ad below, which was produced by the agency responsible for the ground-breaking "Truth" anti-tobacco campaign.


As we welcome a new president and get set to tackle global warming -- the biggest environmental crisis of our lifetimes -- you can bet that the coal industry will pull out all the stops to, well, stop progress.  Our ad campaign won't necessarily keep the fossil fuel crowd down for the count, but it is a good way to inform people -- and our elected leaders -- that it's time to build a better energy future with existing clean sources like wind and solar that will create jobs, boost our economy and confront the climate crisis head-on.