Coal ads! New coal ads, everyone! You may never see these ads yourself on TV, so it is incumbent upon us, the News Media™, to bring them to your attention and laugh at / laud them.
Before we begin, let’s take a minute to appreciate that bits of rock we take out of the ground and burn warrant millions of dollars in expenditures on TV ads. That’s weird.
OK. The ads. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (not affiliated with the American Coalition for the Tooth-Fairy Power or the U.S. Association of Energy Created by Bigfoot) has a two-minute spot that makes the case that we’ve used coal for a long time and how dare you suggest that we stop.
The ad is two minutes long and, according to National Journal, will run on national cable networks. Featuring lots of shots of Good Ol’ America™, the ad argues that coal is our “home-field energy advantage.” That a “can-do” attitude has led to “proven” clean coal technology. That “heavy-handed EPA regulations” threaten the universe, or some subset thereof. It shows Scary China™, but doesn’t name it, for some reason.
I will never understand why coal advocates decry pollution-control measures from the EPA while arguing that they’ve developed “clean coal.” The need for clean coal is a tacit admission that coal is dirty, which is what the EPA is trying to address. Except for the fact that “clean coal” doesn’t exist in the sense of being a real thing that can be used for stuff, it’s an argument that makes no sense.
And here’s a funny thing: Watch the ad again, but substitute “natural gas” for coal. Our “home-field energy advantage,” indeed! The ad doesn’t mention that the existential threat to the coal industry isn’t Lisa Jackson — it’s fracking, as we’ve noted ad nauseum. Every argument made in this spot applies to natural gas, except that natural gas is actually much cleaner.
The Obama campaign has its own new coal ad up, and it’s a doozy.
You may remember the recent Romney ad featuring miners compelled to attend his rally, losing a day’s pay for their efforts? Well, now those miners are in two ads.
The ad’s tagline, the heavy-handed “Not One of Us,” drives home its subtext, a subtext that is causing a lot of headaches for Team Romney: This guy is white collar, not blue. Romney is on the side of the guy docking your pay, not your side. As The Atlantic‘s Molly Ball notes, the message is already resonant with voters:
“I think Obama’s more for the regular working class people, and Romney’s for the big business and the well-to-do,” said Eric Burkhead, the road and cemetery superintendent for Kirkwood Township, working on a truck in the gravel driveway of the local garage. The 66-year-old didn’t like what he saw happening with coal and wasn’t wild about Obamacare, but he planned to vote for Obama.
I heard it over and over again from Ohioans — the idea that Romney stands for the wealthy and not for them. Obama’s depiction of his rival as an out-of-touch rich guy, which has gotten no little assistance from Romney himself, has made a deep and effective impression with these self-consciously working-class voters.
The Obama campaign, understandably, is doing everything it can to wedge the miners and Romney farther apart. And to that point: so far, so good.