A group called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices is waging a $35 million campaign urging Americans to make one choice in particular: coal. As U.S. activists step up their protests against coal plants — and find increasing success — the industry-backed ABEC is running ads chirping that the black rock “powers our way of life” and “will help us with vital energy security.” Radio, print, and TV ads are targeting primary voters and caucusers in Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada; an ad that targets the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill can be watched at baggage carousels at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles airport. The coal industry has boosted ABEC’s budget more than fourfold since September; the budget of Big Coal’s main lobbying group, the National Mining Association, has increased by 20 percent. Caught in the crossfire: Presidential candidate Barack Obama, who’s getting flak from enviros for counting among his advisers the CEO of R&R Partners — ABEC’s PR firm.

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