The press coverage of the Tennessee sludge spill has been nothing short of astonishing. Barely a week has passed since the accident and already a Google search for the phrase Tennessee spill produces 2,280,000 results!

Compare that to 1,740,000 for Three Mile Island and 708,000 for Exxon Valdez. In little more than a week, this has become one of the biggest environmental stories in recent decades.

Obviously, the naked fact of being the biggest coal spill in history (100 times larger than the Valdez spill) is reason itself for the intensity of the coverage. But is it also possible that the level of press interest would not be quite so massive were it not for the tens of millions of dollars spent by the coal industry on its "clean coal" advertising campaign?

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In international affairs, this is what they call "blowback." The can of "water" that you thought you were throwing on a small fire turns out to be gasoline, and you suddenly find yourselves engulfed in flames.

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I wonder what the folks at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity are thinking about all this. Can they keep running the ads as if nothing had happened? If they do run the ads, will people just be reminded of all those icebergs of fly ash floating west of Knoxville?

Just checked on the ACCCE website: silence. Not a word on the Tennessee spill.

Must be in meetings. Or maybe working on the lyrics for next year’s clean coal carols.

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