Coal front group pouring millions into targeted disinformation campaign
The focus is Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), which we’ve discussed before. WaPo’s Steven Mufson uncovered a few details. Right now, ABEC is spending $1.3 million for ads in Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina (not coincidentally, early primary states). It’s also deploying street teams on the campaign trail, with human billboards handing out propaganda outside events. And this tidbit is particularly (darkly) amusing: "An ad targeting that [Lieberman-Warner climate] bill is currently being shown on video monitors at the baggage carousels at Dulles International Airport.”
"We’d like to say that you don’t get to be president unless you understand how complicated this issue is," says ABEC executive director Joe Lucas. I frequently have people scold me that "coal is the enemy of the human race" is "too simplistic." Well, ABEC is trying quite hard to convince the public and lawmakers that it’s very, very complicated. Why do you think that is? Why do you think they work so hard to resist having a simple message get through?
The industry is putting lots of money behind that effort to complicate the message:
The coal mining industry is fighting back. It increased the budget of the National Mining Association, the industry’s main lobbying group, by 20 percent this year, to $19.7 million. Last September, the industry also boosted the budget of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices more than fourfold. The roster of backers includes 28 companies and trade associations such as Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Duke Energy, Southern Co. and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Kudos to Mufson for this:
The group says in a TV ad that the price of coal is one-third that of other fuels. But coal prices have risen, albeit not as much as oil. And environmentalists and economists argue that the price of coal does not include substantial environmental costs.
Could be better (the price of coal does not include all sorts of costs, not just "environmental"), but at least it gets the counter-argument out there.
Finally a note on this:
“Big coal may launch a ‘Harry and Louise’-style disinformation campaign to sink global warming solutions in Congress,” said Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress.
One of the coal industry group’s radio ads hints at those themes. A woman asks: “How can we become less dependent on foreign resources? What fuels will keep power bills reasonable and be environmentally responsible?” A man responds, “We have many questions for our candidates, and coal has to be part of the discussion.”
Big Coal “may” launch a disinformation campaign?! They have already launched it. It is raging, and only going to get more intense. Are green groups or climate concerned lawmakers prepared with a counter-message?