Some crackerjack reporting by John Cheves in the Lexington Herald-Leader finds that the state of Kentucky sinks about $400,000 of taxpayer money a year into public campaigns that promote coal and even mountaintop-removal mining:

The money is funneled through non-profit groups controlled by the coal industry …

The money is used largely for statewide classroom programs designed “to carry a positive message about the coal industry,” according to records. A Web site with teaching materials and games describes mountaintop removal mining as “simply the right thing to do — both for the environment and for the local economy — a true win-win.”

“The environmentalists throw out a lot of negative stuff, like kids who are suffering from asthma because they breathe particulate matter from living near a coal-fired power plant, or deaths caused on the roads by big coal trucks,” [Kentucky Coal Association president Bill] Caylor said. “We’re trying to counteract that.”

Spend some time on CoalEducation.org and you’ll quickly discover that 10 out of 10 experts agree: coal is teh awesome.

"This is an educational tool for all of Kentucky’s school children, who should know about coal," said a spokesflack for Gov. Steve Beshear. "It was never meant to be a P.R. tool for the industry, and (we) are working diligently to make sure that is not the case."

Diligently I tell you!