Shortly before the July 4 holiday, Opinion Research Corporation released a poll entitled “Opinions About Gas Prices and U.S. Energy Independence” [PDF] which shows — drum roll please — that the public, by a three-to-one margin, is either “very angry” or “somewhat angry” about gasoline prices.

While gas prices grabbed the headlines, the poll also happened to ask a number of questions about coal, and the answers were both interesting and surprising: The percentage of people who said they opposed new coal plants was actually higher than the percentage expressing outrage over gas prices. When asked whether “America should commit to a five-year moratorium on new coal-fired plants,” the response was:

Strongly or somewhat agree:

  • June 2008: 86 percent
  • September 2007: 84 percent

Strongly or somewhat disagree:

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  • June 2008: 13 percent
  • September 2007: 13 percent

Don’t know:

  • June 2008: 2 percent
  • September 2007: 3 percent

Does this poll suggest that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity’s $40 million “clean coal” ad campaign has been a total waste of money? If I were one of the companies that ponied up the money, I would be wondering what I’d gotten for my millions.

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For those who think that power companies simply don’t care about wasting money, it’s worth noting that most power companies actually don’t belong to ACCCE. In fact, out of the 150+ power companies in the United States, only 21 belong to ACCCE (and nine of those are rural electric co-ops). Most of ACCCE’s members are coal mining and transportation companies — not power companies. While power companies are moving quickly to embrace wind power, concentrating solar power, and other options, for coal mining companies there’s really nothing else to do with all those lumps except to burn ’em up. With nothing much to lose, these companies will no doubt keep paying for more ads.