Coal Cares and Oil is oh-so sustainable

20th May 2011 by

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t for a minute think this was real.

This month a coalition of America’s coal companies launched ‘Coal Cares’, a brand-new campaign to combat the stigma of asthma faced by children living in the shadow of coal power stations.

“Why Free Inhalers? Because COAL CARES.

Coal Cares™ is a brand-new initiative from BHP Billiton, one of America’s proud family of coal companies, to reach out to American youngsters with asthma and to help them keep their heads high in the face of those who would treat them with less than full dignity. For kids who have no choice but to use an inhaler, Coal Cares™ lets them inhale with pride.

Puff-Puff™ inhalers are available free to any family living within 200 miles of a coal plant, and each inhaler comes with a $10 coupon towards the cost of the asthma medication itself.”

The website  features such textual joys as “Coal: it’s the safest energy there is”; a Kidz Koal Korner full of fun coal based activities and some incredible energy ‘facts’.

“Facts:

Coal power is solar power
That’s because millions of years ago, before coal began to form from decaying organic matter, the sun provided the energy that organic matter required to grow and die.

Wind Kills
Wind turbines can kill up to 70,000 birds per year, or 4.27 birds per turbine per year. Coal particulate pollution, on the other hand, kills fewer than 13,000 people per year.”

Of course the website and offer of free asthma inhalers does not come from a coalition of coal companies. The true authors are the Yes Men and a small environmental and public health group called Coal is Killing Kids (CKK). This is their response to the coal industries expensive lobbying against the Clean Air Act. “We don’t have their millions, but we do have a knack for incredibly tasteless jokes,” said Veronica Tomlinson of CKK.

I doubt I was the only person momentarily fooled. After all was this website that much more ludicrous than some of the greenwash pedaled by coal, oil and gas companies? In 2007 Shell got into trouble with the Advertising Standards Agency for it’s flower-power adverts, picturing flowers billowing from power plant chimneys. “We use our waste CO2 to grow flowers, and our waste sulphur to make super-strong concrete. Real energy solutions for the real world” proclaimed Shell, ‘liars and false environmental claims’ cried out environmental groups and the ASA.

BP’s ‘Beyond Petroleum’ ad campaign included a poster declaring “if all UK motorists switched to BP Ultimate the reduction in harmful emissions would be the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road”. All well and good, but largely irrelevant unless BP scales down, rather than up, it’s drilling plans.

In the run up to their AGM, BP marked the anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill with full page colour advert in all the national papers. “One year later. Our commitment continues” they declared over a picture of clear blue seas dotted with oil rigs. Not so, claimed the delegation of Louisiana fishermen who were refused entry to BP’s AGM.

The moral of the story? If you can’t beat ‘em do as Coal is Killing Kids did and join ‘em.


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