“Clean” coal ad wars

Coal is clean, right? That’s what the media-savvy American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy [ACCE] tried to get us to believe in an ad campaign a couple of years ago that remains relevant today. During Congressional debates over energy policy in 2008 and 2009, ACCE spent a reported $31 million on an ad campaign to make its point, using the conservative “clean” coal frame that has become the de facto language for this political debate. A recent post at Big Think analyzes how ACCE’s ads cleverly co-opted the usually progressive focus on families, individuals and workers to appeal to emotions and to not-so-subtly imply that being anti-coal is anti-American.

Here’s an example of an ACCE ad, called “Coal Fires This Nation.”

But then, Al Gore’s Reality Coalition struck back with its own $31 million campaign. Reality Coalition’s ads used humor to skewer the coal industry’s insistence that coal can be clean. Take a look, have a chuckle. And remember, this battle is far from over. [For example, see the latest–May 2011– alert from the Union of Concerned Scientists about new investments in outdated coal technologies.]  And although clean coal bills appear legislatively dead  [again] in 2011, they will most likely return to Congress in the next session, when the framing wars will reignite. I missed these ads the first time around, but I suspect that they—or something like them on both sides of the issue—will be back. The question is: are they effective? You decide.