Is Coal Ready to Serve Man? Report Questions Claim.

May 8, 2014


One of the most vile and deceptive arguments that climate deniers like John Christy and Bjorn Lomborg like to make is that the only route to higher living standards in the developing world is thru fossil fuel development.

A new report exposes this, once again, as a lie.

Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON -– Peabody Energy Corp., the world’s largest private-sector coal company, launched a public relations and advertising campaign last month extolling the virtues of coal energy for poor people.

Burson-Marsteller, the world’s largest PR firm, and its subsidiary, Proof Integrated Communications, are working behind the scenes on Peabody’s PR effort. Burson-Marsteller spokesman Paul Cordasco confirmed to The Huffington Post that the company is working on behalf of Peabody. Peabody spokeswoman Beth Sutton said “Burson-Marsteller and several other firms are providing support for the campaign.”

Sutton said the campaign “will be sustained long term” and “is aimed at changing the global conversation to focus on energy poverty.”

Burson-Marsteller’s role isn’t readily apparent. The environmental group Climate Investigations Center linked the PR company with Peabody by determining that the website for the coal campaign initially was registered to Luis Hernandez, the managing director and chief technology officer at Proof, according to domain ownership records. The site is now registered directly to Peabody Investments Corp.

Burson-Marsteller’s work on tobacco is what its critics point to most often. The University of California-San Francisco’s Legacy Tobacco Documents Library includes a memo from a former Burson-Marsteller staffer to a Phillip Morris executive discussing the need to “discredit” the EPA’s identification of secondhand smoke as a carcinogen and to “hold the line against an escalation of smoking bans.”

In the 1990s, Burson-Marsteller was involved in forming a “smoker’s rights” front group known as the National Smokers Alliance, funded by the tobacco industry, according to the tobacco documents. The company was also part of the creation of the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition in 1993, which also sought to undermine the science on the health risks of cigarette smoke, also on behalf of Phillip Morris. (Burson-Marsteller said it stopped working for tobacco clients in 2010.)

As the end of coal continues to loom larger on the horizon, a new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has blown trench-sized holes in the industry’s latest attempt to talk up its future, dismissing its argument that coal is needed for poverty reduction in the developing world. The report uses in-depth financial modelling to evaluate the possibility of India becoming the next big coal import market, and demonstrates that the economics do not stack up. It warns that as demand in China slows, the market in India is not going to grow and pick up the slack as the industry hopes, adding to the gloom unfolding over the future of major coal projects being developed in Australia, two of them by Indian companies. India cannot afford to burn Australian coal in its plants, as this will double the current wholesale price of electricity, according to the report. It also makes little sense to pursue coal given renewables are starting out cheaper, will get cheaper over time, can be built faster, do not impact public health, and have zero ongoing fuel costs.

  • Coal is a toxic, sunset industry that is desperately trying to hook new addicts among the world’s most vulnerable people. The US-based Peabody coal’s “advanced energy for life” PR offensive has been enthusiastically taken up by the Australian mining industry, but when these companies talk about reducing poverty, what they are actually talking about is doubling the price of electricity for India’s poor. The industry is pushing itself as a means of poverty alleviation simply because it thinks it is a convincing argument.
  • The report makes the case that renewables are far better for developing nationsas they are already cost competitive with coal, will get cheaper over time, and require no ongoing fuel costs. The cost of electricity generation from solar power in India has fallen 65 percent in the last three years alone, while average coal prices are projected to escalate by four percent a year in rupee terms due to the cost of fuel. Simply put: renewables are deflationary, while fossil fuels are inflationary.

9 Responses to “Is Coal Ready to Serve Man? Report Questions Claim.”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Fell off the chair over “It’s a cookbook”. Somebody should throw the coal folks and their advertising whores in the next pot.

  2. omnologos Says:

    There are developing nations and there are developing nations. India is just too big, needs a lot of energy to continue developing and will have to naturally follow China’s path, wherever that gets.

    In other places like Bangladesh or Haiti the size of the economy and the global impact of coal power generation if any will be totally irrelevant even under the direst climate change scenario. They will have to go for the cheaper available option at the time, and if that is coal or solar or whatever else, it really does not matter.

    OTOH it’s a market like India that can generate sizable amounts of money so the PR battle will go on over there. Let’s just hope the really poor and small nations don’t get to pay too much at the end of the war, as it is unfortunately very common.

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    In the U.S., the average expenditure for fossil fuel is over $3000.00 per person per year. The population of the U.S. is 314 million, and we spend more than $1.2 trillion per year on fossil fuels.

    Now, if we built a 100% renewable energy system, and spent spent $1.2 trillion dollars per year toward paying it off, it would be payed off in a certain number of years – at no real additional expense compared to what we spend now. After that, the system would still be functioning, and essentially supplying all our energy for next to nothing, for decades.

    That would put $300.00+ dollars for every person in your household into your pocket every single year – money that you used to spend on fossil fuels but no longer have to pay and can now spend as you like.

    How does that mean we would have a lower standard of living?

  4. redskylite Says:

    It’s a young jaws (Richard Kiel at 23 in twilight zone:to serve man), seems he got typecast as the evil villain early on in his career.

  5. […] 2014/05/08: PSinclair: Is Coal Ready to Serve Man? Report Questions Claim […]

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