Friday, October 12, 2007

Used Coal Salesmen

If only what happened in Vegas, really did stay in Vegas. Unfortunately, this piece of news is likely to find its way to South Carolina soon.

An industry front group called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices last month began soliciting proposals from Nevada public relations firms interested in providing services such as public education, media relations and outreach to presidential candidates in the state. The group is funded by the coal, railroad and utility industries.

The National Journal recently reported that the organization's budget will go from $8 million in 2007 to about $30 million in 2008, most of which will pay for outreach and advertising campaigns nationally, and in Nevada and Pennsylvania in particular.

Joe Lucas, executive director of the organization, downplayed the spending. He said the group's national budget will increase to $30 million to $40 million in 2008 because it "recognizes the job (of selling coal) is harder to do," but he declined to say how much it will spend in Nevada. He also said that the group hasn't decided whether to hire a PR firm here, and that it received few responses to the request for proposals.
Like a lot of places in the United States, Nevada is beset by misguided coal plant projects. But why should South Carolinians beware of a well-organized, well-funded effort to wash the dirt from coal?
[Diane Farsetta, senior researcher for the Center for Media and Democracy, a non profit watchdog organization] thinks the group will try to use a Nevada campaign as a springboard to gain momentum in the national debate on coal, and the strategy could be effective "unless people really ask questions and think about who's funding it."
When the "coal is clean" campaign comes to our state, riding to the rescue of Santee Cooper, ask yourself: who's funding it? And can coal really ever be clean? Nope.

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