Truth To Tell

In an interesting half-page in the current ONEARTH magazine published by NRDC, there’s a lesson in telling it like it is. The author, John Walke, who is director of NRDC’s clean air project, corrects a number of mistaken statements in a letter written to the Washington Post by the president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Now we know by this time that “clean coal” is a misnomer: there is no such thing. There is just “cleaner coal” — which is to say, coal that is cleaner than it was a few years ago. This is thanks to the EPA which has forced the coal industry to a higher standard, though the coal industry would like us to think it was their idea.

The letter claims, for example, that the coal industry has cleaned up its act and would dearly love to take credit for pulling their hand out of the cookie jar, though we can see them hiding another cookie behind their backs!  Walke points out that the EPA has brought the cleanup about and while the coal industry claims that coal is “almost 90 percent cleaner than it was 40 years ago,” in fact it has been forced by the EPA to be 90 percent cleaner by 2015: it hasn’t reached that benchmark yet, and it is moving in that direction only because of federal legislation, not the desire to be good citizens. The coal industry also claims credit for “more than a dozen clean coal technologies” when, in fact, they have lobbied for 40 years against clean air safeguards and they are still fighting — along with Big Oil, of course. In the final paragraph of the letter, the coal industry correctly points out that energy demand will increase in coming years (duhhh) “and that demand cannot be met without coal.” Walke points out that in the U.S. “renewable energy, natural gas, and simple economics have steadily reduced demand for electricity generated by coal. California is on track to use no coal-based electricity by 2025. Clean energy technologies can produce both good jobs here and energy for export.”

The letter by the coal industry commits what logicians call the “neglected aspect” fallacy. They simply ignore alternatives to coal, especially clean energy alternatives like solar and wind, in order to scare people into thinking that they are the only alternative to an otherwise bleak future without adequate energy for teeming populations. And, of course, they ignore the alternative of population control which would go a long way toward solving not only this country’s energy problems, but the planet’s as well. But that’s another story for another day — though it is not much talked about, sad to say.

In a word, we know that corporations are not beneath making public statements that not only stretch the truth and wallow in half-truths, but actually state bald-faced lies — all in order to hoodwink the public and sell their products. We must always consider the source and never forget that the name of their game is “profits,” and when they start to spout data to prove their innocence they are not above saying what they think we want to hear rather than what we ought to hear — since the latter might interfere with the bottom line. A healthy skepticism is always in order.


4 thoughts on “Truth To Tell

  1. Thus my firm belief that we must always look behind the curtain to ascertain the real agenda, the real truth. You’ve done a good job of that here.

  2. If corporations were people, as the Supreme Court would have us believe, we could apply the comic adage to them that’s so often used for politicians: “How do you know when a corporation is lying? When its lips move.” Sadly, it’s not just stretching the truth a bit to sell a product like dish soap or candy bars, but sometimes they lie in extreme ways over life and death issues — pollution, the safety of cars, workplace conditions, the heinous ingredients of cigarettes. I can think of no greater example of corporate bald-face lying than the leaders of Big Tobacco testifying before Congress in 1994 — all even of them saying “I believe that nicotine is not addictive.”

  3. I think it significant that you mention population control. Bluntly, world population WILL be controlled, eventually, to match available resources. The only question is HOW it will be controlled, painfully or rationally. Based on the past history of the human race, I am betting on pain!

  4. Great post Hugh that speaks for itself. The coal industry is like wounded animal now and will lash out at anything, but it must be phased out. Cleaner coal helps, but it is like eating a one piece meal from KFC versus the 3 piece meal. It is stil bad for you, but not as much. It is not ironic that they now position what they were made to do and what they fought as their own idea. BTG

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