The Coal Industry's $47 Million PR Spending Spree
— By Kate Sheppard <> | Fri
November 20, 2009 3:00 AM PST

The coal industry's major lobby group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal
Electricity <>, shelled out a stunning $47
million last year on lobbying, advertising and "grassroots
to fight climate legislation and tout the benefits of "clean coal."
Its efforts to actually develop clean coal technology, however, were a lot
less impressive.

ACCCE's most recent IRS filing, obtained by
Greenwire<>(sub. req'd),
lists the contributions to the coalition by the nation's
biggest coal companies. Arch Coal Inc., Consol Energy Inc., and Peabody
Energy Corp. each chipped in $5 million; Foundation Coal Corp. gave $3
million, Southern Co. $2.1 million, and American Electric Power Co. Inc. and
Duke Energy Corp. (which has since left the
gave $2 million. ACCCE is among the biggest spenders when it comes to
influencing the debate on climate and energy.

But for all their expensive efforts to sell the public on the wonders of
clean coal, ACCCE isn't working quite as hard to make the technology a
reality. The coalition's members have committed the comparatively paltry sum
of $3.6 billion to research the technology between 2003 and 2017, according
to an April report from the Center for American
That's just $257 million on average each year to develop the technology to
capture and sequester carbon. To put that in perspective, ACCCE's members
made a combined total of $297 billion in profits between 2003 and
2008—meaning, as the report notes, that they're spending less than two cents
on clean coal research for every $1 of profit.

In fact, the climate
ACCCE fought—and fought dirty—to defeat in the House would devote far
more money toward developing clean coal than the companies have. (Its
"grassroots" efforts hit the news after one of its subcontractors, Bonner
and Associates forged
Congress opposing a climate bill.) If the Waxman-Markey legislation
becomes law, it would hand the coal industry $60 billion for so-called
carbon capture and storage (CCS) research and development through 2025. The
House measure provides an additional $1 billion each year for demonstration
and deployment of this technology, to be funded by a fee on consumers. Plus,
early adopters of CCS would get bonus carbon credits for every ton of carbon
dioxide sequestered by electric utilities.

Yet just days after Waxman-Markey passed the House, a number of ACCCE's
biggest funders were complaining to the Senate in public hearings that the
bill doesn't give enough money to the coal industry. They also griped that
carbon capture and storage technology is more than a decade away from
viability, so it would be unreasonable to demand big emissions cuts from the
sector anytime soon. "I don’t think CCS will be widely deployed until 2020
or after," Chris Hobson, senior vice president of research and environmental
affairs at Southern Company, told senators in
You'd never guess that from the coalition's
which still proudly proclaims: "The technology isn’t 20 years
away—some of it is here today."