Famed brothers Coen take on 'clean' coal in TV spoof
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Thursday February 26, 2009

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Beware the "greenwash."

That's the underlying message of famed filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen's latest side-project: A television commercial lampooning the myth of "clean" coal through the visual metaphor of an air freshener that spews black smoke.

"Is regular clean enough for your family?," asks a phony salesman as thick, noxious fumes permeate the air. "Get clean coal clean."

Watch the video, released on behalf of the Reality Coalition:

"Clean" coal refers to a method called carbon capture and storage (CCS), whereas carbon put off by coal is injected under the ground or otherwise stored and kept out of the air. The technology, though heavily discussed and promoted in the media, has not yet become widespread. And, last December, the United Nations put some "clean" coal initiatives on the "back burner," said Popular Mechanics.

"However, burning coal produces about 9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year which is released to the atmosphere, about 70% of this being from power generation," claims the World Nuclear Association. "Other estimates put carbon dioxide emissions from power generation at one third of the world total of over 25 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions.

In other words, states the Reality Coalition, "CO2 emissions from U.S. coal-based electricity are greater than emissions from all the cars and trucks in America."

"The coal industry is spending millions advertising 'clean' coal, but not a single 'clean' coal power plant exists in the U.S. today," reads the group's Web site.

"[Despite] some commercial demonstrations of such carbon sequestration technology, largely to help recover more oil from depleted fields, none have approached anywhere near the scale necessary to significantly impact the 9.3 billion metric tons of CO2 — and rising — emitted every year from burning coal," study on the matter. Or this study by the International Energy Agency. Bear in mind these reports were written before the US government last year pulled out of FutureGen, its only large-scale R&D programme for carbon-capture technology," wrote The Guardian's Fred Pearce, who called "clean" coal a "greenwash" and "the ultimate climate change oxymoron."

"Sadly, for too many policy-makers, the idea that we can have coal and tackle climate change at the same time is too good to miss," he concluded. "Sadly, it is too good to be true."

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