Scott Brinton

Missing in action: the great climate debate


I have to hand it to the coal industry.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity –– comprising coal producers like Arch Coal, electric companies like Buckeye Power, heavy-equipment manufacturers like Caterpillar and transporters like the Union Pacific Railroad –– have inundated the airwaves with so many commercials promoting “clean coal” this presidential election season that even the staunchest of green-energy advocates apparently have started to believe the fairy tale that we can produce clean energy from a dirty fossil fuel.

I just have to keep reminding myself that there’s no such thing as clean coal –– and there never will be.

According to a recent study conducted by The New York Times, the coal, oil and natural gas industries have spent $153 million in recent months promoting their fossil-fuels-are-beautiful mantra, while advocates of clean-energy sources –– wind, solar and geothermal –– have spent $41 million on advertising.

Compare that with 2008, when climate change and green energy were part and parcel of then Sen. Barack Obama’s and Sen. John McCain’s campaign rhetoric. Four years ago, commercials advocating alternative energy topped $152 million, compared with $109 million spent by the fossil-fuel industries.

In last week’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, we heard plenty of talk about the skyrocketing cost of gasoline. Both candidates said they favor more drilling to increase petroleum production and control prices at the pump. Call it Drill, Baby, Drill 2.0.

With all due respect to the candidates, that’s a bunch of malarkey, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, what happened between 2008 and 2012 that transformed our national discourse from a heated, albeit semi-sane, conversation about the link between fossil-fuel combustion and global warming to one of dead silence on the issue? At Hofstra, there was nary a mention of climate change, even during the furious exchanges on U.S. energy policy.

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