As coal industry profits continue to shrink, the world’s largest coal company is looking to expand into a new market – the world’s poor. And to help accomplish this, they’ll be getting help from the world’s largest public relations firm.
According to an article in the Huffington Post, St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp. is teaming up with Burson-Marstellar in a campaign called Advanced Energy for Life. In a statement launching the campaign last month, “global energy poverty” was called “the world’s number one human and environmental crisis.”
Consumers and industries have been steadily turning away from coal in favor of cleaner energy sources. This trend, along with tightening clean-air regulations, have been putting the squeeze on the coal industry. Bloomberg News reports that Peabody Energy sales dropped 14 percent last year, and its share price fell from $3.78 per share the previous year to $2.12 per share this year.
An American Lung Association report lists a host of hazardous pollutants released by burning coal, including hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, benzene, toluene, dioxins, furans, formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, mercury, and others.
By contrast, the Advanced Energy for Life statement claims “coal is key to human health and welfare along with a clean environment.”
“The drive by some to reduce coal use and make energy scarce and expensive is unsustainable, hurting people and harming the environment,” Peabody CEO Gregory H. Boyce is quoted as saying in the Advanced Energy for Life statement. “We need to recognize the enormous health and environmental benefits in ending energy poverty, eliminating household air pollution and increasing access to low-cost electricity.”
They say they will use “advanced technologies” – still to be developed - to make coal a clean fuel. In the meantime, they want the EPA to loosen some of its regulations.
It’s not surprising that Peabody Energy would turn to Burson-Marsteller to re-invent coal ‘s image from one of the dirtiest sources of energy to the savior of the planet and world’s poor. They specialize in helping companies and countries with an image problem.
They’ve been working with Nigeria and Indonesia, both accused of human rights abuses; they helped Union Carbide clean up its image after the Bhopal poison gas disaster; it’s worked with the tobacco industry to “hold the line on smoking bans,” and other similar campaigns.
“Burson-Marstellar has spent decades working for some of the world’s worst perpetrators of human rights and environmental abuses,” said Kert Davies, director of the Climate Investigations Center.