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article imagePeabody Energy using global energy poverty to promote use of coal

By Karen Graham     Mar 28, 2014 in Environment
The new website is slick, and well done. Peabody Energy Corp., the largest private-sector coal company in the world, is deeply involved in a global campaign to promote fossil fuels as the answer to human energy poverty.
The “Advanced Energy for Life” campaign, launched on February 26, extols the virtues of using coal for energy in fighting poverty around the world. Peabody argues that the lack of affordable, clean energy is "the world's number one human and environmental crisis."
The company's premise is that the world has put too much emphasis on the environmental impact of greenhouse gases and their effects on climate change. They remind us there are 3.5 billion people. 1.2 billion of them children, that are "without adequate energy."
In Dayton  Ohio we met Shelley  a nursing student  as she headed to class. She asked   Can you use c...
In Dayton, Ohio we met Shelley, a nursing student, as she headed to class. She asked, "Can you use coal to power your home?" We explained that 82 percent of Ohio’s electricity is generated by coal. “I didn’t know that," she said. “I definitely want to support the use of clean coal technology. It doesn't make sense not to.”
America's Power
Peabody insists we can solve the global energy crisis, and their website, Advanced Energy for Life, is one step in proving to the world that coal is necessary to improving not only the health, but the quality of life for millions of families, but in a way that will not adversely impact the environment.
Peabody's proposal is that everyone gets involved directly, and to that end, there is a website where anyone can send a letter to the EPA, voicing concerns over the setting of pollution limits by the EPA on coal-fired power plants. The pollution rules address climate change caused by greenhouse-gas emissions, a global problem that has the greatest effect on poor countries.
Burning coal generates carbon emissions as well as hazardous pollutants such as mercury, lead, and benzene, according to the American Lung Association. And while the Peabody campaign fails to mention those figures, an increasing need for energy is forecast for the future, and the campaign focuses on China, where fossil fuels have already put the environment in dire jeopardy.
Of course, this is a coal company doing the talking, and they do want to stay in business and keep their bottom line in a profitable area. To that end, they have teamed up with Burson-Marsteller, the world's largest PR firm, and its subsidiary, Proof Integrated Communications.
A Burson-Marsteller spokesman, Paul Cordasco confirmed to The Huffington Post that the PR firm is working with Peabody, and spokeswoman, Beth Sutton said that, "Burson-Marsteller and several other firms are providing support for the campaign." Sutton went on to say the campaign would be "long-term," and "is aimed at changing the global conversation to focus on energy poverty."
It took some searching, but an environmental group, Climate Investigations Center, was able to link the PR company with Peabody after finding out the website for the coal campaign initially was registered to Luis Hernandez, the chief technology officer at Proof, according to domain ownership records. The site is now registered directly to Peabody Investments Corp.
Burson-Marsteller has a long history of working with companies and countries in questionable PR campaigns, like Union Carbide in the Bhopal, India gas disaster in 1984 that killed 3,800 people. The most famous, and perhaps most remembered campaign was with the tobacco companies and their legal battle with the EPA in the United States.
Bhopal-Union Carbide memorial.
June 17  2008.
Bhopal-Union Carbide memorial. June 17, 2008.
Original uploader was Simone.lippi at it.wikipedia
The University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents Library has a memo from a former Burson-Marsteller employee to a Phillip Morris executive, talking about ways to "discredit" the EPA's identification of secondhand smoke as a carcinogen and to "hold the line against an escalation of smoking bans."
Burson-Marsteller has also worked with the Nigerian government to discredit reports of genocide during the Biafran war, and with the Argentinian Junta, to help explain the disappearance of 35,000 people, among other high profile cases around the world, where swaying public opinion was needed.
Environmental groups are not surprised at Peabody choosing Burson-Marsteller for their PR campaign. Kert Davies, director of the Climate Investigations Center, says the company has been associated with some of the "world's worst perpetrators of human rights and environmental abuses. Burson-Marsteller are well suited to help Peabody push dirty coal to the world's poorest people, at a time when everyone from the World Bank to the U.N. are warning us climate change will hit the poor first, and hardest."
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