I've seen a lot of disgusting advertising in my day but the new General Electric spot to promote their "clean" coal technology is the most obscene piece of garbage I have ever encountered. The spot aired twice Saturday 9/17/05 during a three hour treat from AFI -- the top 100 movie lines ever (can you say "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"?) . The program -- and ad -- aired on Bravo (one of the many media outlets owned by the behemoth GE).
The spot called "Model Miners" by GE says "Coal can be beautiful" and touts "Coal Gasification technology from GE Energy." You can view it for yourself at http://www.ge.com/en/company/companyinfo/advertising/eco_ads.htm The ad fills the screen with images of buff, gorgeous, scantily clad women and men all dark and glistening, while the strains of the classic "Sixteen Tons" plays in the background. One woman gives us a smolderingly sexy look while holding a huge jackhammer between her legs. Your typical suave male announcer voices over the following: "Imagine that the 250 year supply of energy were right here at home. Now, thanks to emissions reducing technology from GE Energy, harnessing the power of coal is looking more beautiful everyday. Another product of ecoimagination. GE imagination at work."
Well, there certainly is somebody at GE with some imagination, because the only thing in that ad that bears any resemblance to reality are the (unsung) words to the song -- "sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." I have spent the past 23 years of my life living among coal miners in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky. I'm here to tell you while many miners clean up right handsome, there's nothing sexy about a miner fresh out of the mine (apologies to my neighbor, Mike).
Here's what a real coal miner looks like: http://www.thespiderawards.com/AwardsPass/WINNERS-NOMINEES/PRO-people/images/Coal-Miner.jpg
Underground coal mining is a filthy, dangerous, debilitating job, that leaves most who do it for more than a few years with long term health problems and injuries. The daily grind involves unpleasant, cramped working conditions in dark places where one can never straighten up.
Then of course, there's strip mining, which is how most coal is parted from the earth these days. The job of the strip miner is a lot more pleasant than that of the underground miner, but the devastation to the surface is many times greater. There is a place I have to pass several times a week, that makes me want to weep. A few years ago there was a small county road that wandered up into a holler, with attractive houses along it. When we got 911 and had to have all the roads named, the folks in that holler asked for the road to be "Tranquil Lane" and so it was, in both name and essence. But then along came a coal company that had mined under those hills and now wanted to strip the surface. Sure, the home owners got a decent financial settlement and built elsewhere, but all of us were left to view barren hillsides of bulldozed rubble instead of the exquisite Tranquil Lane.
Some of the area has been "reclaimed" -- sprayed with fescue grass seed. So now we have barren, but green hillsides to look at. Hillsides that already, in less than a year from reclamation show serious signs of erosion. Then there's the long term impact on flooding of removing so much of the forest from the hillsides. There's very little flat land in this county. Reclamation without trees is an invitation to swollen creeks and flooding each time there is a heavy rain. Trees do a lot more than look good on a hillside. They are an essential part of a complex ecosystem.
Of course there are those, who see coal mining through mountain top removal as a solution to all those inconvenient hills and valleys. What are all those cities downstream from us going to do to replace the drinking water the get from the river that begins with us, when all our hills are flattened and the streams are buried?
And finally when they talk about reducing emissions, they are talking about the "dirty" stuff, not the CO2 that cannot be avoided any time that coal is turned into energy. The CO2 that fuels the global temperature increases, than just might, possibly have something to do with the increasing percentage of storms that reach category 4 and 5 status (like Katrina).