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POWER POLITICS: Coal power's 'staggering' lobbying expenditures

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Unable to banish the nonsense phrase "clean coal" from your brain?

That's no accident: The coal power industry spent unprecedented sums of money last year to make sure you got the message loud and clear that heavily polluting coal is actually "clean."

CQ Weekly reports:

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which represents 48 major coal producing and consuming companies, was officially formed in April 2008, but it grew out of another group, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, which had been lobbying since 2000 for the fossil fuel industry. Between 2002 and 2007, the earlier group spent an average of $93,000 annually on federal lobbying. In 2008, the renamed group saw that figure rocket to $9.9 million -- which came on top of a $38 million ad campaign extolling the virtues of so-called clean coal.

The coal companies told CQ the spending surge was essential, as they believe they're fighting for their very life -- evidence perhaps that the tide is turning against coal power.

Just last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency submitted a finding to the White House Office of Management and Budget that carbon emissions are pollutants which can endanger public health and thus should be regulated under the federal Clean Air Act. Not surprisingly, industry groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce responded that regulating greenhouse gases under the law would wreck the economy.

While defending the EPA's action as legally required, the White House said it would prefer a legislative solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

ACCCE says it won't try to completely block a climate bill from being introduced but instead will try to influence how it's shaped by delaying carbon emission limits until capture technology -- the viability of which remains unproven -- becomes a commercial reality.

The Obama administration has budgeted more than $3 billion for developing carbon emissions storage technology. However, experts say it's unlikely to be commercially viable for at least another decade.

In the meantime, expect to hear a lot more claims about the "cleanliness" of coal.

(Image is a still from the Coen Brothers' TV commercial questioning the coal industry's "clean coal" claims for The Reality Coalition, an alliance of environmental groups pressing for action on global warming.)

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