Dirty Pictures | Big Coal Ad Campaign Draws Parodies

Renewable energy sources, like solar power, have to compete with their unsustainable and polluting counterparts in a variety of ways. Technologically, economically, politically — and in the arena of public opinion.

A couple of weeks ago, we ran an expose of coal industry propaganda. The article (Dirty Pictures | Courtesy of Clean Coal) drew a lot of attention, partly because we focused (so to speak) on the images used by the industry to get children to think of coal as their BFF.

Readers from both sides commented on the Website about the article. Some people contacted The Phoenix Sun directly urging us to post parodies of the coal industry’s multi-million dollar ad campaign. Until we started searching for it, we hadn’t realized there was such a rich vein of material to mine. But there is — and here are a few examples of spoofs we particularly liked.

Color Me Nauseous

Why is coal important,1Remember the infamous coloring book devised by “Friends of Coal” for distribution to elementary school children? It had that great pedagogical title, “Let’s learn about Coal!”

A page from the original is on the left. Kids are invited to use their imagination to illustrate “one important use of [coal powered] energy”.

An anonymous artist followed the directions to produce this dark send-up of one of coal’s contributions to the Nation’s electrical needs.

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Coal Versus and Our Environment

Here’s another parody of the coloring book.

Coal v Environment

Enviro

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Videos

Several readers contacted us about a video created by the coal-industry front group, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). It’s one of those unfortunate PR creations that appears to be a parody, but wasn’t intended to be.

The Clean Coal Carolers

Image by ACCCE

The video was posted on December 9, 2008, along with this explanation on the ACCCE blog, “Behind the Plug:”

“‘Tis the season for peace, light and spreading good cheer. And that’s exactly what our Clean Coal Carolers have set out to do.

“Stop by to get a sweet serenade from the seven carolers, send the holiday jingles to a friend and connect with other Clean coal Caroler fans on Facebook (where you’ll also learn more about each singer).

“We also encourage you to look around America’s Power to learn more about why coal is the stocking stuffer of choice this year—it’s abundant, affordable and cleaner than ever…and will help you power your holiday lights this season.

“Enjoy the Carolers, and have a bright and happy holiday season.”

One day later, the reviews started coming in as comments on the ACCCE blog.

Thanks for making my point better than I ever could. The energy companies are desperate to be seen as “clean.” They can’t debate on the merits, so they’re making cutesy commercials. Can’t wait to send this to everybody I know!! Its hysterical! It would be shameless, but I’m afraid its just stupid. Tanya m.

Enough prologue. You probably want to see some of these videos, right? Here’s “Deck the Halls (with clean coal!)”:

(Not) Silent (Enough) Night

And here’s their rendition of “Silent Night,” re-purposed as “Clean Coal Night.”

Whoever first said “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” hadn’t seen the coal carolers — or, more to the point — MSNBC’s Rachel Madow’s piece on the “singing lumps of coal,” aired on December 10th.

By the afternoon of December 12th — three days after they debuted — the coal carolers show was canceled.

“It’s time for them to head home for the holiday,” was ACCCE’s explanation.

BTW, here’s the video that got my vote for “most surreal:”

Back to the Intentional Parodies

"A deadly ball of hydrogen burning dangerously hot..."

"A deadly ball of hydrogen burning dangerously hot..."

In response to the “Clean Coal” PR campaign, anti-coal group have started producing parodies of the coal industry’s videos.

“The mandate of this site is very simple: To debunk the myth of ‘clean coal,'” explains the Coal is Dirty campaign. The group is a collaborative effort of The DeSmog Project, Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace USA.

Their video parody “exposes” the dark side of solar and wind power, and mocks the coal industry’s claims of carbon-free coal power.

Coal is the Cleanest Thing Ever!

The Reality Campaign

Kinda loud in here!

Kinda loud in here!

If “Clean Coal” is a myth, what’s needed is a reality check — and that’s what this coalition of environmental groups aims to provide with its parodies.

In the first video, the man in the hardhat is ostensibly giving a tour of a “Clean Coal facility.”

Like all satire, this parody wants to make you laugh — and then to think about a serious problem.

Clean Coal: This Is Reality

COALergy, “Smudge”

In another Reality video, a coal-company CEO speaks in a reassuring tone about his industry:

“At COALergy we view climate change as a very serious threat to our business. That’s why we’ve made it our primary goal to spend a large sum of money on an advertising effort to bring out and complicate the truth about coal.”

Clean Coal Clean Coen Colaboration

Coen brothersFor a couple of video parodies, Reality was able to attract the Oscar-winning brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen, to direct.

The first parody has a pitch-man from central casting walk into a suburban family’s house and gets them to try — and be delighted by — a new kind of air freshener: “Clean Coal.”

The Making of…

Given that the video was directed by the Coen brothers, it’s not surprising that you can watch a “making of…” video.

Mom, is he sleeping?

Mom, is he sleeping?

The film below uses behind the scenes footage, mixed in with the final cut. Here, the mother is urged to use a new laundry detergent: “Clean Coal,”  of course.

She pours thick black sludge into the wash, and of course the clothes are all stained with coal tar derivatives, which seems to delight everyone. Or almost everyone.

The children seem preoccupied with their unresponsive pet … wait for it … canary.

The Forgotten Gem

I apologize for omitting one of the earliest and one of the best parodies of the coal industry’s campaign. Here it is below. So many funny touches, but my favorite doesn’t come until the final seconds — the difference between what the soothing voice says and the words that actually appear on the screen. It’s a brilliant send-up.

Turning, small

Wanted: More Parodies

If you’ve made any parodies of Big Coal’s ad campaign, please let us know in the comments box. Or post links to parodies you’ve seen.

We’ll keep you posted on others we find. But now, we have to run. We’ve been seized by an overpowering need to take a shower.

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