Thursday, May 7

Making Coal Cool: With Ringtones!

If there was any doubt that the coal industry was overreaching when it reportedly produced Frosty The Coalman for the holidays, then the follow up will clinch it. The West Virginia Coal Association has come up with ringtones for our phones.

Take your pick among six mixes — male choir, male voice choir, New Orleans, mountain, gospel, and bluegrass. My personal favorite is the bluegrass mix, even though it's a little longer than the rest. Some people have been posting the lyrics, but you really need to hear some for yourself.

Coal is West Virginia - Bluegrass Mix

Coal is West Virginia - Mountain Mix

"Coal is West Virgina
Coal is me and you
Coal is West Virgina
We got a job to do.

However, after Think Progress (via Spinthicket) lamented that the coal industry is taking "incredible pains to make coal seem 'clean,' 'affordable,' and even 'adorable,'" we're not sure which is worse: the ringtone idea or push back that suggests these ringtones might be taken as serious and worrisome propaganda.

Polarized issues seldom make sense. The facts are facts. According to Joe Schuster, who wrote a roadmap to energy independence by 2040, the United States gets 86 percent of its energy from fossil fuels: coal (23.2 percent), natural gas (23.9 percent) and oil (39.4 percent). The rest comes from nuclear (8.2 percent), hydropower (2.6 percent) and biomass and various other sources (3.3 percent). I've seen other numbers, of course, including that coal-fired power plants generate nearly 50 percent of our electricity.

Almost everybody agrees we need to adjust our energy usage. Not everybody agrees on how to do it or how fast to do it. Not everybody agrees that there is such a thing as clean coal technology. Of course there is, because clean coal is a generic term that means reducing the environmental impact of coal energy generation.

Compared to what we are doing now, it's all good. Existing energy consumption needs to be cleaned up the best it can be. Alternative fuel choices need to be integrated into the mix, smartly so, in order to avoid additional problems like windmills killing wildlife. But more important than any of that, the communication needs to be cleaned up because right now — between the sillyfication and vilification — it seems to be the most dangerous of all.



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