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CARE-less about Coal?

Why is coal — the dirtiest of fossil fuels — still a priority in the Bush Administration’s energy plans?

April 8, 2002

Why is coal — the dirtiest of fossil fuels — still a priority in the Bush Administration's energy plans?

Visitors to the web site of the Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE) hear a triumphant yet dignified trumpet sound. They see a happy couple in the top right hand side of the screen.

A list of the coalition’s members — including the Snack Food Association and the Institute of Makers of Explosives — scrolls down the center of the screen. Two words —”POWERFUL VOICES” — are superimposed over the screen.

What’s funny is that CARE’s entire home page contains not one mention of the fuel that actually drives the group — coal. There are references to “sound energy policy” and “fueling economic growth,” yet not a hint of thick black coal dust.

You have to click on to the portion of the site “About CARE” to find out exactly what the lobbying group is all about.

“Coal must be an essential part of the solution to our energy problems,” according to CARE’s “Mission Statement and Principles.” The group is comprised of 50 members that “CARE about affordable and reliable energy.”

The site boasts an array of options for Americans to help CARE get its message out. There are “talking points” for coal supporters to use when they contact members of the U.S. Congress. You can even get help in writing a letter to U.S. Senators and Representatives — urging them to support the industry.

The “CARE” site is more than a mere ironic play on words. When you consider coal’s damaging effect on the environment, it becomes clear just why coal doesn’t play a prominent role on the web site’s home page.

In fact, CARE turns the notion of “caring” about the environment on its head. Coal is the single largest cause of air pollution in the United States today. It is a fossil fuel that pollutes at every stage of its journey — from the mine to power plant.

In the 1990’s, President Bill Clinton’s Administration took a dim view of coal — and increased government regulations on the industry. But the Bush Administration has reversed course — and embraced the industry. Mr. Bush supports coal subsidies — and he has made coal one of the main features of his energy plan.

The U.S. coal industry donates a lot of money to its political patrons. That’s no secret. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a full 88% of the money donated by the coal industry in the 2000 election cycle went to Republican candidates. That’s a total of $3.1 million.

The Bush Administration has responded — making coal a key part of its energy plan. That’s no secret, either, despite the fact that the White House doesn’t seem eager to release documents about the meetings that led to its energy policy.

Still, we wonder: If coal is such a good thing for the United States, why would a group like CARE — which is funded by coal supporters — try to downplay its relationship to the fossil fuel? Perhaps the U.S. reliance on coal is a dirtier and bigger secret than even its supporters will admit.