Leaked Clean Coal Strategy Memo to Peabody Energy

A 2004 memo from Steve Miller, CEO of a coal industry lobby group to the CEO of Peabody Energy, details the public relations and lobbying strategies being used to deal with issues ranging from climate change to Mercury.

When it rains it pours.

Earlier today we told you about a newsletter written by a Virginia-based public relations firm called the Hawthorn Group that sent out a newsletter to their “friends and family” outlining the work they did on behalf of a coal industry lobby group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Now we’ve came across a 2004 memo to coal giant Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) from Steve Miller, then President of the Center for Energy and Economic Development (now called American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity) to Irl F. Engelhardt, the CEO of one of the largest coal companies in the world, Peabody Energy.

The memo provides a lot of insight into the strategies and tactics that the coal lobby was using at the time to spin everything from Mercury to climate change to the McCain-Lieberman bill.

Below are some of the choice quotes, if you want to download the entire document in PDF go here: Coal Industry Strategy Letter to CEO of Peabody Energy.

The American Meteorological Society Awards Chris Mooney For Storm World

Our own Chris Mooney was honored this week at the 89th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society. He won the 2009 Louis J. Battan Author’s Award for Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming, dubbed “an accurate and comprehensive overview of the evolving debate on the impacts of global warming on hurricanes that illustrates the complexities of this significant scientific problem.” It’s a compelling book that successfully provides an interesting and honest account of the history of storms and climate science, while taking a serious looks at the players and politics involved.

Mooney is a regular commentator at DeSmogBlog, contributing editor to Science Progress, and senior correspondent for The American Prospect magazine. He has authored three books, New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science, Storm World, and forthcoming Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future. A founding member of ScienceDebate, he also writes for a variety of news and scientific magazines and blogs at The Intersection.

Congratulations Chris!

Coal lobby PR firm memo boasts about manipulating Democrats and Republicans

UPDATE: we also just found a 2004 strategy memo from the head of a coal lobby group to the CEO of Peabody Energy.

A Virginia-based public relations firm called the Hawthorn Group sent out a newsletter to their “friends and family” outlining the work they did on behalf of a coal industry lobby group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.The newletter outlines in quite a bit of detail about how Hawthorn spindoctored coal during the Presidential election.

The newsletter starts:

“We thought the most fixated of the political and communications “junkies” might find interesting some highlights of a recent grassroots campaign Hawthorn created and managed for the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).”

Hawthorn celebrates the fact that their coal-is-clean campaign was a success:

“In September 2007, on the key measurement question—Do you support/oppose the use of coal to generate electricity?—we found 46 percent support and 50 percent oppose. In a 2008 year-end survey that result had shifted to 72 percent support and 22 percent oppose. Not only did we see significantly increased support, opposition was cut by more than half. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain addresses a crowd wearing “Clean Coal hats” in Pennsylvania.”

Is it Global Warming or Climate Change?

Is it more appropriate to use the term “global warming” or “climate change”?

Of course, like anything, it’s complicated. For a bit of history lesson on the terms there is a great post on the NASA Global Climate Chage blog.

To break their very detailed explanation down a little:

1970: referred to as “inadvertent climate modification.”

UPDATE: an astute reader just pointed out that the term “global warming” was actually used first in a 1973 movie called Soylent Green.

1975: the first reference to the term “global warming.” A 1975 article by by geochemist Wallace Broecker appeared in the journal Science titled: “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”

1979: a National Academy of Science study abandons the use of the term “inadvertent climate modification.”

1980’s: the term “global change” began to be used. 

1988: “global warming” is popularized by NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen. According to NASA, it was the highly publicized Congressional testimony of Dr. James Hansen in 1988 in which he stated that, “”global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming,” that saw the term “global warming” become a popular reference in the mainstream media.

Today most scientists use the term “global warming” when referring to surface temperature increases, while “climate change” is is used when referring to everything else that contrinutes to the increases in greenhouse gas emissions and all other effects.

So there you go.

While these are the technical uses of the terms there is an argument made that “global warming” should be used instead of “climate change” when writing in the popular media, especially online. This is because the term “global warming” is searched out on Google millions times more a month than the term “climate change.” The argument goes, if you want to increase the number of people reading your material you should use the lexicon that will most increase your chances of appearing in the search engines.

For example, here’s a screenshot from Google trends showing the search volume for the term “global warming” compared to “climate change” since 2003:


(Click to enlarge)

So the question is: When writing or commenting online do you use the technically correct term or the one that will likely garner you the most visits? Ask a public opinion researcher and they’ll say use “global warming” all the time. Ask a scientist or policy wonk and they’ll no doubt recommend the appropriate technical use.

I tend towards using the term global warming. But I am torn between being technically correct and getting the most eye-balls on a story.

So what do you think the answer is?

Canwest News Service cuts full-time Environment beat reporter position

UPDATE: word on the street is that Canwest reporter Juliet O’Neill will now be covering off environment reporting for the CanWest chain, while at the same time covering the goings-on of the two main national political parties, the Liberals and the NDP, as well Heritage Canada and issues affecting Alberta.

I am hearing rumors today that the largest news outlet in Canada, Canwest News Service has cut out its full time environment beat reporter position. This, despite opinion polls finding that environmental issues remain the second biggest concern for the Canadian public.

I have calls and emails into contacts at Canwest. Will let you know when I hear more.


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